The Importance of Education
Peter McLennan urges more plumbers to further their education and continue to gain knowledge long after their apprenticeship is done and dusted.
Oscar Wilde once said, “You can never be overdressed or overeducated,” and if you think about it, it makes good sense.
Why is it then, that we regularly see, not all, but many, scruffy unkempt plumbers and plumbers who once they complete their apprenticeship, ‘throw away the books’ and adamantly refuse to entertain further education?
In this article I want to cover further education so I will leave the sartorial elegance topic to another time maybe.
The apprenticeship model, and in this case the plumbing apprenticeship, produces a highly skilled professional tradesperson up to date with all modern aspects relating to their trade. The general public can have full confidence that the job done by this tradesperson will utilise current technologies and current best practice workmanship.
But, what happens after the tradesperson has been in the field for 10 years? 15 years? 20 years? They may have perfected their skills and proficiencies but can we be sure that the work performed still ensures that modern technology is utilised and that the work is best practice? Without a formal skills development or continuing education programme, the answer is unfortunately, no.
Let’s focus on backflow prevention.
It is a requirement across most of Australia and for that matter the world where backflow prevention is concerned, that a plumber takes extra study over and above the apprenticeship to become an accredited backflow tester. It is not something every plumber is trained to do, due to the sophistication of the devices and the level of safety the device provides. Some jurisdictions require that the license holder resits a re-fresher course to recertify they are abreast of changes to Standards and product development every 3 or 5 years. Others do not require this recertification, which then puts us back in the situation of a diminishing skills base as time passes. Surely if we are going to have this requirement in some States, we should insist it is standard across the country.
The concept of backflow prevention is a very simple concept, but to truly understand it in the context of cross connection control and have the knowledge and skill to test a device, maintain and repair it needs a high level of ongoing training.
In the past, the ’backflow tester course’ covered aspects of hazard levels, risk awareness, Standards, testing, maintenance, repair, troubleshooting as well as touching on auditing and surveying a premise for risk of backflow. That is until the bureaucrats became involved and reduced the hours available to train the person which has resulted in the emphasis being on the testing of the device for operational effectiveness and not much else. This leaves, troubleshooting, device repair, understanding of hazard ratings etc. all untouched resulting in an accredited person devoid of the knowledge needed to do the complete job.
A backflow preventer is designed to protect the water supply from a cross connection that has the potential to cause serious injury or death to the consumers of the water. Why have we allowed such an important aspect of the plumbing industry to be come at risk?
I am sure that you have seen over the years comments of the order that plumbers save more lives than doctors but if as an industry we continue to resist continuing professional development and further education, we are just paying lip service to the thought and obviously don’t believe it as important.
That is why; we at the Backflow Prevention Association of Australia provide conferences, technical workshops and seminars in an effort to keep the plumber’s skills fresh.
As well we are currently developing a CPD curriculum that specifically covers backflow prevention and the aspects related to it.
We see the backflow plumber as a professional, responsible for maintaining the integrity and public safety just as a specialist doctor who needs ongoing training to maintain their license. This is no different.
And as the great Peanuts cartoonist said, “Try not to have a good time… this is supposed to be educational.”