BY TED MELKO
SPECIAL TO CONTRACTOR
( Editor's note: The following is a response to a letter, "Young plumber is unlicensed and proud of it," which was published on pg. 31 of the July issue of CONTRACTOR.)
Dear Michael P. Fitzpatrick Jr., I read your letter this morning and reminisced of this very same conversation I have carried on for a number of years with a number of people: Does having a license mean that you are a good plumber ...
So what does obtaining a license mean? For one thing it means that you have studied the laws and practices that the prevailing governing body would have you be familiar with. It also means that you have taken the time to do this work and are capable of doing what is required. A license holds you accountable for doing the right thing, you passed the test and therefore you understand the difference between right and wrong and are held accountable for it.
All plumbers should be licensed, period. Whether they do a good job is up to the public to decide with their dollars and for the government to decide via a system of testing, inspections and fines. Plumbing is an extremely important function in our society, plumbers and modern-day plumbing are responsible for saving more lives then all the doctors in all the world's history, and doctors are required to be licensed. What does the media do when they find a doctor practicing without a license? Would you go to a surgeon who took a correspondence course for his trade and who wasn't licensed?
I'm sure you wouldn't; the question is why? I'm sure you would say that a medical license is necessary, it tells me that the doctor knows, via testing and practice, what he is doing and that I have a certain assurance that he is not a butcher.
What about a driver's license? Why do we make people get them? Can you imagine a freeway full of people that just decided to get into their cars and drive? (OK, sometimes it looks like that anyway on the freeway.) You would see 10-year-olds behind the wheel careening off the median dividers and 98-year-old grannies who can't see, going the wrong way down the exit ramp.
You get the picture. A driver's license is necessary because it says that you passed a practical skills test and you passed a written rules test. It says that you are, at that time, competent to operate a motor vehicle and that the state recognizes that you are knowledgeable enough and have enough skill to trust you with other people's lives.
Does it mean that you will always obey the laws that you learned and never wreck your vehicle? Of course not, but it does spell out the consequences for not doing so, and since you have the license you know the rules and therefore are accountable to obey them.
Does having a license make you a good plumber? Absolutely not!
Does it mean that you understand the difference between correct and incorrect ways of doing things? Does it mean that you have demonstrated that ability to the licensing authority? Does it mean that you have undergone some kind of training? Does it mean that the public can place its trust in you until proven otherwise? Does it mean that you should be held accountable for doing an incorrect job or shabby work? YES, absolutely yes!
Michael, why don't you have your licenses? You sound like a very intelligent and well-trained young man. Do you not care enough for your customers to take the time to be certified, to demonstrate your capability to reassure them that you know what you're doing?
The Plumber Protects the Health of the Nation; I am proud of that fact. I am proud that I have been deemed a Master of my trade in three states and four major municipalities. I cherish my license and all those who steered me along the way, all those who taught me what it meant to be a licensed plumber.
All those gray-haired, tired old men who forgot more then I will ever know about this glorious trade exemplified pride in a job well done, it really meant something to them. To a man each and every one of them remembered who they apprenticed under, how difficult their first license exam was and what it meant to them when they got it.
They didn't take their license or job for granted; neither should you. It is good that you do the job properly, and it is a good teacher that instills that in you. Now go the extra step and join the ranks of those that came before you, honor them by showing that you care enough to take the trouble to get licensed.
It does mean something, if not professionally it should personally. It does count. Get licensed.
Sincerely, Ted Melko Ted Melko is president of The Plumbers Inc. in Atlanta. He can be reached at 770/420-1234 or via e-mail at [email protected]