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What 3 trades will be most affected by skills shortages?

3-minute read

Zach Hayward-Jones

Zach Hayward-Jones

2 November 2023

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Tradespeople are having to cope with a shortage of skilled workers and materials while handling more requests for their services than they can manage. And with net-zero targets and the increased demand for new housing remaining central to the government’s plans – the need for skilled workers looks set to grow even more.

New data estimates how the current labour issues will unfold over the coming years and the trades likely to be hit hardest by the shortage. Keep reading to find out how your trade might be affected and what’s being done to support the industry.

A national shortage expected by 2030

The lack of skilled workers is an industry-wide issue but a report from Kingfisher, the owners of Screwfix and B&Q, estimates how individual trades might be affected.

The data predicts the shortfall each trade will have in 2030 if current trends continue. The three trades expected to experience the biggest shortfalls are:

  1. Electricians – 54,387 workers.
  2. Carpenters and joiners – 53,691 workers.
  3. Plumbing and heating engineers – 51,524 workers.

Other trades predicted to see shortages include painters and decorators, with a shortfall of 27,738 workers. While window fitters and bricklayers come in fifth and sixth respectively with estimated shortages of around 15,000 workers.

Some UK regions are likely to see a greater shift in the number of workers than others. The data suggests that the West and East Midlands and London will see the biggest shortfall.

This data is based on Cebr analysis of ONS Annual Population Survey Data combined with Cebr in-house macroeconomic forecasts.

What’s causing the skills shortage?

Our industry predictions article at the beginning of the year told a similar story: an ageing workforce is a growing issue for the industry.

Kingerfisher's report includes data based on a survey of 1,000 people aged 16 to 25, which asked them about their work ambitions and whether they’ve considered a career as a tradesperson.

Concerningly, not enough young people are considering a career as tradesperson, which means those retiring aren’t being replaced by younger workers.

Half of the people surveyed (49 per cent) said they’ve never considered a career in the trades and only 13 per cent said they were encouraged at school to consider a career as a tradesperson.

Another reason the industry is feeling the effects of the shortage more than hospitality, for example, is due to a lack of diversity in the workforce. Women only make up two per cent of the UK’s 900,000 tradespeople.

Unless something is done to resolve these challenges, the research suggests the UK will experience a shortfall of 250,000 tradespeople by 2030.

This emphasises the importance of retaining talented employees as well as trying to build an inclusive workplace where all people feel welcome.

What’s the impact of the skills shortage?

It’s estimated the skills shortage will mean the UK misses out on £12 billion a year in GDP opportunities, according to Kingfisher’s report. Not having enough workers to complete projects like large housing estates or redeveloping high streets might make certain areas of the economy stagnate.

The report found one in five tradespeople have had to turn down or postpone work because they don’t have the staff to complete the job.

The broader economic strain on businesses as a result of the cost of living crisis is also making it difficult for them to grow. Data from our SME Insights Report revealed that 23 per cent of business owners are putting off hiring new employees because of rising costs. As a result, even if a business wants or needs to hire a new employee, many might not want to risk it because of the increased operational costs they're facing.

What’s being done to solve it?

The government has introduced a few different strategies to try to resolve the worker shortage, but it’s unclear whether these go far enough.

There are various government grants and apprenticeships to support small businesses inviting younger people into the workforce. While easing the Skilled Worker visa rules for foreign workers in some trades makes it easier for employers to hire from abroad.

Thierry Garnier, Kingfisher CEO, said the government could be doing more: “It’s vital that business and government work together to encourage and support more young people to consider trade roles – particularly young women who are seriously underrepresented.”

The report outlines three areas the government could focus on to help solve the issue:

  1. Career advice in schools to encourage young people to take up a trade career.
  2. Improved hiring incentives to support SMEs in taking on, training, and retaining apprentices.
  3. Cost of living support to make sure trade apprenticeships are financially viable for young people.

More useful articles for tradespeople

Have you experienced a skill shortage when hiring for your business? Let us know in the comments below.

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Zach Hayward-Jones

Written by

Zach Hayward-Jones

<span style='font-size: undefined;'>Zach Hayward-Jones is a Copywriter at Simply Business, with seven years of writing experience across entertainment, insurance, and financial services. With a keen interest in issues affecting the hospitality and construction sector, Zach focuses on news relevant to small business owners. Covering industry updates, regulatory changes, and practical guides. </span>

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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