Continuing Education for Plumbers

You probably know that doctors, lawyers, CPAs and other professionals have to constantly keep up with new developments in their field in order to stay certified. You don’t want to be treated by any physician who graduated from medical school even 10 years ago if he or she hasn’t kept up with new discoveries since then.

You may be surprised to know that plumbers also need continuing education. The plumbing profession constantly evolves with new products, procedures, tools, equipment and government regulations. Keeping abreast of all these changes is a challenge.

Some companies don’t bother. Once a plumber gets licensed most licensing jurisdictions don’t require re-examination. License renewal is simply a matter of paying a fee. That’s why many plumbing companies still do things the same way they did 10-20 years ago. They repair and install the same old products using the same old tools the same old way.

A prime example is with sewer repairs. In the bad old days a sewer line repair was a costly and complicated job that involved digging up your yard (goodbye landscaping) or, even worse, a concrete patio or driveway to get at the broken line. Since it’s hard to tell exactly where the break might be, a large area had to be dug up. This job could last for days and cost tens of thousands of dollars.

The job has become greatly simplified over time with the development of electronic sewer cameras that pinpoint leaks and trenchless sewer repair technologies like those used by Dutton Plumbing. The equipment is expensive and we had to devote many hours of training for our technicians to become proficient in their use, but the outcome is worthwhile. It saves our customers money and property damage, and over time has resulted in more jobs and greater productivity that have paid back the cost of the equipment and training many times over.

Dutton Plumbing constantly upgrades the skills of our technicians, along with their tools of the trade. Our technicians receive regular instruction in new products, technologies and labor-saving techniques. Some of this occurs in a classroom at our headquarters with instruction from supplier sales representatives and trainers. Dutton’s technicians also learn on their own via our library of books and DVDs. Some even use travel time in between service calls to listen to instructional tapes.

Dutton’s office staff also undergoes continuing education to upgrade their customer service and technology skills. So do our top management personnel, who regularly attend conferences of Service Nation and Nexstar, two elite professional trade organizations that are dedicated to spreading best business practices to their members. These groups also host trade shows where vendors of tools, equipment and business software demonstrate state-of-the-art technologies applicable to the plumbing field.

Continuing education takes time and money, but we think it generates some of the best payback of any business investment. Some plumbing business owners don’t believe that. I’ve heard some of them remark that they hate to invest in training because, “What if I spend all that money training someone and that person leaves?”

My retort is, “What if you don’t train him and he stays?”