‘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.

 

 

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