Britain’s tradesman shortage could stunt housing plans

A deficit of 33,000 painters and decorators in the South East alone could impact plans to build a million new homes in the next five years.

Chancellor George Osborne laid out the plans soon after his Summer Budget, but his ambitious target could fall flat as the country faces one of the worst skills shortages in decades.

Skills shortage

Britain is in the middle of a well-documented skills shortage, with many crucial manual trades well below expected numbers.

As a spokesman from the Home Builders Federation described the shortage as ‘the biggest issue currently facing house builders’, a recent report from accountancy firm KPMG highlighted the extent of the problem – there are an estimated 33,000 too few painters and decorators in the South East alone.

And should the shortage impact Osborne’s housing plans, it could end up having severe consequences.

Top dollar tradesmen

However, one man’s loss is another man’s gain – due to the shortage, current skilled tradesman are bumping up their prices as demand grows.

The current climate means now is a great time to learn a trade (indeed, we included learning a trade on our top five small business ideas for 2015), and as the country recovers further from the financial crisis the demand is only set to rise.

“The industry is recruiting heavily to ensure it can maintain and build on the increases in housing supply we have seen over the past two years,” said a Home Builders Federation spokesman.

“Housebuilders are taking on thousands of apprentices, graduates as well as experienced workers and those with transferable skills - such as ex-military people.”

Recruiting from overseas

Some companies, meanwhile, are looking further afield to solve their problems. Employment group Manpower found that some companies are recruiting bricklayers from Portugal.

Yet the tradesmen from the continent are earning no less. Such is the demand, the overseas bricklayers are earning as much as £1000 a week.

What do you think has led to the skills shortage? Is it a good time to learn a trade? Let us know in the comments section below.

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