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.

 

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. 

 

 

Over the last year, millions of people across the country and the globe, have been forced to take their working lives into the home. Life under lockdown has meant that the home has taken the place of the office, with staff having to retreat to their living quarters. Leaving your work at the front door has long been impossible. It goes without saying that this has brought its various challenges, obstacles, and situations to adapt to. 

It might not be a stretch to suggest that our boilers have felt this added pressure more than any of us. At first glance, there might not seem to be an immediate connection between increased time spent at home and the conditions of our boilers. But the surprising truth is that hours and hours spent working from home have given our boilers quite a job to do. 

Hometree, a boiler, heating and home cover specialist, has reported a 12% year-on-year increase in boiler breakdowns over the winter of 2020. 

An important consequence of working from home has been that millions of homes have required heating for many more hours of the day. Throughout the winter lockdowns this is especially true, with some homes needing heating during the entire day while they work. 

Kemley Sellars, a spokesperson from Hometree, has noted: 

‘the additional usage [of boilers] whilst working from home has meant increased wear and tear.

It really highlights the importance of having your boiler serviced in the coming months, ensuring that it’s working for next winter where many may have transitioned post-Covid to working from home more often’.

 

What does this mean for gas engineers? Firstly, it’s that they were in particularly high demand over the winter period, after months of increased boiler usage led to these boilers breaking down. It shows us that, even during a lockdown, during a pandemic, boilers are ever more essential than they always have been. 

Secondly it shows us that gas engineers will continue to be in high demand this year, as the public are being made increasingly aware of the importance of having your boilers serviced annually. Hometree offered some important advice to their customers and readers, one piece of which was to ensure an annual service by a Gas Safe Registered engineer. This increased awareness of the importance of servicing your boiler will put many engineers in work over the coming months. 

It’s highly important to make sure that your boilers and radiators are in full working order at this time of year. During winter time, low temperatures can cause standing water in pipework to freeze. Not only this, but having your boiler breakdown at the time of year when you need it most is the last thing you need. 

Thirdly, this information shows us the increased likelihood of gas engineers being in even higher demand as the years go by. Thousands of people are likely to have found the convenience of working from home to their liking. The ease of this new model, which some studies are suggesting to be more productive and efficient than working from the office, might be difficult to leave for many. 

We could be witnessing the beginning of the end of the office as the dominant working environment, meaning that our boilers are going to have to put up with this increased usage on a long term basis. This is only a good thing for those looking to get into the industry; it will secure an already rising demand for skilled workers and qualified tradespeople. 

Boilers will always need servicing, replacing, maintaining; but now, as our need for them is increasing due to these unprecedented times, demand for qualified gas engineers is only going up.

It’s a career for the future. It’s a career for life. 

 

Learn your trade. Get qualified. Make it happen. 

 

‘We cannot “build back better” without the builders’ –– Oscar Watkins, head of IPPR construction sector.

 

Since 2010, 1.8 million houses have been built in England alone. In December of last year, we saw a 37-year high in the number of houses built in a single year: 243,770. This was the seventh consecutive year in which the number of houses built has risen

Now consider how this immense feat could have been possible without the construction workers who built these houses? And with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s stated ambition to ‘build back better’ in the coming years, it’s looking likely to be a persistently busy time for construction workers. 

There’s no question about how important the services of tradespeople are to daily life, and this in itself will ensure that careers in trades will continue being busy. But this high demand is undoubtedly increased by the skills gap that the UK has faced for a decade or more. In 2015, one quarter of all construction job vacancies was a result of the current skills crisis. By 2018, the percentage of skills-gap vacancies had risen to 43%. And this worsening problem is caused by one simple fact: there are more jobs available in trades than there are skilled workers to fill them. And so the demand for tradespeople is especially high.

This skills shortage is down to a number of reasons. Firstly, the workforce is ageing. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) estimated that 750,000 construction workers will either retire, or have reached retirement age, within the next fifteen years. Brexit has also meant that hiring EU-born workers (who made up a big portion of the UK construction workforce) is more complicated and expensive for contractors than hiring UK-born workers. The number of EU workers halved in two years, from 115,000 to 53,000 between 2018-2020. On top of this, apprenticeship numbers are inefficient and in decline, with a 30% reduction across Britain.

These contributing factors cause concern to British industry leaders. It means that certain important quotas might fail to be met; the aim to achieve a zero-carbon economy by 2050, for instance, is highly dependent on the next generation of workers in the construction sector.

But it’s a good thing for those either already in the industry, or for those looking to get started. The opportunities for a long-term career are practically endless. The demand for most trades is consistently high. Work is well-paid and plentiful. 

A survey conducted by Rated People and Vanorama, asked 1000 people from around the UK about their demand for tradespeople during 2020. It turns out that it was pretty high, with 64% of those asked saying that they’d called out a tradesperson at least once; despite lockdowns and a pandemic, 68% of those surveyed said that they were comfortable with tradespeople in their homes. 

The survey also gave an insight into how busy life might be for tradespeople for the foreseeable future. Here are just a few statistics proving how integral construction work was to people during 2020:

 

Plumbers

  • Plumbers topped the bill, as they proved to be the most in-demand tradespeople of 2020, with 23% of those surveyed saying that it was a plumber they called out. 
  • The average wage for plumbers has risen considerably in a year, from £31,370 in 2019, to £32,356 – just shy of a £1,000 increase.

 

Electricians

  • Electricians were the second highest demand trade of 2020, with 11% of the UK’s adult population having called one out at least once.

 

  • Projected growth of job vacancies by 8% between 2019-2029. This is higher than the average growth for all occupations.

 

  • Electricians just about earn the highest average salary out of all the trades, with £33,495. This is an increase on 2019’s average of £33,176, and suggests a growing trend as the years move ahead.
  • Estimates suggest that an extra 15,000 electricians are needed across the UK in order to fill the skills gap. One of those could be you.

 

Of course, it wasn’t plumbers and electricians alone who were reaping the rewards. Carpenters and joiners are also in extremely high demand, with around 60% of construction companies noting the current shortage of workers to hire. In 2016, the employment rate for carpenters was predicted to grow by 8% over the next ten years, and the current widening of the skills gap is only increasing this likelihood. In short, the trades industry in general is experiencing a massive shortage of workers, and this is generating high demand for skilled workers. 

 

We’ve seen a natural increase of 7% more jobs being posted for tradespeople compared to last year, so there has definitely been a rise in demand for their services, despite what you might expect with a pandemic. The trade industry has fortunately been able to keep operating in line with new health and safety requirements to be on hand to help people get more enjoyment from their homes and save the day in any home emergencies’ – Adrienne Minster, Rated People CEO

 

And high demand means plenty of well-paid work. Not only are average salaries rising, but customers are still keen to spend money on tradespeople. The survey above also tells us something about the spending trends witnessed throughout 2020, and reveals that people are not afraid to spend money on tradespeople. One in five people spent over £1,000 on tradespeople during 2020, either for kitchen, bathroom or garden work alone. One in ten spent over £5,000 during the year. Interestingly, most of those surveyed spent under £100, suggesting that it’s the minor but crucial smaller jobs keeping tradespeople busy and earning over an exceptionally difficult year. 

Even better news for tradespeople is that customers base their decisions on who to book primarily on the quality of the work, rather than how much it costs. Only 12% chose a tradesperson based on how much they charge, with 70% more likely to take notice of a good reputation. That means, if you’re good at what you do, and you’re working as your own boss, you can charge what your quality work deserves.

If this isn’t proof enough that tradespeople have been in high demand, we can see it from the customers themselves: 29% of those surveyed said that they’d had to wait longer than usual to book a tradesperson, due to their busy schedules. Considering lockdowns and stories of struggling during the pandemic, you would have thought the opposite to be true. But no, customers are virtually queuing up to pay tradespeople to fix their home issues – often problems that they’ve caused themselves, as 20% admitted to having caused the problems themselves, as a result of spending too much time at home over lockdown! 

If there’s one thing that the pandemic has reminded us of, it’s that we will never stop needing tradespeople. The survey conducted  Plumbers, electricians, gas engineers, carpenters, bricklayers, plasterers – you name it. Pandemic or not, boilers will break, appliances will need servicing and maintenance. Who else could fit our bathrooms and kitchens? Who else could ensure our central heating didn’t conk out throughout the winter? The answer is, well, nobody. 

Take this chance to join an industry of opportunity. The timing couldn’t be better.

 

Learn your trade. Get qualified. Make it happen.

‘We cannot build back better without the builders. The construction sector wants to be at the heart of the UK’s drive to net-zero emissions and a low carbon economy but recognises it does not yet have the skills it will need to do this’ – Oscar Watkins, IPPR construction sector leader

 

 

 

A major upheaval in the construction’s workforce is needed, experts say, to make sure that the UK’s economy is given the support it needs to recover and thrive in the years to come.

Recent reports have caused concern to industry leaders, but offer substantial hope for those thinking of entering the construction industry. The workforce is, and has been for years, experiencing a long-term skills crisis. Its population of tradespeople is ageing, and a massive gap is opening up, meaning that well-paid, long-term work will flood the market for at least the decade to come. 

A recent study, conducted by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), that only 20% of construction workers are under 30 years old. The IPPR has also estimated that 750,000 construction workers will retire, or will be on the verge of retiring, in the next 15 years

But even aside from the limitations offered by an ageing workforce, there are other issues to consider which may impact the number of the workforce. 

The effects of Brexit, and limitations on free movement, will mean that migrant workers (who make up a considerable proportion of the construction workforce) will not be able to make up the numbers like they used to. The IPPR also noted that the number of EU-born construction workers halved between 2018-2021, from 115,000 to 53,000. The proposed points-based immigration laws have also meant that construction companies will require special licenses to hire migrant workers. 

This can only mean one thing: that, unless things change, and the UK produces the next generation of skilled workers, we are potentially heading towards a construction skills crisis.

 

‘It is essential that the construction sector has a pipeline of skilled and motivated people coming through the system into the sector to make the green transition possible’ – Oscar Watkins.

 

This could have wider implications than we’d first imagine. Even aside from ensuring that major infrastructural projects are completed, and that the demand for construction work across the country is fully realised, the UK’s aim to be carbon neutral by 2050 is heavily dependent on the industry’s production rates – starting now. Unless this skills shortage is fulfilled, then, the UK’s ambition to achieve a zero-carbon economy by 2050 might be missed

Luckily, great change is being called for, and this is even better news for those wanting to get into construction. Industry giants are calling for policies which make the construction industry more appealing. These policies would involve raising wages, improving working conditions, and increasing general job security. 

And that is because the industry leaders recognise how important the individual worker is. How vital it is that these contributions are made, to ensure that the industry not only stays afloat, but fully thrives, develops, evolves. Mark Farmer, chief executive of Cast Consultancy and advisor to the government, was among many construction industry leaders to sign a letter calling for improvements and more attention drawn to the construction industry, to ensure that the projects of the future are completed. He said:

 

We need to start moving from rhetoric to action in the pursuit of net-zero. This has to be about building a legacy that can deliver not just a strong economic recovery, but also a fundamental shift in climate change trajectory and the societal benefits generated from green infrastructure.

 

Calls are also being made to increase funding into the construction industry, to improve education surrounding construction, and to change unfair perceptions of the industry which are potentially turning people away from making vital contributions towards it.

A potential skills crisis is, of course, concerning for the industry – but it also represents an enormous opportunity, and great news, for those thinking of retraining. 

The construction industry is offering a stable solution to its workers. Follow their lead, and join the construction industry today. 


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.

"When I started, I had nothing. I put down my last £200 as a deposit, and I made that decision. You can never go wrong investing in yourself."

- Former plumbing student Leah Carney

Leah training for her new career as a plumber

Starting a new career - retraining and setting up your own business for the first time - is undoubtedly difficult. Not knowing the future can be stressful: will it work out? Am I making the right choice? Is now the right time to be doing this? Many unanswered questions, no firm solutions.

And as much as we might try to convince you that, yes, now is the right time, you might be more inclined to listen to those who have gone through the training process as students. To those who have come out the other side with a sparkling career ahead of them.

Leah Carney is a designer and former delivery driver who enrolled on one of our plumbing courses during the COVID-19 pandemic and never looked back. Our tutor Jamie caught up with Leah to find out how her new career was going.

 

Q: Hi Leah! Thanks for taking the time to speak today, I know you must be busy. How did your decision to retrain first come about?

Well, I was doing some delivery driving just to earn a bit of money, and to get myself through the COVID situation. But before that, I was doing design work - that's what my degree is in. And then I just decided to retrain; in the past, people have told me that I'd be really good at plumbing or gas, just because I'm good with my hands, I'm logical, a good problem solver, that sort of thing.

 

Q: And why Access Training in particular?

I just started googling and doing my research, and came across Access Training that way. I did ring a few places actually, but when I spoke to the team at Access Training, we just kind of got on. I then got invited to come and have a look at the centre and see the training in action, before actually putting any money down.

 

Q: What were your first impressions when you came?

Everything looked really good, everyone was working, and I was really impressed with the plumbing workshop that you've got there. And yeah, that's what made my decision. I signed up that day, there and then, and I think I started about a month and a half later.

 

Q: And the enrolment process was smooth?

Yeah it was, absolutely. Can't fault it.

 

Q: So obviously now you've moved on, and you're getting on with the online learning as well, so you're now able to redo the theory as many times as you want. How are you getting on with that? What sort of flexibility does that give you?

Do you know what? I think the online training is like a godsend. You're in a more relaxed environment, you're at home nine times out of ten, so you've got the time to sit down and fully concentrate. You can take breaks when you need to, you can go over and recap. I like to watch things; seeing things in action helps me to remember them, so if I'm reading something and I don't quite understand or I'm not quite getting it, I like to find a video of someone explaining it, and then I'll understand. So there's that benefit of it as well, because you can stop and start whenever you want.

 

Q: So it hasn't negatively impacted you, doing most of your training online?

No, not at all. You can do mock exams and different papers, and continue to do them until you get it right. Whereas when you're in a class, you only learn it once and then you leave. So again, I really like home-based learning; you still have to put the time in, but it definitely sticks in your mind more. I've enjoyed it.

 

Q: Do you think that helps you, when you come in for your practical training, the fact that your theory base is so much better?

Yes, because I reckon if you were to start with practical - or to sit your practical before your theory - you might get lost, trying to learn everything at once. So I think it's done the right way around. Then, when someone starts to explain more in depth, or uses a word you remember, you're able to ask questions there and then. So it definitely has a benefit.

 

Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your training so far? I know you've already done additional training courses to add more strings to your bow. How have you found starting out in the industry, despite everything that's going on?

Fortunately for me, I have got a degree and other skills that I can always use - skills that actually do come in handy with my plumbing, because it is still based around homes and construction. But because I have been upskilling in areas I know will benefit me in the future, it looks good on the CV as well. And I may now be ahead of other people who've been doing it for ten years, because I've actually put my head down and said 'right, I need XYZ kind of trades behind me'. I'm doing my plumbing, and my Level 2 electrics, so that's really come in handy. Now I can apply for jobs that are based more around the Part P side, so I can get a bit more money from that, and I get a bit more hands-on in a different sense.

 

Q: With your new plumbing career, how are you finding it out there at the moment? There's obviously a lot of work around at the moment. Is that the case for you?

Definitely. There's a lot of work. Applying for a job isn't always straightforward, but the plumbing training definitely looks good on my CV. I have found that being a woman also gives me an edge, because I know there aren't many females in plumbing companies. I've found that with all my certificates and qualifications so far, employers are definitely interested. And it's given me the confidence to go out and do my own jobs privately as well.

 

Q: As I understand it, you're currently starting up a business on your own and having the best of both worlds, right? Do you feel like you've made the right decision by retraining and starting a new career?

Yeah, one hundred per cent. Retraining was definitely the best thing I ever did, and it was money well spent. At the time it probably doesn't feel like that, but if you put your head down and have a goal - a vision for where you want to be, and why you're doing it - then there'll be no stopping you. Because of the qualifications and the kind of practice you get with Access Training, you can absolutely go out there and be confident that you know what you're doing. I think especially as the government is pumping money into the trade industry, it looks like there's a long future in upskilling from where I am at the moment.

 

Q: So what's the next step in your career? You said you're moving into electrical work - where do you see that leading?

At the moment, I'm working on my brand, my logo and my website, and designing all of that. Because I have the skills to do it, I'm relying on myself to do all that. So that's the next step, plus maybe doing some emergency and weekend work.

 

Q: That's got to be quite exciting for you - to be developing all that stuff for yourself?

Yeah, it is. I mean, I've never opened a business, and for anyone to start out doing that, it's quite daunting. But I like to do my research and know what I'm doing, and kind of get my feet in there. So it's exciting, and I'm hoping that will kick off in the next couple of months, because I don't think there's a better time to do it than while we're in lockdown. There are more people staying at home, and they're doing more things to their houses, or they've got more time to have someone in to do work. And a lot of people I speak to have struggled to keep a good plumber or find someone they trust. I'd like to think that I have that kind of rapport with people; even if I don't know you, I'm always thinking of the customer and wanting to give the best possible service. I always explain what I'm doing, and that always pays off and works really well.

 

Q: And obviously, there are lots of resources on the Access Training portal to help you do all of that. You have contacts at the centre that you can still use, and your tutors can still help you once you've left.

Yeah, absolutely. I cannot fault anyone from the college at all - any time I've had a question or an email, they've always responded, even if it's a day or two later. They've always been so helpful. All the tutors, including yourself of course Jamie; I speak to Emma and the girls in the office; everyone's been helpful, and everything is transparent. There's nothing you don't know.

 

Q: I suppose the fact that we're still in touch proves your point!

Of course! And the great thing about that is that, if I explain my situation and tell you I need X, Y and Z, you can find a way to help that suits me. That's really been the forefront of it for me, to be honest: the fact that you really get to know the guys at the college. I imagine you go to other training centres, and once you've left, they think they don't need to know you. But with you guys, it's been a long time since I finished, and we're still in contact, as you say. I've come back now to do my electrical training and things like that - that's thanks to you guys.

 

Q: Finally, what kind of advice would you give to someone else looking to change careers right now - someone who's stuck in a rut? They might be on furlough or something, so how would they go about retraining?

I know there are people out there facing a really bad situation, and when I was looking to retrain, I was too. But I took the risk. I knew what I needed to do, and when I went with you guys, I used the last money I had to do it - and it was so worth it. All of you were so accommodating; if there were ever any issues, you guys helped. So my advice for anyone out there who's thinking about it is this: you just need to take that leap and do it. It's investing in yourself. You can never go wrong investing in yourself. Before you know it, if you put your head down, you could be ready to start before you realise.

 

Q: Thank you so much for your time, Leah, and best of luck for the future!

Thank you for everything!

* * *

And there you have it. You don't need to take our word for it - just look at Leah as an example of how retraining can change your life.

Browse Plumbing Courses

Learn your trade. Get qualified. Make it happen.

 

With the arrival of a new year comes the beginning of a new era; a chance to reflect on what has been, and speculate on what is to come. 

We can now see with some clarity how the construction industry fared under two lockdowns, heavy restrictions, and an unprecedented global crisis. Most importantly, we can see where it might be heading next. And judging by the promising words of industry leaders and new statistics, it did pretty well considering the circumstances.

The take-home message is that 2021 will be a year of ‘gradual and sustained recovery’ for the construction industry, according to industry experts. And this growth is not limited to 2021, but at least to the next two years beyond that. In other words, the next three years will be a time of high productivity, high employment, and general positivity for the construction industry. But how did construction get so lucky?

The critical factor undoubtedly lies in the ability of construction workers, industry leaders, and organisations, to open up their sites quicker than expected when restrictions were loosened in the summer of 2020. By the time the second lockdown came about in November, it became clear that the construction industry did not need to shut down entirely. Sites could still operate safely, following social distancing measures, and so Boris Johnson officially gave permission for sites to remain open under a lockdown.

But things could have been so different. In the second quarter of 2020, following the pandemic, construction productivity fell by 36%. We avoided a full construction closure only because the industry is so important to the country’s economy; in 2016 it accounted for 9% of the entire economy, adding £138 billion to its value. We just can’t do without it.

And that’s why industry leaders are fighting to ensure that, even in such dire circumstances as we still face at the beginning of 2021, the construction industry remains open and functioning. So much depends upon it, that the new Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, wrote an open letter to make the case for the construction industry remaining open again: 

 

‘It is vital that construction continues through these unsettling times, and I want to reassure you that the government values the crucial contribution your sector is making. [...] I want to make it clear that where it is essential to travel or to stay in accommodation, whether to get to work or for the purposes of carrying out your work, those in the [construction] industry are able to do so’.

 

This ringing endorsement of the construction industry just goes to show that, if the prospect of becoming an electrician, gas engineer, carpenter, plumber, or any role within construction appeals to you – then you will have the government’s support and the freedom to work at a time when thousands of people are out of a job

The proof is truly in the numbers. A survey conducted by the CHAS found that 56% of construction businesses they questioned have all their staff now back in work, and of the 44% that don’t, 43% said staff are on furlough. 

The security of construction jobs comes as no surprise when you look at the industry’s performance in the second half of 2020. Output grew by 41.7% in September, the biggest quarterly growth since records began in 1997. Work on new housing grew by 88.7%, driven by a 102.9% growth in public housing. Private housing and infrastructure grew above their pre-pandemic levels in February 2020. 

It’s mouth-watering stuff for those in the industry, and should be highly appealing for those outside it who are looking for job security. Now is your chance to get your foot in the door of construction and give yourself a career. If your job is looking increasingly like a lost cause, stopping and starting when rules allow, with redundancy a likely exit, then look no further. 

You can become anything you set your sights to, with a call and some commitment. We can take it from there.

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.

If you read the survey carried out by the Water Regulation Advisory Scheme (WRAS) you will see that basic skills are completely lacking! The survey found that 18-24 year old adults lack basic repair skills, from unblocking a toilet to fixing a leaking tap. Only 1 in 3 know how to bleed a radiator with over 55's the most capable age groups when it comes to home plumbing tasks.

What is clear is that young people are the most challenged by these tasks with less than 30% not knowing how to change a light fitting where, in contrast nearly two thirds of over 55s are able to carry this out. The survey also found that 37% of young people could change a showerhead but double this figure were capable in the the over 55s category.

Further to this the survey showed that adults born after 1985 are increasingly unable to take on simple tasks. However, a third of millennials would in fact know how to bleed a radiator, but this is still way short of the 79% of over-55s who would be able to carry out this most basic of jobs. 

So it is conclusive that when it comes to basic home repairs, they are not an issue for those in older generations, but the capability to carry out a repair is far less in the younger generations. In fact the repair that most people are happy to carry out is bleeding a radiator:

  • Bleeding a radiator - 57%
  • Replacing a shower head - 53.3%
  • Fixing a blocked toilet - 44.6%
  • Replacing a light fixture - 44.5%
  • Fixing a leaky tap - 30.2%
  • Fixing a leaky toilet - 21.2%

What is clear from the survey is that repair tasks within the home have become something or a mystery or even a no-go for most. This is great news for tradespeople and those considering taking up a trade as there are so many tasks that home occupiers will need to be carried out by professionals, no matter how simple they are in really. 

In fact it would not be advisable for anyone to tackle a task that they were not sure about as problems and possibly dangerous scenarios can result from the most simple of tasks. It's always best to use a trained professional, someone who has the training, skill and knowledge to deal with these situations. 

At Access Training, we are always striving to provide people of all ages, young and old, with the professional level of training, knowledge and skills needed to carry out basic and complex tasks, safely and efficiently. For those looking to become skilled and qualified as a plumber, electrician, gas engineer, carpenter or plasterer, we will teach you what you need to know, allowing you the opportunity to turn basic DIY jobs into earnings and a career.

To find out how to become professionally certified in a trade such as plumbing or to simply discuss the career options available to you, call us today.

Learn your trade. Get qualified. Make it happen.




*WRAS Survey of 2000 adults in April 2019.

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