November 29, 2023
When discussing career choices with young people who are on the cusp of leaving school, the conversation often gravitates towards professions like medicine and law. Don't get us wrong; these are undoubtedly crucial and highly respected fields. However, it's time to shine a spotlight on a profession that is often misunderstood and, dare we say, underrated – skilled trades.
Let's start by acknowledging the extensive training that tradespeople undergo. Becoming a skilled tradesperson is far from the "easy way out" for school leavers who may not be inclined towards university education. In reality, it requires several years of rigorous training and hands-on experience to reach a level of expertise that enables them to work independently.
In the UK, electricians, for instance, typically embark on a four-year apprenticeship or longer. During this period, they delve into the intricacies of electrical systems, safety protocols, and gain invaluable practical experience in real-world scenarios. This is a far cry from the misconception that pursuing a career as an electrician is a choice for those not interested in a "proper" profession. The responsibility that comes with ensuring the safety of people's lives and property is a burden no electrician takes lightly.
We've lost count of how many times we've heard customers assume that electrical jobs are "quick and simple." There's a mistaken belief that anyone can handle the job because they've changed a switch plate or a light fitting. For the record, improper installation of either of those things can lead to serious consequences!
Tradespeople must possess precision and expertise, qualities that not everyone naturally possesses (guilty as charged for Mrs. Slap Dash over here!). Whether it's a plumber ensuring that pipes don't leak or a heating engineer making sure your boiler operates safely, their work demands some serious attention to detail. In the world of skilled trades, even the smallest mistake can result in significant consequences.
Plumbers, for instance, often experience what they call 'Plumber's Guilt' – that nagging worry that they didn't complete a job properly and that their customer's home might be silently flooding away in the dead of night. Many plumbers take photos of their work upon completion, not only as evidence for the customer but also to reassure themselves when they lie awake in bed.
Now, let's tackle the misconception that pursuing a university degree is the only route to success. Well-intentioned parents often nudge their children towards university, believing it to be the guaranteed path to a bright future. While higher education undeniably holds immense value and offers a really fun life experience, it's essential to recognise that it's not the only gateway to success, and it may not be the best choice for everyone.
In the UK, there has been a persistent bias towards university for the past three decades. This sometimes causes parents to overlook the potential of vocational careers like the trades, unfairly labelling them as the less prestigious option. Many parents aren’t as excited to show off to their friends that their child is a plumber not a doctor. However, the reality paints a different picture.
Tradespeople are highly skilled professionals who earn very respectable incomes. In many cases, they can even surpass the earnings of their university-educated counterparts, with tradespeople in London able to earn £70-£80k a year.
Society really needs to reassess the perspective on trades as a viable and valuable career path for the next generation. We are currently in a trade deficit in the UK, with current tradespeople ageing out, or returning to their native countries due to Brexit. Simply put we need more tradespeople, and more people coming up through the ranks - because it doesn’t matter what university your kid went to, if your boiler pump goes in the middle of winter you’ll want someone round quick-smart to fix it.
While the world moves on from the assumption that everyone is a white, straight male, the trades remain firmly male-coded. When you book a tradesperson, who do you expect to see at your front door?
Rosie talks about her ADHD diagnosis, her love of problem-solving, and the lack of business support for independent tradespeople.
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