Pipefitters are in particularly high demand at the moment. They are the tradespeople who install, build, manufacture, and repair piping systems. There are many types of pipefitters who service a variety of applications, but many skilled tradespeople tend to gravitate towards commercial or industrial processes, where pipes are made under high pressure using steel and alloy metals fused together through precise cutting. Once experienced, some pipefitters may branch out to a more specialised area of piping, like steam units, ventilation, hydraulics, oil and gas, or chemical systems.
People working in pipefitter jobs ensure that materials, whether gaseous or liquid, flow between an origin and their destination safely and without any leaks. They may be supported by other staff during the time of the installation and maintenance of a system, but will generally be responsible for the smooth operation of the pipework without any additional help from others. Thus, the job is best suited to those who can work independently and are completely self-motivated to succeed. They will not have much supervision beyond their immediate superiors, who are likely to be pipefitters themselves.
The position is otherwise in line with other construction-related openings. They are best for those who prefer a practical approach to work and who wish to see the results of their labour, rather than completing administrative tasks more regularly. Some clerical work is required as pipefitters will sometimes be required to place orders and handle materials in direct report of a site foreman or other supervisor in charge of ordering, but these are rather limited and usually completed by administrative staff at their request.
Some progression exists from this position, but follows a more logical and linear route than those in other construction positions. Pipefitters will always be dealing with pipe systems, but may choose to specialise in more advanced systems.
Most candidates will enter the field having had some level of construction exposure; typically as site labourers or other unskilled positions. The most common academic route is by taking the City & Guilds Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Mechanical Engineering, which specialises in pipefitting and assembly. Successful completion of this course will provide candidates with a Gold Card, which is issued to recognised pipe fitters and can be used on sites to prove technical competency.
Effective communication skills are prized in the construction industry, but are not necessarily as applicable to those within pipefitting roles as they will often be working independently. This does not completely disregard the need for functional communication abilities however. Pipefitters will still need to be able to intelligibly communicate with those around them as they will often be interacting with those in different roles.
Pipefitters will also need to be able to organise their time and prioritise tasks efficiently. Because they will often only report to few, if any, co-workers, they will need to understand the nature of the tasks in front of them in order to arrange their own work schedules throughout the day. Pipefitters will often have specific assignments delegated to them, but it will usually be left up to them in order to determine the best course of action.
Employment prospects for pipefitters.
Pipefitters currently enjoy great prospects. Salary expectations vary greatly according to their level of experience, location, the safety of the site (any particularly hazardous conditions usually yields a much higher rate of pay) and if they are being assigned any overtime. Thus, pipefitters can earn between the extremes of £8 and £35 an hour. Annual salaries are around £17,000 to £35,000 with the highest earnings being seen in the southeast. It is also wise for pipefitters to consider offshore positions, where wage rates tend to be fixed at much higher rates than those seen in more conventional posts.
Pipefitters usually work within schedules that conform to typical business hours, but initial start up or shut down projects can see them working erratic hours to see the project through to completion. This can sometimes involve evenings, nights, and weekends.