Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

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Plumbers and Gasfitters

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Income
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Fees
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Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

Demand for qualified plumbers and gasfitters in Auckland and Christchurch will continue to be strong over the short- to medium-term. In other regions, demand is also growing and is likely to be moderate to strong over the short to medium term

How to become a plumber or gasfitter

What they do

Plumbers and gasfitters assemble, install and repair pipes, drains, fixtures and fittings that are used to supply water and gas or remove waste.

Qualifications needed

Plumbers generally complete an apprenticeship. Apprentices are required to complete a National Certificate in Plumbing and Gasfitting, Plumbing and Drainlaying, or Plumbing or Gasfitting, all four-year programmes. The Skills Organisation provides detailed information on plumbing apprenticeships.

The Skills Organisation: www.skills.org.nz

Master Plumbers operates a mentored apprenticeship programme called Masterlink, placing apprentices into ‘host’ plumbing firms and mentoring apprentices through to completion of their National Certificate. ATT also has a mentored apprenticeship programme.

Masterlink: https://www.masterlink.co.nz 
ATT: www.att.org.nz/plumbing-gas-apprentices

If you are looking at doing a plumbing or gasfitting apprenticeship it is a good idea to have completed English, maths and hard technology subjects up to NCEA Level 2.

The practical work tasks, hours worked, and pay rate for an apprentice are determined by the employer providing the apprenticeship.

Plumbing and gasfitting apprenticeships are available in the construction industry. These provide workplace-based learning, and allow employees to gain Level 4 qualifications.

The New Zealand Apprenticeships scheme is available for anyone over the age of 16, and is subsidised by the government. More information on the scheme is on the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) website.

TEC: www.tec.govt.nz/learners-organisations/learners/learn-about/apprenticeships 
Master Plumbers, Gasfitters & Drainlayers: www.masterplumbers.org.nz

Cost of study

The cost during a plumbing or gasfitting apprenticeship varies depending on the pathway taken and on whether the employer contributes.

National Certificate of Plumbing (Apprenticeship)
$8,000 - $11,000 over four years

Average costs in 2015 for a domestic student. Costs vary between institutions. Some polytechnics may have a zero-fees scheme. Further costs include materials, textbooks, and accommodation. Mentored apprenticeships often cover training fees, accommodation costs and provide tools – a sign-up fee is usually charged in lieu of training costs.

Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.

The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.

MBIE Tenancy Services: www.tenancy.govt.nz
StudyLink: www.studylink.govt.nz
Sorted: www.sorted.org.nz/calculators/money-planner

Where to study

There are plumbing and gasfitting training providers throughout New Zealand. Many polytechnics run courses. If you complete your apprenticeship with an employer, you may be expected to remain with that employer for a period.

Licensing

Legally, plumbers and gasfitters are required to hold a form of authorisation, usually an identity card, before they can work. People in training hold an authorisation called a limited certificate. Once training is completed and a person has met registration requirements they become a licensed plumber.

The registration process is run by the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board (PGDB). To become registered as a licensed plumber or gasfitter you must have completed a National Certificate in plumbing or gasfitting, and sat and passed the PGDB examination.

The next stage from this is to become a certifying plumber.

Authorisation type 
Licence category Certifying plumber 
This is the highest qualification available. These people are responsible for   ensuring both their own work, and the work of anyone they supervise is done competently.   

Licensed plumber 
These people are qualified and licensed but must be supervised by a   certifying person who is ultimately responsible for ensuring the work is done   competently.   

Limited certificate trainee plumber 
These are people who are working towards becoming qualified. They can do the work but a certifying person must ensure it is done competently.

More information on this process is outlined on the PGDB website.

PGDB: www.pgdb.co.nz/trade/registration.html

The total number of plumber registrations has grown steadily during the last few years, and now stands at about 13,600.

Registered plumbers chart

Source: Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board

Completed qualifications

The number of students completing the Level 4 National Certificate in Plumbing (as part of an apprenticeship) grew strongly up to 2010. Since then the number has fallen, and in 2015 there were 135 completions.

Qualification completions chart

Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects

Income

Apprentice or trainee plumbers may start on the training minimum wage or a little more. Their wages increase as they progress through their apprenticeship and gain skills.

According to Master Plumbers, once registered, you can expect to get a wage of around $55,000. A more experienced registered plumber may earn around $65,000. Experienced, certifying plumbers can earn $75,000 or more.

The wage level is higher in Auckland and Christchurch than in the rest of the country. In Auckland, registered plumbers can earn $60,000-77,000, while in Christchurch they earn $58,000-70,000. Experienced, certifying plumbers can earn over $85,000 in Auckland and over $80,000 in Christchurch.

Experienced, self-employed plumbers can earn between $80,000 and $100,000 a year, or even more.

Employment and skill shortages

Plumbers and gasfitters’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2020 2025
8,685 8,337 12,671 14,630
  -0.6% 6.2% 2.9%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
*Growth projections are for the category “Plumbers”.

The employment forecast shows very fast growth until 2020, largely fuelled by the Canterbury rebuild and Auckland construction. In other regions, employment growth is likely to remain stable. Beyond 2020, growth is forecast to continue, but at a slower rate.

Employment chart

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

Outcomes after qualification completion*

OverseasIn further studyReceiving a benefitIn employmentMedian Salary
7% 17% 5% 72% $34,500

Source: Ministry of Education
*Two years after completion of L4 Certificate - Building. ‘Overseas’ refers to the percentage of ALL graduates completing this qualification. Other indicators refer only to graduates living in New Zealand.

Two years after completing a Level 4 certificate in building, most graduates were either in employment or in further study. Moderately few were overseas or receiving a benefit. The median salary was around $34,500.

Plumbers are on the Canterbury Skill Shortage List, meaning that New Zealand is actively looking for people from overseas to fill these jobs. Anyone looking to become a plumber in Canterbury is more likely to get a position. A full list is available on the Immigration New Zealand website.

Gasfitters are not on Immigration New Zealand’s skill shortage lists.

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list: skillshortages.immigration.govt.nz

Where to find job vacancies

Since 2010, the number of online job ads for plumbers has risen strongly; by 2016, there were almost than six times the number of online ads compared to 2008. This shows the strong demand for qualified plumbers, and means that it should be easy for them to find a job.

Jobs advertised chart

Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

Plumber and gasfitter vacancies are advertised through public media such as the Trade Me Jobs and Seek websites.

Trade Me Jobs: www.trademe.co.nz/jobs 
Seek: www.seek.co.nz

Career path

Work as a plumber’s labourer is usually available on larger construction sites. This gives you a chance to get a look at what the industry is about and is an opportunity for you to prove that you can be and want to become a plumber.

After finishing their apprenticeships, and after gaining several years of experience, many plumbers start their own business and start training their own apprentices. Certifying plumbers may plan, supervise or work on plumbing installations.

Related occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry-level plumbers.

  • Air-conditioning Technician
  • Carpenter
  • Drainlayer
  • Electrician
  • Fire Services Plumber
  • Roof Plumber
  • Sanitary Plumber
  • Water Plumber

Other information

Links

More information about plumbers and gasfitters is available on the Careers New Zealand website and through the "Just the Job" videos.

Careers New Zealand: www.careers.govt.nz
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Drainlaying
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a Gas Technician
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Plumbing

ANZSCO

The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of plumbers and gasfitters has been coded to the following ANZSCO code for the purpose of this report:

3341 – Plumbers