By Tim Mullock CEO and Founder of Kiistone
There is no doubt that we are experiencing a critical shortage of skilled labour, but what is the root cause?
I strongly believe that the answer lies in how tradespeople are perceived in society today. Programmes such as the BBC’s Rogue Traders have rightfully highlighted that there is a percentage of tradespeople that over-charge and under-deliver, leaving a trail of heartache in their wake. However, during these times of plenty, good tradespeople are in higher demand, leading to longer waiting times. In our modern world, where buying and selling happens at the touch of a button, the impatience of customers leaves the door open to less skilled trades trying to do more, as well as fraudsters scamming the public.
When you combine this perception with the long-established view that an academic career is more prized than a vocational one, what is supposed to motivate the next generation of youngsters to join our industry?
I spoke recently with a College Principal who explained to me her struggle to motivate often disillusioned staff into reinvigorating stale construction courses attended only by the ‘less capable’ students. Even when a youngster graduates it does not necessarily mean that they can gain greater experience joining an established tradesperson to hone their skills.
When you look at it like that then who wants to strive for a career that society rates as ‘second best’? It does not have to be this way.
A young person, possibly from an under privileged background, will either feel determined to improve their situation or accept the limitations of the world they live in. Short term impacts of choosing a vocational career could have a profound effect on their self-belief and happiness.
Trade skills can be transferred anywhere around the world. What would the opportunity to dig wells or build temporary accommodation in a developing country have on the aspirations of a youngster that has never been abroad?
Role models are the sculptors that shape any young person’s life and aspirations. Through their insights young people need to see and believe in these routes to success in their school years. The pathways must be clear and signposted with further opportunities as they progress. If an uninspired student leaves education to become a labourer because school ‘wasn’t for them’ – should that be the end of their academic journey? Certainly not! If they gain the self-satisfaction that they need to be self-fulfilled in that role then great, but what if they have new role models on site such as architects, skilled trades and business owners to suddenly look up to. A new long-term goal emerges that can only be capitalised on with a route back into training and education.
We must cement the notion that a successful career in construction can take you anywhere, but the key to that success is time. You cannot gain the necessary skills and experience to excel at the highest levels of our industry without a commitment to long term learning and a rounding of your education. Even a sole trader has to be aware of business practices. If you can’t do basic accountancy, manage materials and communicate with customers you will fail.
A lack of any resource increases demand and raises the value of what is available. Therefore, the opportunity to become a skilled tradesperson or construction worker should be fashioned in the public eye to be as desirable as any other profession and, given parity in the halls of education.
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