At just 39 years of age, Paul Williams, Director at Albert Williams Installations Ltd, is set to become one of the youngest Presidents of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) when he steps into the role this June. Paul explains why his career has taken him in a direction he never thought possible when looking back at his days as an apprentice just starting out in the industry.
I was only 15 years old when I decided I wanted to become a plumbing and heating installer. My father was and still is a plumber and I used to help him out on weekends, so it was towards the end of secondary school that I decided to follow in his footsteps. In the early days of working alongside him, I began by covering all the basics of plumbing but at that time was mainly responsible for doing the ground work, which was hard work but I suppose somebody had to do it.
With a basic understanding of what was involved, I started at my local college in the early 90s, joining the NVQ plumbing course to study for my Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications over the course of a few years. Alongside my studies, I continued to work part-time as well as spending many long days at college – learning and earning – which was intensive but gave me the grounding I needed to eventually become a director of our family business in 2002.
When I look back, the reason I started out in plumbing wasn’t just because of my father. From day one, it was a career I was naturally interested in and after just a small amount of time at work I realised that it’s not a repetitive job and there are new challenges every day with so much to take in and learn – and the learning never stops.
If you add to this the fact you’re really helping people out with problems they can’t deal with themselves, the feel-good factor of being an installer is something that’s also pretty high up on the list of things I like about what I do for a living. I may be preaching to the converted here but every day is different, there are always new challenges and it’s good to know that as an individual you have the capability to have an impact on people’s quality of life – whether it’s getting their heating system working again in the midst of winter, or sitting down for a cup of tea and a chat with someone elderly who perhaps hasn’t seen anyone for a few days.
The path to the presidency
My involvement with the CIPHE started in 1994, when I first became a member as a trainee. At the time, joining the Institute was something my father insisted upon and I’m pleased he did. Being able to network with other trade professionals definitely helped raise my profile and understanding of the wider industry so that, in around 2003, I received an invitation to lecture at the local college where I had earlier completed my qualifications.
While doing this, I was keen to introduce the college to the Institute too, which led me to set up a branch that eventually covered the whole of the South Wales area. From 2003 onwards, I made a point of attending the CIPHE Annual General Meetings and various CPD events organised by the Institute, which proved hugely beneficial both personally and professionally. Having been approached by a number of people, I eventually put my name forward as someone from a younger generation who could help take the Institute forward in years to come.
In 2015, I was pleased to be nominated as Vice President of the CIPHE and was lucky enough to be voted in by the members. I’m now looking forward to stepping into the role of President in June and one of my key objectives will be to promote careers in the plumbing and heating industry. We clearly need to reach more young people with the news that, from starting out as an apprentice gaining a practical grounding, a career in plumbing and heating can open up many more doors that can lead to them setting up their own businesses, or securing wider roles within manufacturing and education.
If you had told me 20 years ago that I would be where I am today, I’m not sure I would have believed you but my career has opened up many rewarding opportunities. The options are unlimited but that’s a huge part of the attraction and anyone who is ‘Proud to be a Professional’ working in the plumbing and heating industry right now can help pass this message on.”
For more information about CIPHE membership, visit www.ciphe.org.uk or call 01708 472791.