Skills for life with Celsius Plumbing and Heating

Edinburgh-based Celsius Plumbing and Heating’s foray into apprenticeships began in winter 2007, when founder Michael Cairns found himself made redundant as a young gas engineer.  

After setting up Celsius Plumbing and Heating, Michael won a six-month Government contract which stipulated he couldn’t work alone, so brother Steven joined as an apprentice.  The rest, as they say, is history and the firm now employs a 16-strong team, including two apprentices.

A proud member of both SNIPEF and WaterSafe, Michael, along with fourth-year apprentice Aaron Robinson, sat down with WaterSafe to explain why apprenticeships are important to Celsius and what makes the firm stand out.

Michael explains: “For me and my team, plumbing is about far more than just joining pipes together. Being clean and tidy on the job, turning up on time, making the best use of technology and always giving customers the best advice are core values we instil in every member of our team.”

This is echoed by Aaron, who says: “No matter what trade you’re in, it’s important that customers like whoever’s in their home. For me, it’s small things like calling them when I’m on my way, introducing myself to the customer and cleaning up after myself, that makes customers happy and makes my job fulfilling.”

Teamwork, communication and fun are other key components of the Celsius business and these extend to the way they deal with job applicants too.

Typically, for every apprentice vacancy, Celsius receives 50 to 100 applications but the team replies individually to each applicant, offering advice and information to help them in their future endeavours. This extends to the recruitment page of the Celsius website, which provides top tips for those looking to join the industry.

Personality is important when looking for the right person to join the team, so applicants can choose to submit a video as part of their application. 

Michael says “I understand some people aren’t comfortable with recording a video about themselves, so there’s no obligation, but it can give people the opportunity to shine and often gives a better insight into what that person will be like to work with and how they’ll interact with customers."

Learning to do business the Celsius way is at the foundation of apprentices’ training. Aaron says: “Working as an apprentice means I get into good habits from the start. I typically spend a two-week block at Edinburgh College, followed by six weeks working at Celsius, alongside qualified engineers.”

That’s not to say it isn’t challenging, with Aaron conceding the nature of being an apprentice means you “start at the bottom of the ladder”, carrying equipment, passing tools to the engineer and cleaning up – but he relishes his increasing independence as he progresses through his four-year apprenticeship. 

Michael says working from the bottom up is key: “Being an apprentice is all about being put out of your comfort zone, slowly but surely. As well as helping our engineers with basic tasks, we give our apprentices opportunities to practise their skills on the job and give them a variety of experiences and responsibilities.”

When it comes to WaterSafe, Michael says being WaterSafe-approved provides credibility, and reassurance and proves the team is qualified. “Customers may not always ask if we are WaterSafe-approved but are often impressed when we tell them and say it gives them confidence in our knowledge and skills”.

For Celsius, hiring apprentices is an investment in the future of the firm and the individual. Michael says: “Because we’ve trained them in the Celsius way, our apprentices can hit the ground running when they qualify. Any apprentice who makes the grade will be offered a job as a plumbing and heating engineer when they qualify.”

In a nutshell, Michael says of apprentices: “Knowing a trade is having a skill for life, so I find it rewarding to be able to pass that on. Past apprentices have started businesses and employed apprentices of their own – it’s all about passing on the same opportunities I’ve been given to help the next generation and help plug the skills shortage.”

Going forward, Michael says Celsius wants to keep on the same steady path to remain the leading plumbing and heating company in central Scotland, while keeping a keen eye on emerging markets such as renewables.

To find out more about working for Celsius Plumbing, visit or visit and visit our installer area to see the benefits of membership, which is free for SNIPEF plumbers. 

WaterSafe and Celsius’ top tips for aspiring plumbers

  • Make sure your CV is up to date, clearly presented and showcases your skills

  • Work towards gaining your driving licence - employers will be keen for their staff to be able to drive

  • Have a positive can-do attitude

  • Create an account on LinkedIn and connect with people in the industry (make sure you follow SNIPEF and WaterSafe!)

  • Head over to your local college and apply to one of the pre-apprenticeship courses - it’s a great way of getting started in the industry

  • Get in touch with local companies to enquire about apprenticeship opportunities – don’t be afraid to pop in, introduce yourself and make a great first impression

  • Bide your time and be determined – it’s normal to apply for lots of jobs before getting your big break, so don’t be deterred.

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WaterSafe Approved Contractors' Scheme Operators

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