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The trade’s take on the skills gap

clock 6 months ago

In the spirit of National Apprenticeship Week 2022, we dug deep into the topic of the skills gap for our recent episode of Talking Trade.

Along with guests, former apprentice/crane operator Katie Kelleher, and PhD Philosophy student and apprenticeship enthusiast Lee Clarke, our host Andy Willcox breaks down everything you need to know about the skills gap, from different routes into the trade, to how we can change perceptions around working on the tools.

Here are the top three takeaways from the Talking Trade episode on the skills gap.

The many different routes

There is no ‘right’ way to enter the trade, and the reasons for wanting to join are endless; every tradesperson’s journey is different and anyone can make the leap.

“I went to university. I picked English Literature; I hated it. I dropped out, and fell into sales, after that, then trades and labour recruitment… I noticed these people were earning a hell of a lot more money than I was doing recruitment, which is what prompted the shift.”

– Katie Kelleher

Working in the construction industry uses a variety of transferable skills, so if you’re working in a different industry, you might already have what it takes. Thinking of switching your career to a job in construction? See a list of roles available to you here.

Apprenticeships can be misunderstood

Many key workers in the construction industry started out as apprentices. As the less favourable choice of further education compared to university, there are still a lot of misconceptions about apprenticeships. Namely, that they’re restricted to teenage applicants, and that they pay peanuts. Kelly and Andy tell us that’s not the case:

“A lot of people think you have to do apprenticeships when you’re 16 or 17. When I did my apprenticeship at 19, I thought I was pretty old to do it, then.”

– Andy Willcox

“I was thirty by the time I did my apprenticeship… When I worked in recruitment, I was earning about half of what I was earning as an apprentice crane operator.”

– Katie Kelleher

Why aren’t people choosing the trade?

In Q3 of 2020, the number of vacancies in construction increased by over 200% (CV Library). But although there is more availability for people to work in construction than ever, a 2021 report from the BBC found that there are not enough tradespeople to fill positions. So, what can be done to get more people working on the tools? Guest Lee Clarke thinks that it begins in schools:

“In schools and colleges, a lot of people are being pushed into universities, which is fine. But, I think that trades should be emphasised as an equally valuable option.”

– Lee Clarke

But destroying the skills gap in the trade isn’t something that we can do alone; we need wider support from the government.


How do you think we can get more people working on the tools? Get in touch and let us know.
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