Career Overview: What I Do As a Plumber

You may think of a plumber as the person who drives around with a toolbox to fix your leaks, but his role in building design and infrastructure directly affects much more than just your dripping faucet.

To learn about a typical plumber career, we spoke to Fred Schilling, founder and CEO of Pipeline Plumbing in South Florida. Fred’s long career began in the Air Force, where he trained in the plumbing trade with the U.S. Navy’s naval engineers and the U.S. Air Force’s civil engineers. After serving, at 25, he became one of the youngest certified “plumbers” in Florida – requiring a seven-year apprenticeship and a certification test, in which he is the only person to receive the highest grade. Since then, Fred has been in the plumbing business.

He is also vice president of Plumbers Without Borders , a nonprofit trade organization that seeks to improve health and sanitation by linking humanitarian organizations with merchants around the world.

First of all, tell us a little about your work and how you got to where you are today.

We have always been considered “commercial plumbing contractors”. We like to think that we are working on the most complex plumbing system – this is the key to our success. We have one of the best reputations in South Florida for quality workmanship. What has helped us the most to reach where we are today is our relentless commitment to do our job in the best possible way for each client every time. As a founder, I always hear my late dad say to me, “I don’t care what you do in your life as long as you become the best.” I would like to think that I have complied with this request.

What prompted you to choose your career path?

I never actually thought of becoming a plumber. No one in my family has ever been involved in any profession. I spent my childhood and adolescence as a professional drummer, always thinking that this would be my career. The Air Force called on me shortly before my 18th birthday and I joined to avoid Vietnam. Since I am color blind, my career options in the Air Force were very limited. I was offered plumbing as one of the options, and the rest can be said to be history.

How did you get a job? What kind of education do most plumbers need? (I heard you became a master plumber at a fairly young age!)

I often say that I got my Harvard Plumbing Education when I was in the Air Force. I attended the Navy Seabee Construction School every day for almost a year and then continued my education in the Air Force Civil Engineering program for the next three years. Along the way, I worked alongside some of the best plumbing technicians in the world. When I got home from work, I opened the yellow pages and was hired by the first plumber who called me. He was the mayor of Miami Beach and I worked there until I started my own business.

I would recommend taking lessons in physics, science and mathematics. We use all three every day.

Yes, I am considered one, if not the youngest person to ever become a plumber in Florida history. I knew this was my ticket to success … and it certainly was!

What are plumbers doing beyond what most people see? What do plumbers actually spend most of their time on (for example, paperwork, driving, etc.)?

We cover a large geographic area, so we spend a lot of time in traffic jams.

I’d like to think that I’ve helped improve public opinion about the plumber during my career. I, of course, worked very hard on this. The usual impression of a plumber among the public is a rude guy bending over a plunger that is clogged with a toilet. There is nothing further from reality! For example, the oxygen that you get in the operating room, for example, was installed by a plumber. The dental chair you are sitting in has been installed by a plumber. The decorative fountains you enjoy while walking along Lincoln Road in Miami Beach have been installed by a plumber. The gas stoves and stoves that prepare your meal in your favorite restaurant have been installed by a plumber. Pneumatics (air ducts) in factories and similar facilities were installed by a plumber. Just a few examples, there are many more.

What misconceptions do people often have about plumbing as a job?

They think that all we do is clean sinks and toilets. That this is only a profession for people who could not go to college. We dig ditches all day

What is the average plumber’s work schedule? I guess some people specialize in emergency call work, but this is not for everyone.

You are a plumber 24 hours a day, seven days a week … this is the life we ​​choose. Plumbers don’t watch the banking clock. Whether you’re only dealing with new construction or maintenance and repairs, telephone – or more recently – email will change your plans for the day or evening. We pay close attention to our phones, because at any moment (including while I’m typing, something can change and really will change) Over the years, you get used to it.

Is there something you do that your peers or colleagues in the same profession?

We are looking for the most complex plumbing projects. While many of our fellow plumbers avoid tricky plumbing problems, we specialize in them.

What’s the worst thing about being a plumber and how do you deal with it?

Today it is a movement! All our trucks are equipped with great sound systems!

What is the most enjoyable part of the job?

Ah, a sense of accomplishment for one. I’ve helped build over a thousand commercial buildings here in South Florida as a plumber, so wherever I go, I see some of them every day. I am very proud of them.

Recently one of my first buildings was demolished to make way for a new bank; I looked a little at the demolition and cried a little. I’ve worked so hard on this building. They become part of you. Where else can you have a picnic with friends every day?

That people underestimate / overestimate what plumbers do?

Of course, protecting the health of the nation is number one. We historically – and still – protect the world from disease. Excessive cost? We take too much.

If you don’t mind, what do you think is the real salary for the average plumber?

There are on average 75 to 100 thousand plumbers a year, and more if you have your own company.

You have come a long way in your career. How do most people “advance” in your field?

Hard work! Get all possible licenses and certificates!

What advice would you give to those who want to become your profession?

Do it! I speak with many high school and youth groups as Commissioner of State Building. The story I always tell to inspire them to become master plumbers: “Over the next 10-15 years, society will so desperately need a master plumber who can pull a new building out of the ground – like the new World Trade Center – and get the job done. to end. That at the beginning of the project, when they set up workers and office trailers on the construction site, they will provide a garage for the chief plumber to park his Ferrari. They will pay you more than a neurosurgeon because very few will have the skills to do what we do. ”

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.


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