To celebrate World Plumbing Day, the JT team have caught up with the 2019 Plumber of the Year Winner, Martin Warnes, on how he’s adapted to face some of the challenges that COVID-19 has had on the plumbing industry and some of his most cherished achievements in his career as a plumber. 

Hi Martin, first and foremost, how long have you been working in the industry?

I have been involved in the industry since 2004.

What would you say has been the most difficult challenge from the impacts of COVID-19?

The most difficult challenge of COVID-19 has been the human factor. I have lost several elderly customers over the past 12 months and having to continue to see people ill and suffering has been hard at times. I have also seen many people I know personally in the trade suffering financially, which has had a huge impact on engineers, who for various reasons cannot continue to work throughout the pandemic. Many of these are people who have now had to rely on the benefits system for help.

Have you had to adapt your business during the pandemic, and if so, how?

We have continuously adapted our business throughout the pandemic to adhere to all government guidelines and use PPE wherever we work. We also now carry hand sanitiser in our vans, and will always wear face masks when inside customers homes.

What tips would you give to plumbers currently working through the National lockdown?

My tips to engineers working through the pandemic would be....

  • Be considerate of people's beliefs and views (some you may not agree with, but best to keep it professional and not be drawn in to political and ethical debates)
  • Be aware products and equipment are in short supply so plan ahead where possible.
  • Have regular COVID-19 tests carried out, for your own and customers peace of mind.

Have you got any particular highlights or achievements that have lifted your spirits during the pandemic?

I have had many people call on our services during the pandemic and there have been several times that I have left properties with a sense of achievement and satisfaction.

Sometimes it may be replacing a boiler and allowing the customer to have heating and hot water again, or sometimes something as simple as just having a conversation with a customer who may not have seen or spoken to anyone for days on end.

Just taking the time to listen is something that costs nothing, but can really make someone's day; it's not always about the repair but sometimes people are just pleased to be able to talk to someone. So on a mental health level, my job has definitely impacted on many people throughout this pandemic.

Did you do an apprenticeship in plumbing? If so, what do you think the benefits are / would you recommend young people to do an apprenticeship in plumbing?

I did an apprenticeship with a local plumber, and studied at the local college. I believe apprenticeship schemes are a great way of obtaining on the job learning as well as the fundamental core knowledge obtained at the college.

I have also had several apprentices over the years, some of which have been offered full-time positions within the company. I would highly recommend any school leavers looking to get into the industry, should seriously consider an apprenticeship scheme.

How do you think the future of plumbing will look, post-pandemic?

I think the future of the industry post pandemic should be thriving! With the amount of people now carrying out work with the homes, due to saving on holiday and socialising costs there is going to be a huge influx of work. We are already noticing how many more enquiries we are receiving for bathrooms and shower rooms. I think the industry will recover post pandemic to be extremely busy.

Are there any technological advancements that you are excited about in the plumbing industry? Will these change the way you/others work?

With regards to technological advancements within the industry, I am excited to now be on the first steps to undertaking installation of Air source heat pumps. With the imminent end of fossil fuel (gas boilers) being produced, I believe the future of the industry lies in renewables and air source being a big player within this sector.

I am a strong believer in moving with the times, and if this is to be the future then it's something I want to be on board with from day one. 

Marketing and Sales Director, John Schofield, commented: “At JT we recognise the integral part that Plumbers play in so many parts of people's lives from helping to create a wellness and spa environment in a home to getting hot water back on for someone in a vulnerable position. Never more so have we seen this over the last year and World Plumbers Day couldn’t come at a better time to help recognise the great work they do.

The Plumber Of The Year Award, which we sponsored with Wolseley and Bristan over the last few years, has shown the depth of quality that we have in the UK Plumbing community. We have constantly been overwhelmed by the stories we have seen of Plumbers going over and above to help sectors of their communities or individuals that need support.

Enjoy your day Plumbers….you deserve it!”