Apprentices – FAQs

Q. I have other commitments; can I undertake the plumbing apprenticeship on a part-time basis? 

A. The Modern Apprenticeship in Plumbing and Heating is a full-time course. 

Q. Can I undertake only the college part of the plumbing apprenticeship and not the employer part?

A. You cannot undertake only the college part of the plumbing apprenticeship as on the job training is an essential part of the plumbing apprenticeship. Without this you will not be able to achieve the Modern Apprenticeship in Plumbing and Heating and the SNIJIB will not grade you as a plumber.

Q. I have previously completed part of the plumbing apprenticeship but I did not finish the training programme; can I restart and complete the training programme?

A. This really depends on a number of circumstances, such as our colleges would still need to be teaching the same plumbing qualification as the one you were learning before you left our training programme. If the plumbing qualification is different, you would need to start the course from the very beginning. Another factor would be whether there was enough government funding left from Skills Development Scotland to help pay the costs of the remainder of your training.

Q. I have lost my job. Can I continue on the plumbing apprenticeship programme? 

A. The answer is yes in the short term. We normally allow around two months for an apprentice to find a new employer. If a new employer cannot be found within this time then we unfortunately have to remove you from our training programme. You may, however, be able to restart on our programme at a later date if you do manage to find a new employer.

Q. I have seen an advert in my local newspaper suggesting I can become a plumber in three months by undertaking a plumbing course – is this legitimate?

A. We refer to these courses as ‘fast track’ learning and we do not recognise this type of training nor does the SNIJIB, which is the organisation responsible for registering all plumbing apprentices and grading them as plumbers once they have served four years and have gained the Modern Apprenticeship in Plumbing and Heating SVQ Level 3, which is the only way to be graded a fully qualified plumber in Scotland.

Q. I have a disability; can I become an apprentice plumber and start the plumbing apprenticeship?

A. As long as you are reasonably fit and able in your own best interests to meet the work and safety requirements of the plumbing industry there should be no problem with you starting on the plumbing apprenticeship. The Modern Apprenticeship in Plumbing and Heating operates on the principle of equal opportunities regardless of sex, marital status, race, religion, age and disability.

Q. My local college is offering a plumbing pre-apprenticeship courses. Are they any good?

A. Plumbing pre-apprenticeships are a good way to get your foot in the door of the plumbing industry and it gives you a taster of how the full four-year Modern Apprenticeship in Plumbing and Heating will be. Quite often employers look to these pre-apprenticeship courses when they are looking for potential apprentices to employ.

Q. Do I need to sign a contract?

A. You and your employer will be required to complete the SNIJIB training and registration agreement before you start your plumbing apprenticeship. The SNIJIB training agreement is the contract between you and your employer that states they will follow the SNIJIB working rules of the plumbing industry. The working rule book can be downloaded here.

The contract of apprenticeship is a fixed term of four years, and apprentices have an obligation to complete the full period with the employer who offers the apprenticeship. Likewise, the employer should try to ensure the apprentice a job of the full period of the plumbing apprenticeship.

Your employer may also have their own standard contract with your terms and conditions such as hours of work, pay rates, etc that they will get you to sign.

Q. Is there a probationary period?

A. In terms of the SNIJIB working rule book of the plumbing industry, the probationary period will be six months. During this time either party may terminate the apprenticeship by giving due notice in accordance with Working Rule 5.

The working rule book can be downloaded here.

Q. Do I get paid while on the training programme?

A. Apprentices are employed under the terms of the plumbing industry’s apprentice training programme, and this means you will receive the rates of pay and conditions of employment laid down by the SNIJIB. The rates of pay can be downloaded here. Your employer is required to pay you while you work with them and when you attend college.

Q. How many hours do I need to work?

A. The plumbing industry working hours are normally 37.5 hours per week worked Monday to Friday 8am – 6.30pm. The length of each day should not be less than six hours nor more than eight hours. Overtime is not encouraged; however, it may be required in certain circumstances. More information on working hours can be downloaded here.

Q. Will I be monitored by SNIPEF Training Services Ltd while I am on the training programme?

A. One of our Regional Training Officers will carry out a quarterly review every 13 weeks while you are on our training programme. The review will take place either at college or on site with your employer.

16-19 year olds

Q. I am leaving school soon and am interested in undertaking a plumbing apprenticeship; can you tell me what I need to do? 

A. You will need to make sure you are eligible to leave school. If you are eligible, then the first stage for you is to find an employer who is willing to employ you and put you through the four-year Modern Apprenticeship in Plumbing and Heating. We do not find an employer for you.

Once you have found an employer who is interested in taking you on as their plumbing apprentice, they will get in contact with us to send out the relevant paperwork to get you registered on our training programme.

Q. I am only 15 years old. Can I undertake the plumbing apprenticeship?

A. If your 16th birthday birthday falls between 1 March and 30 September, you can start on the plumbing apprenticeship programme on 1 June. If your 16th birthday is between 1 October and 28 February, you can start on the plumbing apprenticeship programme on 23 December. You are also required to be eligible to leave school.

20+ year olds

Q. I want to change career but I am 40 years old; can I still undertake the plumbing apprenticeship?

A. The answer is yes you can still undertake the plumbing apprenticeship. There is no age restriction on our training programme, however, due to a shortfall in government funding from Skills Development Scotland we may require a one-off adult shortfall contribution payment to help cover the costs of training if you are over the age of 20.

Q. I am over the age of 20 and an adult shortfall contribution is required. Who is required to pay this fee? 

A. If an adult shortfall contribution is required we do not stipulate who is required to pay this fee. We require the adult shortfall contribution to be paid before the plumbing apprentice starts on our training programme. In the past we have had employers or apprentices pay the amount in full and on some occasions the employer and the apprentice have paid the amount together.

Finding an employer

Q. Do you know any employers looking to take on plumbing apprentices?

A. We do not keep a list of employers who may be looking to take on a plumbing apprentice; however, you can contact your local Regional Training Officer to see if they are aware of any employers in your area looking for an apprentice. The Regional Training Officers' contact details can be downloaded here.

Q. Do you have any tips or suggestions on how I can find an employer?

A. We suggest you fill in our application form which will be used on our database for employers looking to take on an apprentice. You could also visit www.needaplumber.org which is a website where you can enter your post code and it will bring up a list of details of SNIPEF member companies that you can approach to see if they are interested in taking on an apprentice. We also suggest you search your local Yellow Pages, local newspapers, internet and speak to family and friends to find plumbing companies to contact.

Q. I own my own company but I am not a graded plumber. Can I undertake the plumbing apprenticeship?

A. You are able to undertake the plumbing apprenticeship if you have a fully qualified plumber employed within the company who is able to teach and train you on a full-time basis while you are not attending college.

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