The Government has been talking about it’s heralded new scheme to create three million new apprenticeships during this Parliament by way of taxing the richest UK businesses to help fund the project. The project was welcomed by many, including myself, as our own industry, as well as UK construction in general, suffers badly from a lack of youth and skilled workers.

So we have a proposed solution, but what about the causes? Why is it that so many trades are lacking in youth and skilled workers? For me, it’s our education system.

An unbalanced focus

The UK is rightly proud of it’s University system and how more and more students each year, despite rising costs, are going to university after leaving Sixth Form or College. It is these higher education centres that encourage school leavers to go on to University. And this for me is where the imbalance starts and the problems occur.

It frustrates me to to see such a high level of pressure for everyone to go to University. The major argument being that a degree will almost definitely guarantee you a job with better income than everyone else. Well, to a point I agree. Yet I know so many people that have degrees but work in a completely different industry to the one they studied to be in.

I remember when I was at Sixth Form ten years ago. I had the grades to go to University, however, we had the family business and I had become uninterested in education and chose to go into work instead. After I told them of my intentions to leave after the first year, they became very uninterested in me for my remaining months in education. Not that I cared too much, but it was interesting to see how the education system at that time treated those who didn’t want to go on to University. Needless to say, it was the best move I have ever made. I have my own home, carved a successful first decade of my career, work in a great family run business, a successful blog, an awards business, a great girlfriend that I can take on great holidays. All without me having a degree.

Schools and colleges focus so much on getting kids to go to University, that other areas that are important to the UK are left badly ignored.

Little trades focus

Needless to say that there was very little happening at school when I was there encouraging kids to get into a trade. Nothing when it came to building, glazing, plastering, plumbing, electrician etc. It was all maths, IT, science and English. Now look where we are.

UK construction is currently being crippled by a lack of skilled workers and young people entering the industry to support it. Year after year of neglect from the education systems has caused a severe drought in the skills pool. Now we’re paying big time.

Look at our own industry, where is the youth coming from? Where are the new surveyors? The new sales people? The new installers? The new service engineers? The new manufacturing professionals? It’s not coming. You see the odd young person, and they are about if you look hard enough. But a sprinkling of them here and there isn’t going to sustain our industry as the current demographic gets older and starts to retire. I still feel like I’m the youngest in a room when I go to any industry event, and I’m 27 now.

If the Government wants to get these 3m apprenticeship places off the ground, they are all going to have get trades into focus at school level. Construction of all kinds is vital to this country, and to not nurture at least some of the kids at school to get into construction is simply reckless. Right now, the education system is failing construction.

I’m not against University as such. They are vital for many professions, such as nursing, law, teaching etc. But there is such a massive imbalance in the system encouraging school leavers to go to University that areas like construction are now suffering badly. Balance has to be restored. Kids need to know that University is not the be all and end all of their lives. A career in construction and it’s many facets can lead to a very successful life, making a great living, contributing to the economy and the well being of the country. You don’t need a degree to do that.

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