Becoming skilled at any task requires training. A popular notion is that one can become an expert in their field after about 10,000 hours of practice. Accomplished musicians, professional athletes and even skilled marksman will tell you, the path to excellence is strewn with long hours of practice. Achieving mastery level in a skilled trade is no different. In this article, we describe how knowledge and experience are the foundation for mastering a skilled trade, and how practice through online plumbing training can accelerate your growth.
A foundation block of expertise in any trade is knowledge. In plumbing, you need to understand basic principles about venting, pipe sizing, cross-connections and much more. Add in some math, especially geometry, on top of print-reading and piping diagrams, and you are well on your way to thinking like a plumber.
Most of this knowledge is communicated through books, lectures and classroom discussion that is part of every apprenticeship program. A couple of hundred hours per year of this coursework is about all most apprentices need. After all, you got into this occupation so you wouldn’t be stuck behind a desk.
While there is a common body of knowledge you must understand, there are a multitude of skill sets that you should master, and a variety of tools and equipment that you must become acquainted with.
- Threading iron pipe
- Turning heavy wrenches
- Digging trenches
- Learning how to build a piping system that doesn’t look like a bowl of spaghetti
These are all skills you will spend time honing as an apprentice. The idea behind apprenticeship is after four years of working in a variety of situations, you will get to the point where you finally know what you are doing.
Trust us on this, apprenticeship is not designed to build up your self-esteem. You will make many mistakes. Eventually, you’ll get there, you just need to keep showing up until your hands consistently do what your brain is telling them.
The Journeyman Exam
Most apprenticeship programs require you to track your time on the job. You should be able to accumulate at least 6,400 hours to qualify for your journeyman exam. This exam is unique in the sense that, in most states, you are not only required to pass a multiple-choice test, but must also demonstrate your plumbing skills. There are a variety of tasks you must complete successfully. Depending on the state issuing the license, you may be required to:
- Complete a project measuring, cutting and soldering copper tubing
- Solvent weld PVC pipe or assemble a cast iron joint
- Remove and reinstall a particular plumbing fixture
- Demonstrate proper leak testing procedures for gas piping
- Produce an isometric drawing of a plumbing system
With so much to learn, you can see why thousands of hours of training and practice are required. With about 7,000 hours under your belt, between classroom and on-the job-training, you are well on your way to becoming an expert.
The Beauty of Online Training
From test preparation websites to YouTube channels for plumbers, online learning has found its way into our psyche. People are becoming more comfortable with learning from a computer, even for skilled trades.
A well-structured, online plumbing training program can supplement both classroom learning and on-the-job learning environments. Video-based instruction and practical simulations, like the SkillMill™ platform, allow you to log even more hours of practice.
Is Online Learning Better than Books?
Video courses can help to synthesize your knowledge of a subject, since seeing something is so much more powerful than just hearing about it. Much of the trade knowledge we have is contained in books and communicated, of course, through reading. However, there are a lot of people who struggle to learn that way. Taking that same information and changing the format to video, is a way for hopeful plumbers to leap over the hurdle of reading comprehension.
Is Online Training Better than Real Hands-On Training?
Snapping a piece of cast iron pipe is not a feeling you can replicate in a simulation — you just need to experience it. Virtual learning environments, however, allow you to practice multiple scenarios, especially in terms of troubleshooting, that is not possible in the field.
For example, as an apprentice, you are rarely given the opportunity to do service calls. Even if you rode along with a journeyman, you would simply assist them in solving the problem at hand. In virtual reality, however, you can test your troubleshooting skills repeatedly, challenging yourself to diagnose several different faults.
Bottom line — what may normally take months in the field, can be accomplished in a few hours of simulation training, moving you that much closer to your goal.
The Time for Online Training is Now
Technology has evolved to a level that we can apply to almost any area of our lives and derive some benefit. The online training for skilled trades that exists today has never been seen before. It is a low-cost tool that provides an excellent complement to any traditional training program. These hours can have a multiplying effect and provide you with the kind of practice you need to reach journeyman status more quickly. Start at the beginning with Interplay Learning’s SkillMill™.
Interplay Learning Plumbing & HVAC Expert
Frank is Interplay’s resident plumbing and HVAC expert. While he began his career in the plumbing trade, his passion for HVAC led him to become an Associate Professor and HVAC Program Chair, at Ivy Tech Community College. Frank is a Licensed Mechanical, Plumbing and Electrical Contractor, and owns his own mechanical services company. As an educator, Frank is a firm believer in teaching the fundamentals and has a gift for simplifying complex concepts.