Britain’s economic recovery will be blighted by a trade skills drain, without Government action | HomeServe Foundation

Britain’s economic recovery will be blighted by a trade skills drain, without Government action | HomeServe Foundation

A chronic shortage of key trades including electricians, carpenters and plumbers will hamper Britain’s economic growth over the next ten years and threatens to stoke home repair bills and house prices, a new report reveals.


The UK must urgently expand its trade apprenticeship schemes, with 305,000 new construction trades apprentices needed to fill the void left behind by an ageing workforce, COVID-hit skills shortage and a drain of European skilled labour.


Britain’s economic recovery post-COVID is being threatened by a looming construction and trades skills crisis, a detailed new study launched during National Apprenticeship Week  (February 8th to 14th) shows.


Without plugging a 1.25million recruitment need for construction and trades workers – and a projected 305,000 shortfall in construction trades sector apprenticeship numbers – over the next decade, Brits can expect to see home repair bills and house prices rocket, as demand for home improvements looks set to significantly outstrip capacity.


Within the construction sector, the report reveals a need to recruit 228,000 key trades apprentices. Just under two thirds (61 per cent) of those are electricians, carpenters and plumbers.


Critically, without an action plan to tackle the projected chronic lack of trade skill apprenticeships, the shortfall could “seriously hamper” Government house building targets and threaten its ambitious ten point plan for a new ‘green industrial revolution’.


It has been described by the HomeServe Foundation, which commissioned the independent new ‘UK Domestic Trade Skills Index’ from Capital Economics, as a “perfect storm”.


Helen Booth, Director of the HomeServe Foundation, said: “Through this new index of trades skills we can clearly see the industry faces a perfect storm, and we will need electricians and other key trades to help deliver our nation’s recovery and growth.


“We have an ageing workforce; a chronic trades skills shortage made worse by the impacts of COVID; and a European skilled labour drain which will, if unchecked, deplete the UK’s trades skills base to crisis levels and seriously hamper our nation’s economic recovery.


“If this is not tackled now – by making it simpler for joinery and trade businesses to grow and by scaling up the training and recruitment of apprentices in time – the consequences will be bleak, not just for the industry but for the Government’s plan to kick-start the economy and reach its Net Zero milestones over the next decade.”


In order to meet increased demand for construction work (27 per cent higher) and home repairs (37 per cent higher) by 2030, the UK will need 305,000 more construction apprentices, and 68,000 in the home repairs sector alone, which includes boiler installation engineers, electricians and painters and decorators.


The target means the UK will need to increase its current annual output of construction and trades skill apprenticeships by around 44 per cent.


Call for industry backing


The HomeServe Foundation, the not-for-profit arm of FTSE 250-listed HomeServe, is now calling on the electrical, construction and trade industry to back its call for the Government to do more – and quickly – to help the industry tackle this challenge.


According to the report, which explores 11 construction trades including electricians, carpenters and plumbers, the volume of work in the trade sector is expected to double in 2030 compared to 2019.


The Index suggests the trades skills gap is compounded by the slump in construction output of around 12 per cent during 2020, which has accelerated an already-high expected rate of retirements, staff turnover and the permanent return home of overseas workers in the short term.


Left unchecked, the report calculates the skills shortage would impact the cost of hiring skilled workers leading directly to an increase in house prices or cost of home repairs and improvements.


Industry growth in the next decade


Government investment to achieve Net Zero targets accounts for half of the forecasted rise in home improvement and repairs demand, as homes are made more energy efficient through measures including installing insulation, replacing fossil fuel-based heating systems with alternatives such as heat pumps, and the installation of domestic electric vehicle chargers.


Small trades businesses need to recruit


Sixty per cent of the home improvement and repairs sector’s output is from firms with nine or fewer workers, therefore, the bulk of the responsibility for recruiting additional, skilled workers to cope with the increased demands will fall on smaller firms, recruiting apprentices from the existing UK population.


Last year the HomeServe Foundation warned that the Government’s current incremental incentives (£3,000 for 16 to 18-year-olds, £2,000 for 19 to 24-year-olds and £1,500 for over 25s until April 2021) to take on apprentices do not go far enough to make taking on a young trainee an affordable option for the vast majority of small firms operating in the trades sector.


“Apprenticeships are the most common route of entry into the trades sector; the majority tend to be younger,” Helen added. “We hear a lot about incentives to install boilers using renewable energy and decarbonising our homes, but the workforce isn’t there to do it – or service and repair it further down the line.


“Investment now in skills for young people must be a priority, even despite pandemic spending restraints.”


For more information on the new UK Domestic Trade Skills Index, or to view a summary of the full report, please visit the HomeServe Foundation.

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