America has been experiencing job shortages in a number of areas and it is predicted that some of these gaps will increase in the upcoming years.
One area experiencing worker shortage is plumbing. According to the Washington Post , “An unprecedented skilled labor shortage exists from a combination of the Great Recession’s record levels of unemployment, industry veterans leaving the workforce and the fact that many high school graduates are not interested in blue-collar jobs.”
If you or someone you know is interested in working in the plumbing industry, there are a number of ways to specialize in this trade. It’s not a one-size-fits-all scenario which means there are opportunities available for a wide range of skills and interest.
Some of these areas include designing plumbing systems for new houses or buildings, working with cities to improve existing water systems, or helping develop new technologies in plumbing.
The plumbing industry also allows workers to choose between residential, commercial, or industrial projects. Plus, an individual who is well-trained in plumbing could also start their own plumbing business.
There are so many options and this post will explore some of the most in demand plumbing specialties available.
Plumbing Specialties in Demand for 2020
The Occupational Outlook Handbook expects plumbing jobs to increase by 16% from 2016 to 2026, a rate which is much faster than the average 7% growth for other occupations.
These are some of the areas that expected to continue to grow in demand.
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In the United States, there has been a shortage of construction workers . Likewise, there has also been a shortage of plumbers needed for construction jobs.
There are several reasons this skilled labor gap has formed. One reason is there has been an upsurge in new building construction which is expected to rise over the next few years . In addition, there is a growing demand for plumbers able to refurbish old systems and replace them with new high-efficiency, low-flow systems.
Plumbers working in construction repair or replace existing piping systems in commercial or residential buildings. They also work alongside contractors on brand new constructions in both the residential, public, and commercial sector.
If you’re interested in pursuing another type of specialized plumbing job, consider becoming a pipelayer.
People in this field are skilled tradespeople who dig and level trenches to lay down new pipes or fix and replace broken ones. They install underground piping systems that connect buildings and sites to water supplies, sewers, and stormwater management systems. Some pipelayers also lay down gas lines.
Pipelayers are responsible for grading trenches or culverts, positioning pipes, and sealing joints. When new buildings are constructed, pipelayers make sure that building plans include a way to handle stormwater runoff -- for the actual building and for the surrounding areas such as parking lots.
Pipelayers also make sure that buildings have a proper way of discharging sewage either into public sewers or on-lot septic systems.
The average salary of a pipelayer is $46,600 annually, although some workers make as much as $67,000 a year.
A general plumber can work with a wide variety of clients in both the commercial, industrial, public, and residential sector.
Most often, general plumbers work on installation and maintenance of water systems and gas lines. Plumbers diagnose and repair plumbing issues such as damaged or worn out piping or slow or clogged drains.
Plumbers may also install fixtures like sinks, showerheads, faucets, or water heaters.
People in this field often have to respond to emergency situations such as busted pipes, backed up drain lines, or broken water heaters. This could lead to some odd hours, but it also means continued job security. People will always need someone to come help when they have unexpected flooding in their home.
The average plumber makes $50,000 a year with some making as much as $88,000 or more a year.
Pipefitters and Steamfitters
Steamfitters and pipefitters are responsible for pipes that carry water, air flow, hydraulics, steam, chemicals, and fuel in process piping systems. They design, assemble, install, maintain, troubleshoot and repair these piping systems.
Difference Between Pipefitters and Steamfitters
While these terms are sometimes used synonymously, there are some differences between pipefitters and steamfitters
The biggest difference between the two jobs is what kind of material is being transported by their pipework.
A steamfitter is a pipefitter that specializes in high-pressure liquid or gas piping. They also install and repair gauges. Due to the nature of the materials being transported -- such as high-pressure gas, a steamfitters job can sometimes be more dangerous.
Pipefitters sometimes work with both low and high-pressure systems use for cooling, manufacturing, and electricity generation. They also install and maintain controls to regulate pipe systems.
More About Pipefitters and Steamfitters
Pipefitters and Steamfitters often work on large scale projects in industrial settings -- not residential. These job locations may include power plants, factories, oil refineries, or even submarines .
Some parts of the job may include bending pipes and fitting them for piping systems. They may fabricate pipe, use heat treatment on pipes to relieve stress, measure, and use math and scientific principles to complete and implement a design.
In order to join pipes, pipefitters may use a number of joining processes like electric welding, gas welding, brazing, soldering, and plastic fusion.
To do the job well, it requires manual dexterity, even when it’s difficult to get a good look at what you’re working on. Problem-solving is also a crucial part of this job -- especially for complex jobs that require a lot of math and figuring in order to complete a project.
While today’s general plumber often works with plastic and PVC piping that is usually angled at 45 and 90 degrees, a pipefitter works with much more precise angles such as 27 degrees in order to make something fits properly.
Pipefitters in the United States usually earn on average $49,000 a year with many making well over that depending on location.
Sprinkler System Installer or Sprinkler Fitter
Many commercial and industrial buildings are equipped with sprinkler systems because of the risk of fires. Large factories, towers, and buildings need sprinkler systems because a small fire extinguisher would not be enough to put out a large scale fire.
Not only that but in certain factory or industrial settings, the risk of fire is greater.
Sprinkler fitters fabricate, assemble, install, maintain, and repair sprinkler systems for fire protection. These systems may use carbon dioxide, water, foam, or dry chemicals to extinguish fires.
Sprinkler system installers must follow a complex set of blueprints to assemble a system that brings water or other materials into the building from underground lines. They’re responsible for choosing the proper pipes to use, and they measure, cut, thread, bend, and solder pipes in order to properly install the sprinkler systems.
In addition to installing sprinkler systems, sprinkler fitters also maintain and repair these systems.
Because sprinkler leaks can be disastrous, people in this field must be very precise, double check their work, and quickly diagnose problems when they do occur.
Sprinkler fitters make on average $51,705 a year , and as much as $74,000 or more depending on location, job, and skillset.
Plumbers Will Continue to Be Valuable
Plumber work will continue to grow in value as the deficit of workers continues to grow. With the rise of construction projects, there will be even more jobs available (especially for those who know how to use plumbing software).
There is a real need for people in this field, and thankfully there are a lot of options for those who are interested. From design, to technology, to maintenance, to hands-on work, there is no shortage of opportunities.
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