Britain appears to be facing a shortage of skilled tradesmen, especially with plumbers and bricklayers. New research from last month has revealed that trades are down by 7 per cent in this year alone. Plumbing has been the worst hit with 25 per cent fewer people pursuing the trade now than four years ago, next is bricklayers, which have fallen by 19 per cent. The numbers working as window cleaners, carpenters and painters and decorators are also in decline.
Experts blame the economic downturn and a housing market which is still recovering. Independent tradesmen also face stiff competition from migrant workers from Eastern Europe such as the Polish plumbers. Some feel the recession has forced their hand and helped make their decision to quit their trade. 20 years ago when people left school many went straight into a building trade because it was quite a well-paid job at the time. Nowadays hourly wages are often very low in comparison, this has again been fueled by the recession, with tradesmen suffering up to a 40 per cent pay cut whilst also having to take on further responsibilities.
The trend is bucked only by cleaners, chimney sweeps and female run businesses. The number of cleaners has shot up by 33 per cent since 2009 as people working longer hours themselves struggle to find time to clean their own homes. Female window-cleaning and building businesses are up by ten and eight per cent, while women painters and decorators have risen by five per cent. There has also been a four per cent rise in chimney sweep numbers in the past three years, thought to be due to a rise in the popularity of open fires.
A major factor hitting overall demand is a fall in the amount householders are prepared to set aside for home improvements, down by 40 per cent since 2001. Gardeners are also down by 9 per cent, as seen with many trades where homeowners try to carry out the work themselves to try and save the money. This said there have been tentative signs that things could start to improve as housing prices and confidence is on the up and it is important we keep our highly skilled tradespeople who provide a valuable service to both private and commercial customers.