Pre-apprenticeship plumber students hard at work at Herzing College in Toronto
Thinking about becoming a plumber, and looking into pre-apprenticeship programs? Like most skilled tradespeople right now, plumbers are in demand—so it’s a smart career choice.
But, there are a few key things to know before you jump into a training course. Like, what’s involved in getting certified as a plumber, how long will it take, and exactly what is the point of pre-apprenticeship plumber training.
Can’t you just find a licensed plumber to take you on as an apprentice? Do you really need to complete a program? What about paying for school...are there some government grants you can use to reduce your costs?
These are just some of questions you should be asking. In this post, we’ll break it all down for you. These are the 8 most important things to know about plumber training, before you begin.
1. What’s involved in becoming a certified plumber in Ontario?
First, you need to confirm how many years of training you’re looking at to become a plumber. All told, it takes about 5 years to become certified and registered as a journeyperson in this trade.
Plumber is a regulated trade in Ontario, so must go through this process to work legally in the field. The 5 years breaks down into:
- 720 hours of in-school plumber training
- 8,280 hours of on-the-job work experience, as an apprentice
- Pass a plumber certification exam, delivered by the Ontario College of Trades
2. What’s the point of pre-apprenticeship plumber training?
Here’s the bottom line: a good pre-apprenticeship plumber program will help you build the skills and knowledge needed to get hired as an apprentice (and do well at the job).
Steve Dramnitzke teaches the plumber program at Herzing College (formerly known as the PAT Institute). We asked him about the advantages of pre-apprenticeship training, and his answer was very clear:
“My goal is to make each student a useful apprentice on day one at a job site. This means that by the time students graduate, they understand all the different types of piping and materials, joining methods, codes, and how to use plumbing tools correctly.
They graduate with all the important safety certifications, such as WHMIS 2015, Working at Heights, Aerial Platforms, Scaffold Awareness, Ladder Safety, and quite a few more.
Every one of my students finishes the program with the certifications, tools, and knowledge to show up ready to work!”
3. Do you absolutely need pre-apprenticeship training to get hired?
No. Theoretically, you could just ask any licensed plumber to take you on as an apprentice. But, since you bring no real skills to the table, why would they choose you over someone who did a plumber training program?
Steve’s been a plumber for 27 years. We asked him if he would hire someone off the street as an apprentice, and he said probably not—and neither would most other plumbers.
“Why would they hire you over someone who’s done the training, and already has plumber knowledge and skills? You’re a liability. There’s a greater overall cost to the employer, because you don’t really know what you’re doing.
Doing pre-apprenticeship training shows employers you are serious about the trade. You’ve already made a commitment to better yourself and learn. You’re going to see it through.”
So while pre-apprenticeship plumber training isn’t mandatory, it will make you a more attractive candidate for apprenticeships.
Check out this interview with Steve to learn more: Meet Steve Dramnitzke: Our Plumber Instructor Explains What to Expect in Class
4. What exactly will you learn in pre-apprenticeship plumber training?
How in-depth does a program like this go? What new skills will you have by the time you graduate?
Basically, pre-apprenticeship plumber training gives you a solid foundation in hands-on plumbing skills and theory. You’ll learn enough to be helpful on a real job site, including things like:
- Proper use of hand and power tools
- Basic plumber installation methods
- Familiarity with all the different types of piping and materials
- Repair and maintenance procedures
- Plumbing codes
- How to read blueprints for plumbing installations
- Safety requirements (including industry standard certifications)
By the time you graduate, you’ll have experience installing several bathroom fixtures, including a bathtub, toilet, and sink. Keep in mind, an employer wouldn’t ask a first-year apprentice to do those things alone—but at least you’ll know the process and be able to help out (which is key!)
5. Are there grants (free money) to pay for plumber training?
Good news on this one. The Canadian government has several grants available for people who do skilled trades training. There are also special financial supports for women, because they are so under-represented in the trades.
1. Apprenticeship Incentive Grant (up to $2,000 per person)
2. Apprenticeship Completion Grant ($2,000 per person, once you finish your certification)
3. Apprenticeship Incentive Grant for Women (up to $6,000 per person)
Note: You have to confirm you meet eligibility requirements for these incentive programs. An Admissions Advisor at a quality trades school can walk you through the process. They will tell you which grants or student loans you can get, to help pay for your training.
6. What special characteristics do plumbers need to succeed?
Are you really a good fit for this skilled trade? What sort of characteristics will you need to succeed as a plumber? It’s a good idea to figure this out, before you invest in a training program.
The most important skills and attributes for plumbers include:
- A desire to learn about the latest products, tools, techniques, and codes (the field is always changing, so you have to enjoy learning)
- Good communication skills (to work with other tradespeople on site, explain repairs and products to clients, build positive professional relationships, get referrals, etc.)
- Good vision, motor skills, eye-hand coordination
- Basic math skills (although this can be learned in plumber training)
- Excellent problem-solving skills (even while under pressure)
- Reliable, punctual, honest
- Decent physical fitness (for bending, crouching, squeezing into tight corners, climbing up and down stairs, lifting bath tubs, etc.)
- Flexibility (willing to work over-time, and on weekends and holidays when needed)
- Genuine interest in plumbing technology, respect for the trade
7. What are the pros and cons of becoming a plumber
Every career has its ups and downs. Plumber is no exception. It’s better to get a complete picture up front, before you go ahead and start a training program.
Some of the most common advantages and drawbacks to this skilled trade are:
Pro: Steady demand and good pay
Con: Some days you’ll get really dirty (you'll have to be ok with that)
Pro: You can start your own plumbing business and be your own boss
Con: Working on-call, dealing with emergencies at all hours
Pros: No boring routines, always something new to learn
Con: This work can be physically demanding, and involve working in heat or cold
Pro: Get paid while you learn as a plumber apprentice
8. What’s your next step?
So, you’ve read through the whole post, and you think you’re ready for pre-apprenticeship plumber training. How do you get started?
Your first step is to select a trustworthy skilled trades school. There are a lot of options out there, so you’ll need to do your research to find the right fit.
Once you’ve narrowed it down to 2-3 schools, the next step is to meet with Admissions Advisors at each school.
They will explain the pre-apprenticeship plumber program, give you a campus tour, help you understand funding options, and provide information on certification and careers.
This is a crucial step. Your meeting with admissions will tell you everything you need to know about the school—and whether it’s right for you.
Chat live with a Herzing Admissions Advisor right now. Or click below to explore the program in more detail. We're here to help!