There Isn't a Shortage of Plumbers
Say APHCL COVENTRY, England, January 16 /PRNewswire

The plumbing skills shortage is over, says the Association of Plumbing & Heating Contractors Limited (APHCL). Over the past few years, the media has been full of stories of plumbers earning GBP70,000 a year because there just weren't enough to meet demand. The result has been colleges radically increasing capacities in plumbing departments, offering NVQ courses in a subject which, up until then, had failed to engage a sufficient number.Anecdotal evidence spoke of city slickers abandoning their Porsches and hedonistic lifestyles in favour of the simple and rewarding pleasures of tap washer replacement and drain unblocking, while there were even rumours of brain surgeons forsaking their scalpels for sink plungers.

But if APHCL is right, this is all about to come to an end as the workplace is flooded with new and possibly only partly qualified plumbers in search of gainful employment.According to the Association, there are currently some 26,000 people in training for plumbing qualifications in England and Wales but those likely to find employment amount to only about 1,000 to 1,500 a year (latest Labour Market Information sources). On top of this, the past year has also seen a proliferation of so-called fast track training establishments, some claiming to be able to turn out 'qualified' plumbers in as little as two weeks. Clive Dickin, Chief Executive Officer at APHCL says the situation has become totally unrealistic. During the early 2000's the industry experienced a shortage of plumbers, but such has been the explosion of interest since then that there are now far more new entrants than can ever gain full employment. The industry does not now need this level of additional workforce, which could damage quality and the market"

Keith Marshall, Chief Executive of SummitSkills further backs this up by saying "It's important to create and maintain a balance between the number of people coming into the industry and the jobs that are available for them. At the moment our experience is that the industry has more people in plumbing training than employers who are willing to recruit these learners to provide workplace experience. We hear daily from people who have completed some form of training but are not able to get employment."What concerns APHCL is that a skilled trade, requiring as a minimum a couple of years training, will become devalued by the deluge of new entrants with varying degrees of qualifications. "No way can anyone become a skilled plumber in two weeks," says Mr Dickin. "The usual duration of an NVQ Level 2 course is two years, and this should also include on-site training at a reputable plumbing company, it's not just about completing a training course, work experience in a company is also a fundamental requirement in becoming competent.

The NVQ 2 qualification is the bare minimum, and at the Association we are committed to plumbers achieving NVQ Level 3 as being a more realistic basis on which to serve public and commercial interests, given the technical complexity of today's plumbing systems. Despite popular perception, plumbing requires considerable skill and a broad range of technical knowledge to ensure public health and safety. There's an awful lot more to it than changing washers or unblocking drains."Plumbing has long been a trade which has failed to gain the respect of its customers, partly because successive governments have refused to require those calling themselves plumbers to be qualified. In many other countries, the danger to public health created by the unskilled has been recognised, and governments will not allow plumbing to be carried out by any but qualified personnel.

In this country, a temporary skills shortage raised public perception, but a likely influx of poorly qualified, inexperienced practitioners risks not only the reputation of the trade but also threatens public health and safety.

Information supplied by APHCL