If you like to work with your hands and have excellent attention to detail, a Plumbing Apprenticeship and a career as a plumber could be highly suited to you. Qualified plumbers perform various tasks, including maintaining and fixing water systems, water regulators and maintaining drainage, sewerage, stormwater, cooling and ventilation systems.
Plumbers are typically split into three groups: residential, commercial, and service and repairs. Residential plumbers build water systems for residential houses, and commercial plumbers build water systems for public spaces such as universities, hospitals, and shops. Finally, service and repairs plumbers maintain existing water systems in residential and commercial properties.
The state of Plumbing Apprenticeships in Australia
The COVID-19 pandemic severely disrupted apprenticeships in Australia. Governments and organisations are working to reduce the effects of the pandemic with targeted initiatives. For example, the Australian Government invested $1.3 billion into the Supporting Apprentices and Trainees stimulus package.
Despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, apprenticeship commencements are increasing. Recent research by The National Centre for Vocational Education Research found that the number of people undertaking an apprenticeship in trades rose by 27.4 per cent compared to 2020. Moreover, the construction trades, including plumbing, saw a 36.3% increase in commencements between 2020 and 2021 as Australia’s skills shortage deepened.
Demand for plumbers continues to grow in Australia, particularly in the East Coast cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. In 2019, the Australian Government introduced the Additional Identified Skills Shortage payment incentive payment (AISS) to address the growing national skills shortage. The payment is available to eligible employers and apprentices, including plumbers. Eligible apprentices must be new to the employer and must be completing a Certificate III or IV qualification. AISS-eligible apprentices will receive $2,000 at the 12-month point from the commencement of the apprenticeship and an additional $2,000 when they complete their training.
Plumbing is an excellent career path to follow as government growth projections suggest that the industry is likely to experience moderate growth over the next couple of years due to initiatives designed to fix the national skills shortage. Research conducted by the Australian Government found that half of the apprentice plumber graduates remain as plumbers after five years and have above-average financial outcomes.
Typical duties of a plumbing apprentice
Plumbing apprentices are required to undertake a range of tasks during their training. These include learning how to work safely at heights, read plans, calculate quantities and mark out materials, carry out simple concreting and rendering, and more. You can learn more about the typical duties of a plumbing apprentice on the Australian Apprenticeship Pathways website.
Employers require apprentices to complete Year 10 in line with the legal school leaving age to undertake an apprenticeship. In addition, plumbing apprentices should possess several essential skills to succeed in the sector, including the ability to work with your hands, effective interpersonal communication, good attention to detail, and problem-solving skills.
Qualified Plumber average wage
According to Job Outlook, an initiative created by the Australian Government National Skills Commission, the median full-time plumber receives $1,894 before tax. However, the average hourly wage of a qualified plumber varies by state.
- Sydney, New South Wales: AU$29.06 per hour.
- Melbourne, Victoria: AU$31.37 per hour.
- Brisbane, Queensland: AU$31.58 per hour.
- Darwin, Northern Territory: AU$35.56 per hour.
- Perth, Western Australia: AU$32.25 per hour.
- Canberra, Australian Capital Territory: AU$28.50 per hour.
- Hobart, Tasmania: AU$28.96 per hour.
Plumbing Apprenticeship wages
The base pay rate you can expect as a Plumbing apprentice depends on various personal factors and your location, these include:
- Whether you completed Year 12
- The state in which you will undergo the plumbing apprenticeship
- Supported Wage System eligibility
- Your age
To get an accurate base pay rate for your exact circumstances, you can use the Fair Work Ombudsman wage calculator and by selecting the Plumbing and Fire Sprinklers Award (MA000036).
How to become a plumber
Most qualified plumbers completed an apprenticeship. Recent research found that 77% of the plumbing workforce in Australia hold a Certificate III or IV qualification, typically in plumbing or gas fitting. These apprenticeships take approximately 48 months to complete.
After obtaining the relevant plumbing qualification through an apprenticeship, plumbers must have a license and accreditation relating to the state they plan to work in or training under the supervision of a licensed plumbing practitioner. In addition, qualified plumbers will require a Construction Induction Card (CIC), commonly known as a “White Card”, to practice their trade legally.
How to find and get a Plumbing Apprenticeship
The first step is to contact the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network. Apprenticeship Network providers offer tailored advice and support services to help apprentices complete their courses and access help when required. Once you decide to undertake an apprenticeship, providers help you find an employer and registered training organisation to complete your course. Additionally, they will provide you with a legally binding training contract for both parties to sign. If required, they will also help you access financial support such as a Trade Support Loan.
Additionally, Australian Apprenticeship Pathways provides information and resources to help you find a plumbing apprenticeship. The organisation provides valuable resources such as the work type explorer tool, job and training descriptions, job hunting tips, and practice aptitude quizzes to determine which apprenticeship is right for you.
There are different Certificate III one can gain from undertaking a Plumbing apprenticeship. These include:
Certificate III in Plumbing
A Certificate III in Plumbing involves installing, replacing, repairing, testing and maintaining mechanical systems for cooling, heating, and ventilating commercial and residential properties. Once completed, the trade qualification allows qualified plumbers to work in residential, industrial and commercial settings. To learn more about what training involves, please visit the Australian Apprenticeship Pathways website.
Certificate III in Gas Fitting
A Certificate III in Gas Fitting involves installing, maintaining, testing, and repairing gas lines, regulators, units, meters, and appliances. During training, gas fitters will read plans and calculate plumbing quantities, install LPG systems in various properties and vehicles, maintain gas appliances and more. To learn more about what training involves, please visit the Australian Apprenticeship Pathways website.
Start your plumbing career by undertaking an apprenticeship
Due to the skills shortage, plumbers are currently in high demand in Australia. As a result, employers in the field offer competitive salaries once you have completed your qualification. If you are interested in learning more about plumbing apprenticeships, visit the Government’s Apprenticeship site and the Australian Apprenticeship Pathways websites.