Pipefitters (French version available)
Pipes are everywhere in our cities and towns, carrying water, fuels, or other substances to and from buildings or across the country. When these pipes work well, they are barely noticeable. However, people need to put the pipes in place before they can be useful. If you are precise and like to work with your hands, the trade of pipefitting might suit you.
Pipefitters, also known as steamfitters, work mainly as contractors in the construction industry, but some also work in manufacturing. Basically, people in this trade build and maintain systems of piping to carry water, steam, fuel, and other materials from one place to another. The water in the pipes can be used for people’s daily needs, but many of the other contents of pipes might be used for heating or cooling buildings or for other processes.
Pipefitting is very precise work requiring steady hands, good manual dexterity, and reasonably good vision. An ability to crawl into small spaces is also important. The work can be either indoors or outdoors, depending on the job. Like in many trades, the work can be physically demanding, and being in good health is important. Many people in this trade might want to move into a supervisory role as they age, although others can stay in the work until retirement. Wages start at about $21 per hour or $42,000 per year and can rise to $46 per hour or $102,000 per year.
If a pipe is made and installed well, it can last for many years. However, cracks or rust can develop and cause a pipe to leak, spilling its contents. The ability to repair pipes is a very important skill for people in this trade. Sometimes, this may involve applying sealants to the pipes or closing small gaps in the line, but often it means replacing parts of the pipe.
Knowing how to repair piping can give people extra work in seasons when little other work is available. In a cold winter, for example, dealing with frozen or burst pipes could keep a good pipefitter busy.
Requirements for this job can vary, depending on the employer, but a high school diploma and an apprenticeship are normally the minimum level. A high school education with courses in mathematics and English is a good basis for the job. Mathematics can help with calculating the amounts of pipe necessary for the work, and English courses help the tradesperson read instructions and study new techniques for the work.
Most employers also require pipefitters to complete an apprenticeship of four terms which include both classroom learning and practical experience. These apprenticeships are often available through individual employers, but it is also good to check with local trade schools. This trade is also part of the Red Seal program. Pipefitters who have passed the Red Seal test can more easily move from one province or territory to another without having to retrain or gain new qualifications.
Like in many other trades, job opportunities are likely to be easier to find in cities than in towns, but even small villages are likely to need pipefitters. Since much of the work depends on the construction industry, downturns in the economy can greatly affect this job. However, being willing to move for a job can help people find work in this trade. Having another skill to use in the slow times can also help people to find enough work, even when jobs are scarce.
Every building has pipes, making the job of pipefitter a good choice for the future. If you like the idea of this work, you can already begin to prepare for this career.
ALIS. “Steamfitter-Pipefitter.” https://alis.alberta.ca/occinfo/occupations-in-alberta/occupation-profiles/steamfitter-pipefitter/.
Job Bank. “Steamfitter/pipefitter (Non-Construction) in Ontario.” https://www.jobbank.gc.ca/marketreport/outlook-occupation/21490/ON.
Payscale Canada. “Pipefitter: Hourly Rate.” https://www.payscale.com/research/CA/Job=Pipefitter/Hourly_Rate.
SAIT. “Steamfitter Pipefitter.” https://www.sait.ca/apprenticeships-and-trades/apprenticeship-and-pre-employment-programs/apprenticeships/steamfitter-pipefitter.
Skills Competences Canada. “Steamfitter Pipefitter.” https://www.skillscompetencescanada.com/en/skill_area/steamfitter-pipefitter/.