The new UK Trade Skills Index 2023 reveals an ‘alarming’ skills gap engulfing the construction sector, with over 70,000 new plumber recruits needed by 2032
Skills shortages of plumbers rose rapidly in 2021, alongside electricians, bricklayers and carpenters
Demand for plumbers is set to soar, with a new report revealing over 70,000 new recruits are needed by 2032.
The UK Trade Skills Index 2023, commissioned by tradesperson directory Checkatrade, has revealed an “alarming skills gap” engulfing the trades and construction sector, with vacancies at record highs.
It found the UK needs almost a million new recruits in the entire construction and trades sector just to keep pace with demand, and of the 937,000 figure needed, nearly a quarter of a million - 244,000 - must be qualified apprentices in order to plug a growing skills gap.
The report revealed a total of 73,700 plumbers are required by 2032, with the specialism alongside carpenters, bricklayers and electricians the most in need of trade skills.
The UK has seen a sharp rise in skills shortages across construction – from 29 per cent at the start of 2021 to 55 per cent at the end of the year 2021 – and these shortages persisted through 2022.
It’s all led to a surge in vacancies as construction employers struggle to find staff. In the three months to October 2022, vacancies per 100 jobs reached 3.4, a record high.
The skills gap in trades is being exacerbated by an ageing workforce, an exodus of EU workers post-Brexit, and the cost-of-living crisis.
The report was undertaken by leading independent macro-economic research firm Capital Economics. Its findings have been described by entrepreneur and investor Richard Harpin, the founder of HomeServe, which acquired Checkatrade.com in 2017, as both “urgent and alarming”.
Together, Richard and Checkatrade.com are spearheading a series of new projects aiming to tackle the challenge, focused on school leavers and young people aged under 25.
This spring, they will unite to launch “Get In”, a new campaign aimed at getting thousands more young people aged 16 to 25 into trades careers through apprenticeships. Get In will seek to capture young people’s CVs and connect them to opportunities within Checkatrade.com’s membership base, as well as large trade employers and SME trade businesses.
The new campaign will be piloted in the South East before a planned national roll-out. More details are available here.
Richard said: “The figures revealed in our UK Trade Skills Index 2023 report should come as a wakeup call to everyone involved in the trade and construction industry, with plumbers in particular in big demand, not just now but for the next decade.
Although we expect the economy to continue to be squeezed in 2023, the construction sector is finding itself in an increasingly alarming situation caused by Brexit, an ageing workforce and the cost-of-living crisis. Combined, this is creating a perfect storm in the industry, and causing a widening skills gap, which we must address.
Let us be in no doubt: the sector faces urgent and concerning challenges now and over the next decade. It’s incumbent on both businesses and Government to come together and act before it’s too late.”
It is the third year in a row the annual UK Trade Skills Index has been published, and the report also laid bare concerning statistics regarding output and employment in construction. It suggested the skills gap could lead to a further blow to Government, which is expected to miss its housebuilding target of 300,000 new homes each year.
Additionally, it showed that despite an anticipated short-term fall in construction output, the UK must ramp up the number of completed construction apprentices to avoid the skills gap worsening – an increase of around 34% above the current levels.
Melanie Waters, former CEO of Help for Heroes who has been appointed to oversee the campaign, added: “This is an urgent problem, but there is a solution.
We must do everything we can now to encourage younger generations to consider a career in the trades. It is important we recognise they are going to be crucial to the future of the industry in helping bridge the skills divide.
Expect our new campaign, called Get In, to make waves in terms of tackling this challenge, and we’re looking forward to working with the industry, government, and regional decision makers to take action and inspire a new generation of tradespeople into our industry.”
For more information, and to see the full report including exclusive statistics and insights, visit the UK Trade Skills Index 2023.