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Navigating the Impending UK Tradespeople Shortage

Rhino Trade Insurance 09 February 2024

When you live in the UK, it’s easy to find a takeaway, vape emporium or a barbershop no matter where you are. But what about a plumber, electrician, joiner, carpenter or bricklayer?

Chat to any UK homeowner or landlord and they’ll tell you about their struggles to find a good tradesperson. The good ones are booked up for months, and even getting a quote can sometimes be like drawing blood from a stone.

So, what is behind the tradesperson shortage in the UK – which is predicted to get much worse? Is it a matter of “can’t work”, or “won’t work?” 

Join Rhino as we investigate this issue.

Overview

Manual trade jobs are some of the most important in the world. When the robot revolution rises, tradespeople will still be in high demand, which is something not every profession can be sure of. Have you ever seen an algorithm try to change a soil pipe? Exactly. 

However, there has been a shortage of tradespeople in the UK for a while now, and statistics show that the problem is growing. In fact, according to Kingfisher Corporate (who led on a new study), by 2030 the UK will need an extra 250,000 tradespeople to meet the demand. 

Factors Contributing to the Shortage

So, what’s causing this looming tradesperson shortage? Here are some of the main contributory factors:

  • An ageing workforce

In the 1970’s, it was more common for the UK’s young people to train in a manual trade. There were polytechnics and technical colleges in operation up and down the UK which taught subjects like carpentry and plastering. After 1992, many of these institutions became universities, and a move away from trades skills towards courses like media studies and social studies began.

The men who were fresh-faced young apprentices in the 1970’s are now entering their well-earned retirement years. Unfortunately, their absence will leave a skills shortage where there aren’t enough younger tradesmen to fill their shoes. 

  • Lack of diversity in the sector 

This is just a fancy way of saying there aren’t anywhere near enough women qualified or willing to perform trade roles. This is a topic close to Rhino’s heart, as we work with some incredible tradeswomen who are living proof that women can dominate in trade work given the opportunity. Baby steps are being made to encourage women to train in practical skills like carpentry, painting and decorating and plumbing, but there is more work to be done until enough women become qualified to help address the tradesperson shortage. 

Check out our other articles on this topic here.

  • Lack of encouragement

Thousands of school-age youngsters are well-suited to a trades career, but the connections and opportunities just aren’t there for them. 

In the old days, youngsters knew that going into a trade meant solid income and lots of work coming your way. These days, the skilled trades are simply not being promoted as a career option at school level. There is stigma around trade work, with career advisors promoting a university education over a practical vocation in many cases, even when the pupil might be much better suited to a skilled manual trade and small business ownership than, for example, a marketing career. 

Not everybody wants to go to university, and not everybody should go. Getting into huge debt when you don’t enjoy studying and don’t fancy a career stuck in an office seems daft when there are interesting and profitable trade careers out there waiting for you. 

  • Brexit 

Ah yes, the B word. Whatever your take on Brexit, one thing that’s undeniable is that it caused thousands of skilled trades workers to return to their native countries. In fact, the UK lost a quarter of its EU-born workforce in just 12 months. This has left a skills gap which UK-born tradespeople haven’t yet risen to fill. 

To help address this, the UK government started offering visas and fee discounts to EU-born bricklayers, plasterers and roofers (among other professions) in an effort to remedy the job shortages, although the skills gap remains. 

Economic Implications of the Shortage

The Kingfisher Corporate study found that the lack of tradespeople could cost the UK economy about £98bn of economic growth by 2030. The Midlands and London are predicted to be the regions which are hardest hit, with regional economic growth reduced by billions of pounds in these areas thanks to the lack of tradespeople. 

Strategies to Address the Shortage

It’s clear that the UK needs more home-grown workers who are qualified in a range of skilled trades, particularly in the construction sector (including trades such as carpentry, joinery, bricklaying and many more). A skills gap of this magnitude is predicted to shrink the UK economy in the near future, so something needs to change and fast.

There are various educational initiatives and apprenticeship programs available which are designed to attract young people to the benefits of a trade career, including the heavily under-represented female population. Many are fully or partly funded, meaning participation should not be restricted based on household income. A quick look using your search engine of choice will show what’s available in your local area.

These education and training opportunities should be underpinned by a widespread government-led initiative to promote trade careers at a school level. As we mentioned previously, skilled manual trade work is some of the most important work out there, and yet it is being neglected and undervalued. Changing this from the ground up will be a key starting point to getting more people trained up and ready to embark on a trade career. We think it’d be a win-win for both the UK’s economy and thousands of young people who might be unsure where their career is going to take them. 

Role of Companies like Rhino Trade Insurance

At Rhino, we never want to see a good tradesperson leave the industry. It’s hard work to qualify in your chosen trade, so it’s especially unfortunate when a time-served tradesperson has to stop work due to a poor business decision such as going uninsured.

But if you’re not protected with the right insurance, this could mean a compensation claim made against your business ends up costing you tens of thousands to settle – even if there are no damages to pay. Legal fees alone cost a small fortune and although every case is different, liability usually falls on the tradesperson’s shoulders. Compensation payouts to injured clients or members of the public can be enormous and often are too expensive to settle, meaning keeping your business open may no longer be viable. This is why policies like Public Liability Insurance are so important. 

Similarly, suddenly being unable to work due to an injury or illness means no income for a self-employed worker. Being protected by a good insurance policy like Personal Accident Insurance or Income Protection Insurance will make sure that should anything happen to you, you can take time out to recover without the financial burden meaning you have to leave the industry altogether. 

With such a significant tradesperson shortage looming in the UK, we can’t lose quality tradespeople. It’s safe to say that your country needs you!

The Final Word…

The Rhino team are never happier than when we’re helping tradespeople protect their businesses with the right insurance. Tradespeople are so important to our society and infrastructure and it’s essential that every tradesperson is covered with the right insurance.

Speak to Rhino today to discover how we can protect your trades business during tough times. Call our team on 0116 243 7904.


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