BIRMINGHAM, NORWICH AND CARDIFF LEAD THE CHARGE FOR ELECTRICIAN GRADUATES

  • Access Training UK reveals a 29% increase in applicants to its trade courses in 2020, including a 14% increase in female applicants
  • Gas courses prove most popular in Leicester with a 175% increase in graduates year-on-year
  • Whilst, Plymouth carves top spot for carpentry (100%), Edinburgh sees biggest increase in plumbing (75%) and Birmingham leads the charge for electrician graduates (66%)

The construction and manual trade industry is one of a few that has remained open for business throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only have workers and businesses been able to operate within social distancing guidelines (following an initial lockdown early last year), but the industry has gone from strength to strength, and with it, its appeal as a profession has rocketed.

Online learning portal, Access Training UK revealed a 29% increase in applicants to its trade courses in 2020, including a noticeable 14% increase in female applicants. This noticeable increase could not come at a better time as construction activity levels have experienced a seven year high, whilst demand for home improvements have soared significantly, as homeowners look to renovate and re-design homes to adapt to a new way of living.

Training to be an electrician has been the most popular avenue over the last year with a 38% increase in trainees at Access Training UK, closely followed by gas engineer courses (29%), plumber courses (24%) and carpentry courses (13%). Access Training UK offers ultimate flexibility to students with unique, online and flexible training packages available for key trade skills. With all learning online, and attendance to one of three course centers (Kent, Cardiff or Hertfordshire), limited to practical training and exams, it is easier than ever before to change your career. 

With career specific courses delivering industry recognised qualifications wherever you are in the country, Access Training UK has highlighted which regions of the UK are leading the charge when it comes to specific trades:

 

Region

Percentage increase in graduates when comparing 2019/20 to 2020/21

PLUMBING COURSES

Edinburgh

75%

Oxford

68%

Leeds

50%

Brighton and Bristol

36%

Nottingham

33%

ELECTRICIAN COURSES

Birmingham

66%

Norwich

50%

Cardiff

34%

Oxford and Liverpool

33%

Bristol

28%

GAS COURSES

Leicester

175%

Edinburgh

100%

Manchester

75%

Cambridge and Liverpool

50%

Birmingham

45%

CARPENTRY COURSES

Plymouth

100%

Cambridge and Bristol

50%

Norwich and Brighton

20%

Cardiff

18%

Oxford and London

15%

 

Jamie Jefferies, CEO of Access Training UK, comments:

Construction and manual trades were some of the UK’s strongest sectors during the pandemic. There is also a huge skill shortage within the industry.  Therefore, it is no surprise to see an increase in the number of graduates across the board, with the industry appealing to those looking for employment, but also those looking for a career change. 

Access Training UK’s fully accredited trade courses follow an industry leading 3-stage training programme. We recognise the need for both flexibility in our online theory training to fit around our students' lives and also the importance of hands-on practical training with professional trainers. We are always focusing on making sure we not only provide the best training possible, but we strengthen the industry with ambassadors for their chosen career."

 

 

Despite a high rate of productivity over the course of the pandemic, the UK construction industry is not in the clear yet. 

Recent months have seen construction firms across the country struck by a shortage of materials, as well as a decline in the number of workers available. As prices for a wide range of building materials rise, firms are finding it increasingly difficult to make a profit – and things are set to prove even more challenging as the months tick by.

In their latest report, consultant firm EY warned that the number of profit warnings in construction and materials firms were at a five-year low during the first half of 2021. Although projects have continued thus far, the continued shortage of both materials and workforce, and general ill health of the supply line, could make things considerably worse for the second half of this year. 

A range of crucial building materials, particularly cement and timber, have become concerningly limited in supply due to the continued impacts of both Brexit and Covid-19. Orders of bulk cement have been constrained, despite the fact that kilns at UK cement suppliers are all fully operational – this is an issue whose source lies at the very heart of the construction industry and the wider global economy. Stock shortages, delivery delays, and steeply rising inflation, have all coincided with an increased demand for the materials themselves.

Inflation on materials has risen by 10-15% compared to 2020, but some individual products have been struck more sharply than others. The price of most timber products, for example, has risen by between 20-50%. Plastic products, roofing products, landscaping products, insulation and more, have all faced shortages, causing some suppliers to simply cease stocking certain products due to their lack of economic viability. Not only are fundamental materials harder to find and more expensive to buy – they aren’t affordable whatsoever.

This is a crisis hitting each and every element of the construction industry, and predictions are being made of project delays further down the line. Ian Marson, the construction leader of EY-Parthenon UK, warns that ‘cost inflation may put new projects at risk’, despite the fact that ‘existing projects are continuing’. The issue might be, he suggests, in funding and developing future projects, even though current ones are underway. He goes on to say:

 

‘Companies with inflation clauses in their contracts should be able to weather short-term price increases but if prices remain high and shortages continue, project delays may become inevitable’. 

 

So what might the solutions be? The initial answer would be to continue the drive for training and upskilling, to turn the tide against the falling labour force. Meg Wilson, the turnaround and restructuring strategist for EY-Parthenon, suggests that the way forward lies in the ability of firms to ‘strike a balance responding to current demand while defending themselves from potential problems’:

 

‘Businesses reopening or expanding trading are balancing the investment and costs needed to meet increased demand against the removal of government support and the potential for setbacks’. 

 

A cautionary approach, forward thinking, and sensible investment, then, is the way forward for an industry battling the trials and tribulations of a world still dominated by Covid-19 and the political developments of recent years. The industry is well-stocked with individuals who understand the challenges ahead. Whatever happens, we know only too well how the construction industry has weathered many storms over the last year. It is a resilient machine, and there is no doubt that, despite the difficulties ahead, it will emerge stronger than ever. 

Construction industry leaders have called upon the government to end self-isolation requirements as thousands of site workers are being wrongfully told to self isolate by the NHS app, in an issue being dubbed the ‘pingdemic’. 

Trading bodies including the CLC, the NBF, and the CBI, have lobbied the government to consider bringing forward the date at which double-jabbed workers no longer have to self-isolate, as the workforce dwindles at the hands of unnecessary technical errors. The current cut-off date is August 16th, but industry leaders argue that an earlier date is essential if the industry is to get back on its feet.

It goes without saying that the industry has been significantly affected by this. While Covid cases are indeed rising in number, and workers are having to legitimately self-isolate after having caught the illness itself, there are many others who are being incorrectly informed of their coming into contact with positive cases by the NHS app, and are having to needlessly remove themselves from their places of work.

This is causing great disruption to construction sites up and down the country, and some are even being forced to close resulting from a lack of available onsite workers. Richard Beresford, the chief executive of the National Federation of Builders, has commented on the extent to which sites have been impacted:

 

‘Every member we have spoken to has Covid-negative staff isolating. Some have had to shut sites due to a site manager’s or other key staff being pinged and no replacements available’. 

 

He warns that the very survival of some sites is at stake – a couple of weeks of closure could have severe repercussions in the current climate, and after a year of similar disruptions, there is a degree of vulnerability which could leave construction firms in danger of permanent closure.

Andy Mitchell, the co-chair of the CLC, also describes the heightened challenges faced by the recent difficulties, saying that ‘very significant pressure’ has been placed upon the construction sector as a result. He has heard ‘reports from across the industry of plants, sites and offices having to wind down activities as staff have been asked isolate’, factors which again could threaten ‘project delivery and even the viability of some firms’. It is ‘essential’, he warns, for the date to be brought forward from August 16th, to ensure ‘that the industry doesn’t grind to a halt’. 

There are other benefits to bringing the date forward, according to CLC. They argue that a nearer date would actually increase the number of people who are fully vaccinated across the population, as more people would want to reap the benefits of immunity and ensure that they are immune from the need to self-isolate. It would bring an overall advantage to both the workforce and the wider population. 

This development has arisen during the height of growing concerns about shortage in material supplies, which have been ongoing since the beginning of 2021. High demand, inflation and long lead times have led to a backlog in even the most fundamental of supplies, such as concrete and timber, and prices of materials have risen by 10-15% in the last year.

Even industry giants such as Morgan Sindall have borne the brunt of the hardship, and recently commented on the current shortages and isolation issues faced by the industry. But chief-executive John Morgan remains optimistic. ‘It’s there, but it’s manageable. I believe the shortages aren’t as much as they were a few weeks ago. We’ve had it worse in the past’. Although the company ‘are feeling’ the strain of the recent weeks, they expect the situation to improve in the month ahead when the number of fully vaccinated workers will have risen.

The construction industry has powered through admirably during the last year of lockdowns, obstacles, and disruptions of all kinds, to ensure that crucial work is able to continue. And no doubt it will power through again. Morgan Sindall themselves are a reflection of the surprising successes awarded to the construction industry in the face of such a challenging year; their half-year trading update predicts that they will ‘significantly’ surpass their 2019 results. Triumphs can be found in the most unexpected of places.

Another month to get through, another challenge to face. But industry leaders are forever inspired and hopeful that the sector will carry us through. There’s only one thing we can keep doing, and that’s inviting new workers into the field, helping them become qualified, and giving them the opportunity to jump on board. And that person could be you.

It only takes one call, one course, and one decision. Become a skilled tradesperson today – and never look back.

Learn your trade. Get qualified. Make it happen.

Anybody who’s lost their job, been made redundant. My advice is don’t be afraid. With hard work, preparation and the right training, you can do anything you want’ – Jimmy, Gas Trainer

 

It’s no secret that the construction industry is in great need of skilled workers. For the last few years, it has suffered from a serious skills shortage, making proposed construction projects harder and harder to achieve. 

Declining numbers of new workers entering the industry, an ageing workforce, and Brexit meaning overseas workers are more difficult to source. Demand for workers is currently at its highest level since December 2015, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The number of people entering the plumbing and heating industry, for example, declined by 4.19% over the last 16 years, from 157,400 to 150,800. If these general trends continue, where will we be in, say, five, ten, twenty, years? 

If there’s one thing the last year has taught us, it’s that the construction industry is of utmost importance to our daily lives. The public rely on construction workers to ensure basic living standards are met; they heat our homes, safely install gas appliances, and provide us with electricity. With people stuck in doors for the majority of the last year for obvious reasons, home comforts and safety have never been more important. And, it’s worth noting, demand for construction workers has never been higher.

 

‘Infrastructure is always going to need maintaining and installing. That’s why I chose a career in trades. I want my future to be safe’ – Leah, student.

 

So why is the construction industry continually struggling with the numbers of its workforce? It is a modern, vibrant industry, developing new technologies, innovative projects, and securing the next generation of infrastructure for our country. It is building hundreds of thousands of homes, hospitals, schools, and massive jobs such as HS2. These things will last multiple generations, and will transform the UK as we know it. 

The prospect of joining such a workforce ought to be seen as inspiring, and young professionals ought to be joining the industry in droves. But this message is being lost in translation, perhaps burdened by an older perception of the construction industry as a labour-intensive, male-only industry, where work is monotonous and limited. The reality couldn’t be more different: there are an incalculable amount of roles within construction, providing varied, fulfilling work for a whole range of different people, of all backgrounds and genders. This is the positive, refreshing message which needs shouting from the rooftops.

Covid-19 has threatened the livelihoods of millions of people across the country. Countless sectors have been affected, with redundancies and risk of job loss at a concerningly high level. But one industry that remained relatively secure was, you guessed it, the construction industry. Not only did wages remain stable, but they actually rose as work demand increased, with over £1000 a week a common salary for busy tradespeople. Hudson Contract, the industry’s biggest payer of subcontractors, raised their workers’ salaries by 5.6% in October, which was also the fourth consecutive month where wages went up. 

The pandemic meant that thousands of people were forced to rethink their careers. The decisions they often made resulted in them leaving their jobs, which were under threat of being lost, or had actually been lost. Career change for many seemed like an enormous undertaking – a huge upheaval which would require massive change, resources, and time. 

And indeed, the general feeling among working people is that they are unprepared for a change of career. According to a City and Guilds report, just over half (54%) of businesses have stated that they can recruit the skilled individuals they need. Most concerningly, 61% of working age adults do not feel equipped with the skills they need to unlock new opportunities for the next five years of their professional lives. 

And worse yet, 30% (the equivalent of 11 million people) have not received formal workplace training in the last five years. The answer, then, is that the workplace should integrate a continual system of training, to instill a sense of progress, ambition, and personal drive, which would account for far more people fulfilling their full professional potential. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Access Training prides itself on aiding people to make successful career changes – we’ve been doing it for a lot longer than Covid has been around. Our tutors are experts in preparing students not only to sit and pass exams, but to enjoy long-term careers. We offer fast-track, flexible training, which you can fit around your busy life. 

More importantly, we have developed a training structure which means that people from all walks of life, all levels of experience, can begin afresh, or build on skills they already have. During the pandemic, people from all different career backgrounds enrolled on a course with us. Whether they were from the hospitality or entertainment industries, teachers, pilots, chefs, taxi drivers, or even lawyers – they came to us for additional skills, to make themselves more employable, more financially independent and secure. 

They came to us to invest in their futures, not just to make sure that they could get by from day to day, but because they identified the construction industry as an industry in which sustainable, fulfilling employment was consistent and easy to find, providing you put the work in. 

 

‘The Fast Track training made this change of career an actual option for me and the others in my class. The tutors are there for you 24 hours a day to help. They feel more like mentors now’ – Michael, Student

 

And that’s why Access Training’s 3 Stage Training Programme is so effective. It doesn’t assume any prior knowledge, and it welcomes people whose backgrounds are not in construction. They are designed with this in mind. Not only does it guide you through the qualifications and learning, but it also ensures that you aren’t left alone once you finish your course. You leave Access Training prepared for employment, with continued guidance on how to find work, or how to set up your own business. 

Because we understand how crucial it is that aspiring tradespeople supply the country with their services and their skills. We understand that, if you have the capacity to learn, the motivation to work, then you can do anything. And we want more than anything for our students to thrive in the industry. 

So how does our 3 Stage Training Programme work? 

 

Stage 1 – Live Online Learning

Access Training Online is a tailored learning portal that allows you unlimited learning for 3 years from the comfort of your own home – repeat and use any part as many times as you like. This includes scheduled live tuition, tutor Q&As, lessons, tests, and much more. This is the perfect preparation for the next step of your course.

 

Stage 2 – Practical Training

Next you attend a training centre for the practical training part of your course. This hands-on, fast-track tuition is entirely flexible with you having the power to attend when you’re ready, equipping you with the skills and knowledge needed for professional qualifications.

 

Stage 3 – Career & Employment Support

From Day 1 we will provide you with a dedicated Career Support Officer who can give expert guidance and advice on all matters related to your exciting new career. Build your CV with us and find out about the potential job/placement opportunities with our network of Corporate Partners.

 

Access Training is here to produce the next generation of tradespeople for the UK. If a career in construction is what you want, then there’s only one place to come. 


Learn your trade. Get qualified. Make it happen.

 

The moment we have all kept in the back of our minds has now arrived. As of July 1st, the shift has begun towards the end of the furlough scheme.

553,000 people have lost their jobs since the beginning of the pandemic, and the furlough scheme has undoubtedly been responsible for this number being as relatively low as it is. At its peak, 10 million people were benefiting from furlough, while the overall cost to the government has been a knee-shaking £66bn. 

As of April 2021, 3.4 million people were still on furlough, a fall from 5.1 million in January. This number is still declining – by the end of May it was at around 2.4 million, according to HMRC figures, and current estimates for June are between 1.3-1.9 million. 

This tapering of furlough means that, from July 1st onwards, employers must contribute 10% of their employees’ wages for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, while the government contributes 70% where it previously covered 80%.

Between August and September, employers will then have to raise their portion to 20% of employees’ wages, while the government’s input drops to 60%. As of September 30th, the scheme will end entirely, and employers will pay the full amount once again. 

This is causing anxiety to both employers and employees alike, for obvious reasons, and numerous questions are being raised. Will the economy be back on its feet enough to sustain paying full wages again? Is September 30th yet another arbitrary deadline which will inevitably be extended? Or is this the real deal? 

It seems pretty set in stone. PM Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are determined to make this the final chapter of furlough support, with Johnson commenting that, ‘on the basis of what we can see now in the data … we don’t think we’ll need to change’. After the previous four extensions, the government will be highly reluctant to venture for a fifth furlough. Unless something drastic happens, with a large rise in infections and further restrictions necessary, it seems that September 30th is the final full stop to furlough.

September 30th is, in the government’s eyes, sufficient time to give businesses a chance to reopen and get back on their feet, and to prevent the need for another extension. From then on, they’re by themselves – employers will have to decide whether to take full time employees, or to make them redundant, unless another extension is decided. But for how long can this game of cat and mouse continue? 

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng adds to this sense of furlough finality, though tries to offer reassurance: 

‘The furlough isn’t simply being switched off. All we’re saying is that the employer should contribute something to the payroll, and then over time, over the next three months, the furlough will be taken away. It’s a difficult balanced decision to make, the furlough wasn’t going to last forever’. 

 

We knew this all too well, but the shock is still going to be heavy for a large number of people. Many business leaders believe that September 30th is an insufficient amount of time to be able to take on employees full time, and so the likelihood is leaning towards redundancy. Redundancy is becoming an inevitability for potentially hundreds of thousands of people.

Terry George, who owns the Mission night club in Leeds, as well as other hospitality venues, is fully anticipating having to make many of his staff redundant by the time September 30th arrives. ‘We can’t afford to pay people out of a pot that has no money coming in. We’re going to have to lose some staff’. 

What’s worse, is that we may have less time than it seems. September 30th might be the cutoff, but it’s perfectly clear to employers where things are headed. Every month between now and September is going to cost employers more money in wages – money that they don’t have. 

Redundancies will likely begin sooner rather than later, though perhaps not immediately. Hargreaves Lansdown personal finance analyst Sarah Coles has suggested that, although ‘they might not make anyone redundant on day one, their jobs will be under increasing threat as time goes on and government help is withdrawn further’. 

It might not be an instant change, then, but that’s not necessarily cause for hope. The possibility of a later redundancy is strong. The Institute for Fiscal Studies backs this speculation in their recent statement: ‘With the cost of keeping employees on furlough rising, we therefore expect to see rising redundancies over the summer even before the final end of the scheme.’ 

Realistically, there is only one way out of this. It is to embrace a change of career, to invest in your future and protect yourself from a crumbling job market. If you are still on furlough after all this time, and have not been able to resume work, the chances of facing redundancies are not slim. The next few months could see you out of work, and bereft of crucial government support.

But one sector of security, as proved by the stability of the last year, is the construction industry. Swathes of people have left their old jobs to begin afresh as a tradesperson, or have balanced retraining with their old job to supplement their falling wages. People have taken this time to upskill, to add to their employability, so that when things are back to normal, there is a career there waiting for you. 

The construction industry has survived first, second, third waves of lockdown. Trade work has still been able to continue despite restrictions, thanks to the efficiency and professionalism of its workers. The flexibility and adaptability of the industry has meant that crucial work has been able to go ahead. 

But what is clear is that construction work simply cannot be put on pause for long. Whether it’s large scale infrastructural work or domestic projects, people need tradespeople to keep working, to keep pushing through. Demand has not dwindled for a second, and has in fact continued to rise. Wages have not fallen, they have risen. Job vacancies have not been swallowed up, they continue to offer opportunities to workers. 

We need skilled, qualified tradespeople more than ever. And in the next three months, a career in construction might be the thing that makes the nightmare of the past year go away. All it takes is that burst of self belief, to take your future into your own hands, and not fall victim to furlough’s end.


Learn your trade. Get qualified. Make it happen.

 

The proposed furlough phase out over the next three months is causing trepidation and concern for workers and employers alike. September 30th will see all government furlough support come to an end, preceded by a three month process whereby employers are increasingly responsible for paying their workers’ wages. 

From September 30th onwards, employers will have to decide between taking on their previously furloughed workers full time, or making them redundant. It is becoming increasingly evident that the impact of this decision is going to fall heavier on a certain portion of the working population. 

People aged between 55 and 64 are currently the highest portion of the workforce who are still being furloughed. More than 1 in 4 of workers in this age bracket (26%) have had to remain on furlough for the duration of lockdown. And so in the latter half of this year, where redundancies are not only likely but inevitable, this group of workers will most likely feel the brunt of the impact. 

This situation has come about as the result of certain industries, such as hospitality and leisure, opening up sooner than others. These industries in particular have a large portion of young people working in them, and so most furloughed workers are in the older age brackets, and are now more financially vulnerable. Only 6% of currently furloughed workers are aged between 35-44, and 16% are aged between 18-34. The Resolution Foundation, who are responsible for conducting this study, explains: 

 

‘The rapid fall in furlough rates driven by the reopening of sectors like hospitality and leisure, which disproportionately employ younger workers, the age profile of over 1.5 million employees still on furlough is changing.’

 

Not only are older people likely to be unfairly impacted by changes to furlough, but even those still in work will have their wages cut significantly as redundancies take place. The Institute for Fiscal Studies anticipates that

 

 ‘Tens of thousands of workers will suffer a steep fall in income as employers react by making redundancies. It will mean big income losses for many of those who end up unemployed unless they are swiftly able to find alternative employment’.

 

The only other safety net beyond furlough is the universal credit scheme. But the government is conveniently planning a £20-a-week reduction in universal credit support in September, coinciding with the end of furlough. This double blow might leave even more people in jeopardy, without jobs or safety net. 

Of course, swiftly found alternative employment is not common at the best of times. Changing career at the drop of a hat is not something many people are forced to go through, and it can be a daunting prospect to say the least. But circumstances are looking likely to force perhaps tens of thousands of people in this direction. 



The construction industry, however, has been the lifeline that thousands of people have needed. It is perfectly suited to those people who are looking to make a fresh start, and as working prospects are squeezed once again, embarking on a career as a tradesperson has never been a better option. 

Access Training has seen a large number of people retraining and upskilling in order to continue working and have professional prospects beyond furlough. We have been retraining professionals for decades, since long before Covid, and know how to prepare people for long-term, fulfilling employment in the construction industry.

Among our previous students looking to embark on a new career path, we have had teachers, chefs, taxi drivers, lawyers, entertainers – a great range of backgrounds, professions, and ages. The reason for this appeal is quite simple: tradespeople have been able to continue working throughout the last year, despite lockdowns and all other kinds of obstructions. A great many construction projects have been able to go ahead, meaning that work has been able to continue whilst navigating restrictions. 

Demand for tradespeople has been consistently high, and so are wages. Again, the reasons are simple. Before the pandemic, the construction industry was already experiencing a skills shortage, meaning that work for tradespeople has long been plentiful and well paid. Brexit has meant that a considerable amount of the workforce from the EU have become unavailable, again opening up the opportunities and strong need for more tradespeople from the UK. 

Covid has only continued this high demand for skilled tradespeople, and the construction industry has since become a beacon of hope for those out of work, or whose prospects on furlough are not looking promising. It is not looking to change anytime soon, either, with large-scale building projects scheduled for the next decade all across the UK. It is widely documented that wages and working opportunities are rising. 

In short, now could not be a better time to retrain in the construction industry. If you have a head on your shoulders, are good with your hands and problem solving, then a trade might be the career you’ve been looking for all your life. 

If the warning signs ahead are anything to go by, then furlough is not going to provide a happy ending, and may leave you in a vulnerable position. Use the remaining time ahead to prepare yourself for the worst, and invest in a new professional direction. You’ll never look back.

 

Learn your trade. Get qualified. Make it happen. 

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