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When I started plumbing I was simply calling plumbers out of the yellow pages. A guy hired me for minimum wage and I sat in his passenger seat while he did service plumbing calls. I did this for 2 different solo plumbers (different companies) for a total of 6 months. I considered it basically a waste of my time, but I also thought I was wasting the plumbers time. In that setting there doesn't seem to be much use for helper. The journeyman has to pay you, plus he has to take time to explain things to you. The guys I was with rarely took the time to explain anything, so you really don't learn that much. Sitting in a van all day, day after day not talking much just gets awkward. Usually the service call is regarding one issue and the journeyman plumber deals with it while you stand there looking on, bored out of your mind.

When I think about what is the best way to learn to be a service plumber and you currently have no knowledge of plumbing. I would recommend to anybody to start in new construction. You will be able to be productive from day one. You are needed for all sorts of necessary jobs. You get to see what is going on behind the walls. You gain the coordination of working with tools. I would recommend housing over apartments. The problem with apartments as a someone completely new is you can spend your first many months to a year drilling holes and fire caulking and not gaining much plumbing experience. To learn service plumbing during these years go on message boards such as this one and watch you tube videos. I also wasted a lot of time attending a 5 year union plumbing school that was also a weird waste of time for the most part except for maybe the last year where we learned the code book.
 

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philosopher and statesmen
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When I started plumbing I was simply calling plumbers out of the yellow pages. A guy hired me for minimum wage and I sat in his passenger seat while he did service plumbing calls. I did this for 2 different solo plumbers (different companies) for a total of 6 months. I considered it basically a waste of my time, but I also thought I was wasting the plumbers time. In that setting there doesn't seem to be much use for helper. The journeyman has to pay you, plus he has to take time to explain things to you. The guys I was with rarely took the time to explain anything, so you really don't learn that much. Sitting in a van all day, day after day not talking much just gets awkward. Usually the service call is regarding one issue and the journeyman plumber deals with it while you stand there looking on, bored out of your mind.

When I think about what is the best way to learn to be a service plumber and you currently have no knowledge of plumbing. I would recommend to anybody to start in new construction. You will be able to be productive from day one. You are needed for all sorts of necessary jobs. You get to see what is going on behind the walls. You gain the coordination of working with tools. I would recommend housing over apartments. The problem with apartments as a someone completely new is you can spend your first many months to a year drilling holes and fire caulking and not gaining much plumbing experience. To learn service plumbing during these years go on message boards such as this one and watch you tube videos. I also wasted a lot of time attending a 5 year union plumbing school that was also a weird waste of time for the most part except for maybe the last year where we learned the code book.
you probably learned something driving around with those serivice plumbers and did not even
realize it at the time..... Just seeing the guy working you can absorb quite a bit of knowledge.
Watching is how I learned most everything....
I agree that working on a constructin site doing new plumbing work can really get you
into high gear fast...... I was only 9 years old on many homes and construction sites as
a helper for dad really helped me get up to speed on many levels at an early age..

also just dragging in materials for the journeymen teaches you what is what and eventually
you can anticipate what the guy is going to need.....

its all good experience.


.....
 

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Service and new construction are not the same. They don't teach the same experience/lessons, and they require different skill sets.

Your teachers should have sucked it up and had the patience to let you do the fix. If you phuck up then yes, they'd have to fix it and you can't charge for that time. There are few things that irritate me more than watching someone else solder, yet I will do so in order to properly train an apprentice.

There are two very important lessons I have learned, the first from an old boss. I had broken a neon sign when I took a ladder down. I then had to drive the sign to a repairman 3hrs away on company time to have it fixed. I offered to do it on my time and my boss said no. Being an apprentice often requires you to be a third wheel, just watching and not helping.

He told me that everyone gets an education(or should), and that education costs a lot. Someone is going to pay for that education, maybe you, maybe your boss, maybe the customer.


The second important lesson I learned was from a Master when I asked him about not having an apprentice. He occasionally had one which he worked well with, when that apprentice moved he didn't hire another.

He told me the hardest part of having employees was that they will always do things differently than you have in your mind's eye. If you snap a line and say run the pipe here it still won't be hung exactly as you would. You might order the fittings to rough in a drain and they will still need parts from the truck. He had to accept that even though it isn't done the way he would have, it's still up to code and is acceptable.

There is a difference between "..looking on, bored out of your mind.", and learning. That difference is actively listening and asking questions. It's their job to explain, but it's your job to pay attention and ask questions.
 

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Service plumbers learn more. If you weren’t learning then perhaps you weren’t a good helper. You can learn a lot by watching and paying attention. Service guys know more about how and why systems work and things that fail if done wrong. You can learn in new stuff but not Near what you can in service.
 

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The apprentice drives the truck, this allows the plumber to do invoices and phone calls.
Also does the heavy lifting and truck cleaning.

a good helper/apprentice can allow a real plumber to triple his income if not more.

If you were bored out of your mind maybe you should be a wear a hard hat kinda plumber.

Sounds like the guys you worked for didnt know how to manage their help. Maybe it's possible that it's you and they got tired of your attitude. Not saying either are true....but if true..
 

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When I started plumbing I was simply calling plumbers out of the yellow pages. A guy hired me for minimum wage and I sat in his passenger seat while he did service plumbing calls. I did this for 2 different solo plumbers (different companies) for a total of 6 months. I considered it basically a waste of my time, but I also thought I was wasting the plumbers time. In that setting there doesn't seem to be much use for helper. The journeyman has to pay you, plus he has to take time to explain things to you. The guys I was with rarely took the time to explain anything, so you really don't learn that much. Sitting in a van all day, day after day not talking much just gets awkward. Usually the service call is regarding one issue and the journeyman plumber deals with it while you stand there looking on, bored out of your mind.

When I think about what is the best way to learn to be a service plumber and you currently have no knowledge of plumbing. I would recommend to anybody to start in new construction. You will be able to be productive from day one. You are needed for all sorts of necessary jobs. You get to see what is going on behind the walls. You gain the coordination of working with tools. I would recommend housing over apartments. The problem with apartments as a someone completely new is you can spend your first many months to a year drilling holes and fire caulking and not gaining much plumbing experience. To learn service plumbing during these years go on message boards such as this one and watch you tube videos. I also wasted a lot of time attending a 5 year union plumbing school that was also a weird waste of time for the most part except for maybe the last year where we learned the code book.
I agree 100%
I started in new construction and it made service a breeze. Good to know the system your diagnosing in and out before starting service
 

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…I considered it basically a waste of my time…Usually the service call is regarding one issue and the journeyman plumber deals with it while you stand there looking on, bored out of your mind.

I also wasted a lot of time attending a 5 year union plumbing school that was also a weird waste of time for the most part except for maybe the last year where we learned the code book.
Your comparison of apples to crawfish aside…

Generally, the ”best” way to do anything may not exist. If riding along with Journeyman service plumbers AND the five year apprenticeship school with the Local was a waste of time, I respectfully submit that neither the school, nor the service work was the problem.

Not learning anything while working all day in service with an effective, yet speechless Journeyman is not the Journeyman’s fault. Not learning anything in a five year plumbing school is not the school’s fault.
 

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The master I cut my teeth with did both. He said construction teaches you how, service teaches you why.

I'd say having an apprentice in service makes it possible to do jobs that you otherwise couldn't, such as attic water heaters. And there are plenty of jobs that even a greenhorn can handle with supervision.

As for not learning anything riding in a service van, yes, a good journey should teach, but a good apprentice will ask questions and ask to perform tasks. It's up to them to make their education count for something.
 

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Matt Maves, As some have already responded, you need to be assertive and ask questions. Service and repair plumbers are able to diagnose issues after plumbing systems have been in place and made operational. Sometimes years or decades later.

I suspect the master plumbers you may have rode with, didn't find what they were looking for in you in order to advance you. Have you heard the term "paying your dues in the trenches"? I have had the priveledge to pass down service and repair Plumbing trade knowledge to several good helpers / employees. Some of which went on to start their own companies after running with the big dog. They are good friends to this day.

The master service and repair plumber can generally tell who is and isn't going to work out within about two weeks. The only dis-service your trainers may have been guilty of is not talking with you about the work as they were performing it. Then following up with you on the way to the next jobsite. Asking you if they taught you anything as you were watching them. Then going on to the next step and explaining the functions of the equipment and systems.

But again, If you didn't show any interest, then why should he? Tell me this, were you constantly on your phone between jobsites? I didn't allow personal phone usage during hours when they were clocked in. If it was an emergency, family was instructed to call the company dispatch or my Phone.

You may not be enough of a self starter to ever be an effective service plumber out on his own. Just saying.
 

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Matt Maves, As some have already responded, you need to be assertive and ask questions. Service and repair plumbers are able to diagnose issues after plumbing systems have been in place and made operational. Sometimes years or decades later.
.................
But again, If you didn't show any interest, then why should he?.....................
You may not be enough of a self starter to ever be an effective service plumber out on his own. Just saying.
You give me a couple symptoms and I can tell you exactly what's wrong, newcon doesn't teach that. Often I can look at the plumbing in a 100yr old house and see decades of history.

It sounds to me like he wants to learn and has some lax journeymen showing/not showing him the ropes. Some guys have too much pep in their step at a young age to focus on a service call. It's a lot of picyoun stuff and explaining to customers. I could talk your ear off about orings for half an hour, I spend exorbitant amounts of time keeping my stock straight. A lot of guys can't/won't deal with that.

Perhaps he is best on newcon until he can calm down and truly think about the customer. He wants to work 9-5 and not be distracted.
 
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Put the shoe on the other foot, personally I have had the run of enough helpers that aren't worth a $hit that it beats you down, makes you NOT want to train anyone, makes you want to have the helper PROVE himself first. If they aren't paying attention, are "BORED" why bother its already over before it started. Show some enthusiasm, I will train anyone, act like you are only there to collect a paycheck and not develop it into a career, forget it.

I know that I'm not the only one!
 

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…I considered it basically a waste of my time…Usually the service call is regarding one issue and the journeyman plumber deals with it while you stand there looking on, bored out of your mind.

I also wasted a lot of time attending a 5 year union plumbing school that was also a weird waste of time for the most part except for maybe the last year where we learned the code book.
There may be a deeper root-cause to the disconnect with the learning part of being a plumber. I personally won’t waste time teaching a helper anything, and neither will any union school that I am aware of. No person should have a right to, or a reasonable expectation of being taught ANYTHING when they show up as a helper. On the other hand, if they show up as an Apprentice Plumber I’ll give them the keys to their future in a hot minute.

Helpers might wash my truck. Apprentices will learn my trade. Based on the title of the thread, that critical detail might have been missed.

It’s the mindset, not the title that I am referring to. I can’t imagine any Apprentice worth his/her salt not bowing up at being called a helper. ESPECIALLY after five years as an Organized Apprentice.
 

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................Helpers might wash my truck. Apprentices will learn my trade. Based on the title of the thread, that critical detail might have been missed.

It’s the mindset, not the title that I am referring to. I can’t imagine any Apprentice worth his/her salt not bowing up at being called a helper. ESPECIALLY after five years as an Organized Apprentice.

And they accuse me of being pedantic!
 

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Can’t help it. The term “helper” makes my skin crawl.
Really? Must be how you and yours use the term. We simply use "Helper" to refer to anyone who might be helping the lead guy on the job.

For instance, I might need a helper to pull a pump. That could be a shop guy, an Apprentice, a Journeyman, or in the rares cases that hell freezes over, one of our Masters. I would refer to them as my helper. "Jim, did you get a helper?", "Yes, the office sent Joe to be my helper because he finished his last call early.".
 

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Really? Must be how you and yours use the term. We simply use "Helper" to refer to anyone who might be helping the lead guy on the job.

For instance, I might need a helper to pull a pump. That could be a shop guy, an Apprentice, a Journeyman, or in the rares cases that hell freezes over, one of our Masters. I would refer to them as my helper. "Jim, did you get a helper?", "Yes, the office sent Joe to be my helper because he finished his last call early.".
I understand that approach completely. Terminology varies from company to company, and geograpically.
 

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