How to become a tradesman

How to become a...plumber, sparky, carpenter, decorator, plasterer etc, and choosing the right training course for you.
So you've decided you want to become a plumber, or a painter and decorator, or perhaps a roofer...whatever. The point is you have chosen the skilled trade that you want to be in. Where do you go from here?
Well the next step is to choose the right training course for you. Which course you choose will depend on a number of factors: -

Do you intend to specialise within your trade?

For example, a plumber may decide to specialise in gas heating in which case he will need to ensure that whatever course he goes on, is approved for CORGI registration. A painter and decorator, may choose to concentrate on large scale commercial work, in which case the course would need to include a greater degree of planning information and perhaps deal with larger scale equipment than basic decorating within the home would. Electricians should consider whether they intend to do general work or specialise in home automation or security etc. There are many options for each trade, and while each will require basic training first, both time and money can be saved if speciality skills are included in the course.

How local is the skills training course?

This is an important factor especially if you do not have your own transport and are relying on public transport to get you to and from your training course. Any travelling will cost both money and time, and these must be considered in your overall budget and time available for any homework.

If the course is a long way away, find out if residential facilities are offered by the training provider.

If the course you want is too far to travel for and you cannot afford residential options, find out if there is a 'distance learning' option.


Are you seeking a full time, part time or home study course?

If you already work, and cannot afford to give up your employ, then a full time course will be out of the question. You then need to consider whether you could find the hours to attend a part time course, maybe one day a week, or a few evenings, of if a home study course would be more appropriate.

Are you working to a deadline?

For some people, learning a new skill fast and efficiently is the key. Perhaps they have been given notice, or been told about forthcoming redundancy and need to retrain. Perhaps they are having to borrow money to pay for the skills training, and need to pay it back as quickly as possible.

There are an increasing number of fasttrack courses available for many skills, where both basic skills and specialist areas are covered during short but intensive training. These vary from weekend workshops, to 3 month training courses.


How much does the training course cost?

Consider not just the course fees, but also the cost of any course materials. Always make sure you ask the course administrator about further costs. For example, are you required to buy any books, provide your own tools and/or materials, pay for professional membership post qualification etc?

And don't of course forget how much money you will need left over if you intend to set up as a self employed tradesman. There is no point spending it all on the course, if you cannot afford your basic tools at the end of it.

Furthermore, investigate whether there is any financial assistance available. If there is a shortage of particular skilled workers in your local area, you may qualify for a grant. The training provider should be able to offer information in this respect. Failing that "Career Development Loans" are sometimes available for qualifying courses.


Is the course affiliated?

Many courses are affiliated to recognised trade bodies e.g. IPHE, educational standards authorities e.g. City & Guilds, and professional regulatory bodies e.g. CORGI. This can be very useful in furthering your career or training, and establishing yourself as a professional later on.

NB Be wary of courses affiliated to bodies you have never heard of. Do your homework and find out who belongs to them, how long they have been running, and even ask an existing tradesperson if they have heard of them.


Do you have the necessary entry requirements?

Some courses, especially those offered through local colleges, require basic entry qualifications, e.g. GCSEs in English and Maths and 1 science. Not everyone has these, but do not be disheartened if you fall into this category. There are other courses and other options, and nothing to stop you retaking a GSCE or whatever. Furthermore, some colleges will allow entry following a "General Access" course.