Roland Palm: Young blood in plumbing industry

By Dineo Phoshoko

The 22-year-old Roland Palm is a plumbing apprentice at Burgess and Partners Plumbing Services.

Roland 001 WEBRoland Palm, an apprentice at Burgess and Partners Plumbing Services with his van named ‘Biggie’.

Palm was first exposed to the plumbing industry when he was still in school at Glenvista High School in Johannesburg South. One of the subjects he did was civil engineering (engineering graphics) and the drawings that were done covered plumbing work. Palm also gained some experience in the industry through a mutual family friend. “My sister’s boyfriend at the time was a plumber, so I used to work with him over weekends, helping him out with jobs.”

To pursue a career in plumbing after school, industry insiders advised Palm to find a plumbing company where he could do an apprenticeship, as that is the way to becoming a qualified plumber. A close friend of his mother recommended that he should do his apprenticeship with Burgess. “I phoned in, asked for an interview, and sent my CV through,” says Palm. He was very persistent, admitting that he “nagged and phoned” until he finally got the interview that landed him the apprenticeship.

He started the apprenticeship in February 2015 and is expected to finish at the end of 2018. By then, Palm would be a qualified plumber. Explaining the apprenticeship, Palm says, “It’s basically like going to a university and studying for four years, and then getting your qualification.”

As an apprentice, Palm runs his own van, which involves driving to jobs, doing quotations, and ensuring that jobs are done properly. On a typical day, Palm does between five and six jobs — depending on the nature of the job. “Sometimes it’s a little bit hard to get through everything; sometimes we get stuck at one job and I’ll end up working late just to try and get everything done.” Palm explains that specialising in macerators hydroboils as well as backup and rainwater harvest systems was helpful, because knowing the job meant working more efficiently.


“If you are not willing to work hard in this industry, then no; I don’t think there is a place for you.”


Working on the Clandale project, where a rainwater harvesting system was installed, is a career highlight for Palm. He has never worked on an installation of that magnitude before. Reflecting on his encounters in the industry so far, Palm says he has had good experiences. “Going out every day, seeing new faces, new buildings, and new things is quite cool. I’ve learnt a lot about different cultures.”

Discussing the state of the plumbing industry, Palm says that the industry has grown. “With all the new technology that’s coming out — the new types of pipes, the new types of fittings — the industry is constantly changing.” He admits to seeing “good plumbing and bad plumbing”. “I think we are moving forward; maybe one or two plumbers or companies are holding back,” he says. To assist the industry in moving forward, Palm believes that plumbers should take the initiative to familiarise themselves with the standards.

Being a plumber can be challenging at times, especially when it comes to dealing with pressure. For Palm, working at Burgess means even more pressure to uphold the company’s reputation, while also ensuring that he does his job properly and keeps customers happy. “The last thing you want is to rush a job and then you have to go back three or four times. At the end of the day, it will kill your stride moving forward.” A loyal West Ham United Football Club fan, Palm enjoys playing soccer and spending time with his family during his spare time.

Looking ahead, Palm has his eye on the golden prize, which is to become a qualified plumber and work his way up at Burgess. He is very passionate about plumbing and acknowledges that it requires a lot of hard work. “You have to be willing to work hard. If you are not willing to work hard in this industry, then no; I don’t think there is a place for you.” He encourages young people to get involved in the plumbing industry, dismissing stereotypes about the industry being “messy and smelly”. He advises young people to do research and find out about the various career options available in the industry.

He also emphasises that people must be passionate about the industry if they want to be successful in it. “I feel that if you do not enjoy plumbing, then you won’t make it. You will have days where you are going to work throughout the day and the night. You must be willing to do that,” he says.


Click below to read the January 2018 issue of Plumbing Africa

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