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Plumber, gasfitter & drainlayer

A career as a plumber, gasfitter or drainlayer  is never dull – there is diversity, challenges and the chance to work outdoors. One day you may be working on a major construction project and the next on a smaller job on a residential property.

Along with new installations, there is plenty of maintenance work in servicing and repairing systems.  You will learn about a range of issues, from health and safety through to customer service and working with other trades – the job is responsible, demanding, social and satisfying.

A plumber works plays a critical role in ensuring all Kiwis have pure drinking water on tap while a drainlayer plays an essential role in the health of the community. The drains and pipes you work with ensure and that waste is taken away safely and efficiently. The job is constantly in demand, well paid and rewarding.

Gasfitters size, install, test and maintain gas appliances and equipment such as residential gas heaters and ovens through to commercial or industrial equipment.

What jobs will I do?

You can choose to be a plumber or, you can expand your skills and knowledge and add gasfitting or drainlaying to give you more career opportunities.

As a plumber, gasfitter or drainlayer, you may do some or all of the following.

  • Measure, cut and shape pipes
  • Install, join and seal pipes and fittings
  • Install and maintain hot water and heating systems such as hot water cylinders and central heating
  • Install and repair natural gas and LPG pipe systems and appliances
  • Lay or repair drains, and get consents from local councils to do the work
  • Install, repair and maintain drainage systems to meet regulations and laws
  • Install and repair roofing and spouting
  • Replace or repair damaged or blocked water, sewerage and gas pipes
  • Install fixtures such as  toilets, basins, septic tanks and gas hobs.

What skills will I need to be successful?

You will learn these skills and knowledge through on-job and off-job training. 

  • Plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying materials and methods
  • How to interpret designs, plans and instructions
  • Building and safety regulations relating to plumbing, gasfitting, and drainage (including the Building Code)
  • How to fulfil drainage drawings and specifications
  • How to produce drawings and records of as-built work (while identifying subsoil, gradient and excavation considerations)
  • How to solder and weld
  • How to apply safe working procedures and practices as required by law.

A heavy traffic licence is an advantage for drainlaying apprentice for using larger machinery.

What's the job outlook like?

The repair and rebuild of Christchurch and the Auckland housing construction boom, means the demand for plumbers in these regions will continue to be strong over the short to medium term. In other regions, employment growth is likely to remain stable.

How do I become one?

You need to have a special apprentice licence to do plumbing work (known as a limited certificate). The Skills Organisation will cover the cost of the limited certificate issued from the Plumbing, Gasfitting & Drainlaying board.

You must have these limited certificates before you start your apprenticeship, and you have to renew them each year in March while you’re doing your apprenticeship. A certifying plumber and gasfitter (normally your employer) must agree to be your supervisor before you can be issued with your limited certificates.

For the first year of your apprenticeship you must work in the presence of a licence holder. This person could be your supervisor, or could be another licence holder who is also supervised by your supervisor. Either way, throughout your entire apprenticeship your supervisor is responsible for making sure your work is done competently, is safe, and complies with all regulations.

Once you have gained your qualification, you must then sit an exam set by the Plumbing, Gasfitting & Drainlaying Board before you can apply for your licence.

Secondary education and essential skills

Some of the skills needed to successfully learn the trade and also keep up with off-job study includes a sound knowledge of English and mathematics. Generally, this means that you will have at least obtained Level 2 NCEA.

Pathways Ararua is a free tool to help you improve your reading, writing, listening and numeracy skills using Trade, Service and Community pathways.  It’s a great way to brush up on these essential skills.

What qualifications do I study?

Depending on the career you choose, you will study the relevant qualification to Level 4.  

If you are already an experienced drainlayer you can gain the National Certificate in Drainlaying through an assessment of your prior learning (APL). Under this model you demonstrate your competence by providing evidence of your knowledge and experience.

Our training programmes offer you the flexibility to achieve one or more national certificates in plumbing, gasfitting or drainlaying through the following combined qualifications: 

Check out the video below to learn about Ben Shoesmith's experience as a plumbing apprentice!