Skilled tradespeople

“We have come off a cliff edge’’, proclaims Jerry Swain, the national officer for construction at Unite the Union. He is talking about the UK’s current skills shortage, an issue which has been brewing for at least as long as the last decade, and intensified by the recent impacts of Brexit and Covid. With Boris Johnson’s dictum that we must ‘build back better’ ringing across media channels, industry leaders are beginning to question whether this ambition will be possible without a surge in new skilled tradespeople. 

“The industry has relied on foreign labour”, Swain continues. “It takes at least two years to make a decent bricklayer or carpenter. So now there is a limited pool to draw from”. It is an issue which has plagued industry leaders for over five years now – with a considerable dependence on EU workers making up the construction industry taskforce, what will happen when they eventually return to the EU? Without relaxing migrant visas to make the employment process more viable, it looks as though we have to depend upon homegrown skilled tradespeople. But is there enough being done to encourage this?

Well, considering the significant wage rise seen all across the board for tradespeople, it’s surprising that more people haven’t jumped on the bandwagon, though many have taken up the mantle and upskilled during the pandemic. Wages are skyrocketing for tradespeople. As an example, the Financial Times reported that the typical bricklayer is raking in around £220 per day, and often more. Before the pandemic, this figure was around £150-180, and this considerable growth is true of all trades across the board. Tradespeople are in such demand that they are able to command their salaries to an unprecedented level. Things have never looked more promising for those with the right skills – so why aren’t more people joining the workforce? 

Building companies are similarly baffled at the lack of available skilled tradespeople. A recent survey conducted by the Federation of Master Builders found that ‘more than half of its members were struggling to find the workers they need. The Financial Times also reported the case of Phil Wish, a builder and architect from Brighton, whose construction project was at serious risk of facing a long delay had he not had to muck in with the work himself, even convincing family members to help him out in order to get the job done. 

 

‘I couldn’t find an electrician for love nor money’, he says. The strain on the construction industry is taking its toll on smaller domestic projects, like Phil’s, as well as larger scale nationwide projects. All come under the umbrella of the Prime Minister’s promise to ‘build back better’, and Phil’s experience has left him less than hopeful: ‘you can’t build back better without enough builders’. 

 

Phil offers his opinion as to why more people aren’t joining the ranks of thriving tradespeople, putting it down to an “ingrained snobbery towards the trades”. He suggests that the perception of the trade industry is still serving as a huge obstacle to attracting bigger numbers of young skilled workers, despite attempts to change the image of construction. Trade jobs are, in Phil’s opinion, “seen as a last resort for kids who’ve failed to get into university". The enormous value, dignity and high-skilled nature of these jobs is not being sold to the masses, and it is of great importance that this message is communicated loud, clear – and quickly.

‘Build back better’ is beginning to absorb an essence of irony about it, as Boris Johnson’s promise is clearly under-delivering. Those within the trade industry are beginning to see it as something of a joke, as they continue to struggle with a dramatically limited workforce; projects are facing delays, and on top of this, material shortages are proving difficult to overcome. 

A survey by Homebuilders Federation found the following concerning statistics, to give a stark indication of just how much work there is to be done. For every 10,000 new houses built, 30,000 new recruits are needed; this includes 2,500 bricklayers, 1,000 carpenters, and 300 electricians. Considering that the UK Government has aimed for 300,000 new houses to be built every year, there is clearly a gargantuan task ahead of us.

But what is the solution? Further education colleges have been seen to be failing in their attempts to provide the country with the next generation of tradespeople. Jenny Herdman, director of the home building skills partnership at the Homebuilders Federation, has noted how potential young tradespeople are slipping through the cracks of these institutions, and suggests that as many as 60-70,000 young people who ‘could come into construction every year’ do not end up doing so. And even if those people are signing up for apprenticeships, this option takes too long to provide the UK with a supply of tradespeople in the necessary time.

Private training colleges such as Access Training are the way forward. Offering direct, dynamic training with the sole intention of setting you up for business, teaching you the skills you need, perfecting your craft and getting you onsite. It just takes one call for you to be a part of something bigger – a valued member of the trade industry. 


Learn your trade. Get qualified. Make it happen.

Recovery graph

Now one and a half years on since the Covid-19 pandemic effectively shut down the world, the dust appears to be settling on the construction industry’s state of affairs. There have been numerous obstacles, triumphs, setbacks, and delays of all kinds over this period. Material shortages, fears of redundancy, social distancing measures to be overcome, and the threat of site closures. At a time where such significant construction projects as HS2 are already behind schedule and costing ever greater amounts of money, this is the last thing we need. 

For the last year and a half, industry leaders have waited with baited breath, casting hopeful speculation and quiet apprehension on the future of the construction industry. Will there be opportunities for growth on the other side? Will there be careers for skilled tradespeople? Will we have the means to provide the country with the services it so desperately needs? 

But the industry has bounced back. Thanks to perseverance, discipline and brute determination to overcome these unprecedented challenges, we have powered through lockdown after lockdown, adjusting to the circumstances and ensuring that we get the job done. 

The construction industry has served as a crucial lifeboat for those whose careers were unfortunately left untenable by the pandemic’s ruthlessness. Redundancies across a range of sectors, such as hospitality and entertainment, meant that thousands of people across the country left their jobs, either voluntarily or otherwise. 

Thankfully, many of these people decided to retrain in trade and never looked back. A few months into the pandemic, it was evident that the services of tradespeople were going to remain in full demand – and someone had to provide those services.

It takes little digging to discover some striking evidence for the construction industry’s incredible performance and recovery over the last year or so. Not only have levels of productivity and profit returned to where they left off in March 2020, but quite often they have sky-rocketed past them. 

The construction firm Clancy Group, for example, reported that their profits actually tripled during this great year of disruptions in the midst of the pandemic. Their pre-tax profit came in at £11.1m as of 28 March 2021, up from £3.5m the previous year – a figure which beggars belief considering the circumstances. 

As the pandemic took its early toll in April and May of 2020, the company’s revenue dropped by 20%, and 500 of its 2,200 staff were forced into furlough. Things were not looking good, and the future was as uncertain as it seemed for the rest of the world. They had it as tough as anybody, but benefited greatly from the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which meant they were able to avoid making redundancies. 

Kevin Clancy, Chairman of Clancy Group, said with noted optimism that ‘the vast majority [of the Clancy workforce] have returned to work successfully’, thanks to the support offered by the CJRS. He continues: 

 

‘The pandemic has had a significant impact, but it has also highlighted the fundamental strength of our business. Within a few weeks of the onset of the pandemic, our team was predominantly classified as key workers and played an essential role in maintaining the country’s infrastructure throughout the pandemic’

 

These comments demonstrate the industry’s ability to get back on its feet with determination and dignity, and to ensure that last year’s delays are erased and made up for. They highlight the industry’s fundamental purpose in our society and in our daily lives, and it injects enormous value into the role of tradespeople. ‘Key workers’, ‘essential roles’, and ‘fundamental strength’ are not phrases to be taken lightly, and it is greatly inspiring to see that highly skilled tradespeople are being given the opportunities, protection, and security they deserve.

If you are considering becoming a skilled tradesperson, then now is the time to do so. There is no doubt whatsoever that the construction industry is picking itself up and moving the country forward. It is offering employment to a vast range of skilled and hardworking people, across a huge range of roles. It could be the career you never knew you needed – it could be yours for life. 

Access Training can give you the step up that you need to become trained, become confident in your skills, and to set out on your career. It’s only a call away. 


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. 

 

The light at the end of the Covid tunnel is now perhaps within sight. A year of lockdowns, redundancies, economic struggle and suffering is possibly about to come to an end, with June 21st as our ticket out. But there is one, potentially long-lasting, victim: today’s youth.

Young people, along with women and those in the hospitality industry, have been among the hardest hit by the redundancies and unemployment crisis that this country has faced over the past year. It is predicted that, by the middle of 2021, the unemployment rate will be a dire 7.5%, with 4.7 million people furloughed. Three months before the end of 2020, when things were bad enough, the unemployment rate was only 5.1%. 

Even at the best of times, young people are some of the most vulnerable when it comes to the job market, and finding a secure career in this steadily worsening climate will be nigh-on impossible. Young people are typically the first to be fired, and last to be hired. They are often considered dispensable baggage, usually the ones with least experience, and as a result, most at risk of finding it difficult to gain employment. Crucial opportunities for work experience, which normally lead to growth in both experience and confidence, are now practically non-existent. We might find ourselves facing a generation of unprepared, uninspired young people, who rightfully feel hard done by: the unlucky Class of 2020.

But our youth need protection, and this potentially disastrous situation is avoidable. It is still possible to secure your future as a young person, and to do it with self-belief and pride in your profession. Fulfilling and honest work is not a thing of the past, and taking control of your future is still on the cards, even if it might currently seem like a mammoth task. You might be surprised to hear that, in fact, the ticket to the future is right on your doorstep.

Private training academies like Access Training offer the best possible route into the trade industry, and a prosperous career path. For young people who want to take control of their lives, provide themselves with a healthy and consistent income for decades to come, the next step should be a no-brainer. The trade industry is calling out for the next generation to offer their practical, problem-solving skills, and to serve the country for the forthcoming years of development. Boris Johnson calls for Britain to ‘Build Back Better’ – but without young people to ensure we get the job done, that might be a tall ask.

With a year of schools mostly closed, teaching severely limited, and opportunities to establish their future careers greatly suppressed, the impact on young people is likely to be wide-reaching, and indiscernible while we’re still in the eye of the storm. Not only has it impacted their future prospects, but no doubt their psychological state; it’s quite difficult to entertain optimistic plans for the future in the current situation, and ambitious dreams rarely bloom under the conditions of a pandemic. 

But with the right education, the right guidance, and awareness of the options available to young people, we can instill pride in the art of plying a trade, to promote the values and benefits of being your own boss, and of developing valuable practical skills that will serve young people, and their communities, for the rest of their lives. Let’s do our duty to the upcoming generation, and give them the opportunity for success and stability that could be so cruelly taken from them. Let’s consider it our responsibility to our young people, our communities, and the prosperity of our country. 





Learn your trade. Get qualified. Make it happen.

Here we are, in the first week of 2021, facing another national lockdown.

If there’s one thing that continuous lockdowns have done to us, it’s that it’s made us more aware than ever of the importance of our jobs and professions; how much we rely upon our work for the security of our future. Even the very language we use to describe our different occupations within society has changed: phrases like ‘front-line workers’, or ‘essential workers’, have made us reconsider what is ‘essential’, important, and most valued in our country. 

On top of this, different industries and sectors have faced different struggles; some have fared better than others, having been considered ‘essential’, or having the good fortune to be able to operate relatively unaffected by the pandemic. Some people have been better assured than others that their roles will still be around once the lockdown is over. It comes as no surprise, then, that an increasing number of people want to change their careers. Statistics released since August have shown that, with the country in and out of lockdown, many people are reconsidering their futures in their current roles, and are thinking about jumping ship.

It goes without saying that the one thing everybody wants during this time is what we might call ‘lockdown immunity’. That is, the ability to keep working, earning, and living as close to a normal life as possible, in absolute safety. To be professionals, to contribute a service to society. There are not many, if any, of these sorts of jobs around at the moment. But one place you will definitely find them is in the construction industry.

With Boris Johnson’s assurance in November that construction work is still possible under lockdown restrictions, this is a prime time to be working as a tradesman. Not only are people still able to become qualified, but they are able to go out and seek work, and complete that work. Construction companies are not only still opening their doors, but are actually improving on their 2019 performances. Take Barratt, for example, who ended 2020 with cash reserves of £1.11bn, up from £308.2mn in June the same year. They still managed to make a 9.2% increase on their house building rate in 2019. 

Would this have been possible if the construction industry was on its knees? If it was nonfunctional under a lockdown? Of course not. And the only response to that, from somebody desperate to get back to work, is surely a no-brainer. We have often stressed the importance of using lockdown time to your advantage; access online, virtual training courses to build your skillset and gain employment for when the time comes, and work opportunities restart. And one thing that recurring lockdowns have done is confirm that our advice was bang on.

Lockdowns, as is now very clear, are not going away any time soon. It is evident that the potential optimism brought upon us by the new year is now unfounded, as complications relating to new Covid strands arise, delayed vaccinations are likely, and case numbers soar. It’s safe to say that restrictions will remain with us for a while to come.

Despite Rishi Sunak’s continued promises of grants and further extensions of furlough, what you really need is security, stability, and assurance for what comes next. You need to be able to hit the ground running when normality returns, and not have to depend on government money. You want to ensure that there is a career waiting for you, an income to support you and your family, and some sense of freedom and security to rest upon. All of this meaning that you may need to start preparing yourself for a potential change of career.

Because if and when another lockdown potentially happens beyond this one, or if restrictions tighten up further on down the line, you don’t want to be left stranded and powerless. You want to be working, productive, still developing as a professional. You want to continue doing what you’re good at, do fulfilling work, and offer a valuable service. 

Access Training can and will give you this. It’s all in your hands – nobody will make the decision for you. All it takes is commitment, dedication, and a call.


Learn your trade. Get qualified. Make it happen.

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