3.7 million Brits Considering Re-training in Plumbing or other Trade Areas

Thinking of upskilling or retraining in a ‘trade’ such a plumbing, building or gardening? Well, you aren’t the only one, as new research1 from UK-wide trade supplies merchant City Plumbing reveals that more than one in ten working adults in the UK (12%) are currently considering it – that’s 3.7 million people.

The most popular trades to work in came out as plumbing (11%), building (11%), gardening (8%), electrics (6%), joinery (6%) and painting/decorating (5%). But just how much opportunity is there? Are there enough jobs to go around?

The ‘School’s Out, Trade’s In’ study reveals that there are currently nearly 100k (94,912) advertised vacancies in the trade and construction sector, which equates to 8% of all open roles (1.17 million). This has increased by a massive 345% in the last year alone.

Builders/labourers are the most sought-after currently (8,100 vacancies), followed by electricians (5,641), painter/decorators (3,866), carpenters (3,491) and plumbers (3,251).

Kent, Greater Manchester, South East London, Hampshire and Essex currently have the most trade roles available.

Top Ten UK Areas with the Most Trade/Construction Roles Advertised

Area Number Roles Currently Advertised 1 Kent 3,957 2 Greater Manchester 3,345 3 South East London 3,202 4 Hampshire 2,889 5 Essex 2,803 6 Hertfordshire 2,543 7 Surrey 2,266 8 East Sussex 2,179 9 Buckinghamshire 2,025 10 West Yorkshire 2,008

The average salary for tradespeople is also promising, sitting at an advertised average of £37,939 per year, which is 10.9% higher than the UK average (£34,261). Salaries in this sector have also increased 4.3% year-on-year too.

As always, some jobs lead to bigger salaries, with the most lucrative career being a Managing Quantity Surveyor, which pays an average of £55,401 per year.  

Trade Jobs with the Highest (Advertised) Salaries

Role Average Advertised Salary

Managing quantity surveyor  £55,401.00  

Construction associate  £53,938.00  

Construction project manager  £53,282.00  

Quantity surveyor  £51,917.00  

Project quantity surveyor  £51,829.00  

There is also the potential to earn more in specific areas too – a gardener in Manchester earns £9k more than the UK average (£34,093 versus £25,047) and it’s the same for a plumber in Warrington (£41,889 versus £32,864).

Average advertised salary per role:

  • Heating Engineer £44,305  
  • Carpenter £41,284  
  • Window Fitter £40,198  
  • Plumber/Pipe Fitter £38,573
  • Tiler £38,377  
  • Electrician £37,780  
  • Bathroom Fitter £37,158  
  • Joiner £36,746  
  • Plasterer £35,498  
  • Painter Decorator £33,004  
  • Floor Layer £32,403
  • Roofer £32,244
  • Tradesperson £30,294  
  • Carpet Fitter £30,194  
  • Tree Surgeon £28,883  
  • Specialist Welder £27,436
  • Landscape Gardener £27,319  
  • Builder/Labourer £23,450  
  • Locksmith £25,830

Anyone running their own business may earn more, depending on the hours they’re prepared to work, and the area they work in.

Most people working in this industry get the skills and qualifications they need to be a plumber, electrician and so on through an apprenticeship, and there are various grants available to help cover the cost of these.

In the current enrolment year (2020-2021), 7% of all apprenticeships that commenced in England were in the construction/planning and build environment sector.

The area (in England) with the most construction apprentices this year was Cornwall (350), and the highest percentage of female construction apprentices was in Stevenage (50%).

Top Ten UK Areas with the Most Trade/Construction Apprentices (2020/2021)

Area Number Apprentices (Started) 1 Cornwall 350 2 County Durham / Leeds 300 3 East Riding of Yorkshire 270 4 Plymouth 260 5 Wigan 240 6 Kirklees / Sheffield 220 7 Birmingham 210 8 Kingston Upon Hull 200 9 Bradford / Wiltshire 170 10 Northumberland / Wakefield 160

Oli Street, 35 from Leeds in Yorkshire has been studying for a plumbing diploma and intends to take this on full-time when qualified, moving on from his current job in recruitment. He said: “Plumbing is something that I’ve done elements of previously and really enjoyed doing – I prefer a role that’s hands on and where I can see a project to completion, so it seemed a natural trade for me to pursue.  

“It’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to over the years and I’m lucky that my current employer is supportive of my new direction in life.

“In the past couple of years, I’ve completed both my Level One and Two Plumbing Studies Diploma, and I’m currently awaiting the start of an Advanced Diploma Level Three. I’m very lucky that my Level Three has coincided with the National Skills Fund (NSF) which means the course is fully funded by the Government.  

“Following this, my plan is to do my NVQ2, which is a vocational qualification, with the overall goal of starting my own company in the not-too-distant future.

“There are plenty of opportunities for work within the industry and lots of different paths you could go down stemming from the same course, so there’s bound to be something to suit you.  

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of job search engine Adzuna, commented: “Demand for skilled tradespeople has gone through the roof since the start of the pandemic. Powered by a surge in demand for home improvements, the last year has seen a sharp increase in advertised job vacancies for trades ranging from plumbers, builders and plasterers, to heating engineers, bathroom fitters, and tree surgeons. Homeowners up and down the UK are putting more love and attention into their surroundings, particularly as many workers transition to permanent home working or a hybrid set up. Others have built up a financial buffer over the last year and are finally starting to check off their home projects.  

“Factoring in an existing shortage of skilled workers, plus the dip in overseas tradespeople bringing their skills to the UK due to the pandemic, and demand for skilled professionals is at an all-time high.  

“For young people starting out and considering getting into a trade, now is a great time to learn their craft with thousands of job openings on offer and advertised salaries pushing up as employers compete for staff.”

A spokesperson for City Plumbing added: “It’s clear to see from our research that there is a great deal of opportunity for both young adults considering a career in plumbing, building and so on, or anyone thinking about retraining in this area.

“There certainly look to be some towns and cities across the UK where this is currently a skills shortage, and the CITB recently said that the industry will need more than 200,000 new workers by 2025 to meet demand.  

“Here at City Plumbing, our specialist team always looks to offer both new professionals and experienced tradespeople professional advice to assist them with their next project. Our trade account holders also enjoy discounts on products and can use any of our 350 nationwide branches.”

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