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Trades Career Pathways For School Leavers

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Overview

Trade professionals process highly sought-after and practical skill sets. Typical job titles include Mechanic, Carpenter, Electrician, Plumber and Builder. The service of each one of these professions is crucial to the everyday runnings of society and so jobs tend to be plentiful.

A Plumber is responsible for the maintenance and improvement of our plumbing systems. This might mean repairing sinks and broken water pipes or fitting a bathroom with a new shower.

The duty of a Mechanic is to take care of motor vehicles. Everyday tasks could include fixing broken engines, carrying out safety checks on cars (such as an MOT) and supplying other maintenance services to customers.

Electricians install and repair electricity to ensure that people can use it safely in their everyday lives. Electricians can also be employed onto larger jobs, such as installing the appliances, cabling and internet lines into places such as offices, hospitals, shops, warehouses and theatres.

Those who have a talent for creative design might suit a career as a Carpenter. This requires building furniture from wood, as well as carrying out crucial fittings on building sites - not to be confused with the work of a builder.

Builders construct and develop buildings by following designs that have been provided to them by architects. They’ll be employed on exciting projects such as developing show-stopping skyscrapers to extending your parents house!

Whichever route you choose, the trades industry is a major source of employment in the UK and there are plenty of opportunities available to school leavers entering the world of work.

Skills

If you are a practical person and looking for a useful career that uses your hands, a career in the trades sector could be for you. You’ll need to be good at planning and be accurate, have a natural affinity for problem-solving and want to work out in the world rather than in an office.

Trade jobs are often very physical and you will need to be able to work long hours. Teamwork and communication are also important as you will often be working in potentially dangerous situations with heavy materials. If you specialise in a particular trade within the building industry, you will also need good technical skills and professional qualifications.

Working in the trades industry is often customer facing, which means that a variety of skills are essential. You may also need to deal with budgets, so having a good head for numbers will be useful.

For some trade positions, such as electrician trade roles, you’ll likely need to have the ability to read building plans as well as technical drawings. You’ll also need to understand wiring and be happy to work in cramped environments

Other important soft skills that will be useful to have on your CV include problem-solving, team-work, resilience and communication.

Progression opportunities

You should be in a position to apply for assistant level roles in trades after you complete your apprenticeship (if this is the route you decide to go down.) This will see you progress to managing staff and teams, being tasked with greater responsibilities and working on more complex projects.

Some trade professionals eventually go on to set up their own business. For this, you’ll need to have an entrepreneurial spirit and great customer service skills. Having a flair for marketing will also help you to get the word out about your services to potential clients.

Career development

Try joining as a member of a relevant professional body. This will allow you to have access to changing trends, market research and information on the jobs market in the trades industry. You can also get recommendations for qualifications that may help you progress quicker in your career.

Earning potential

As an apprentice, you’ll earn a minimum of £3.70 per hour if you’re under 19 or in the first year of your apprenticeship, or the National Minimum Wage if you’re over 19. This works out at around £150 - £240 per week.

Potential earnings for each trade include:

Labourer: the average salary for a labourer who is new to the industry is around £15,000. However, it’s normal for it to increase quite quickly once you’ve got a few years under your belt.
Builder: PayScale states that the average Labourer earns £11.54 per hour.
Mechanical: Mechanics start on a salary of between £18,000 to £22,000, which can increase to £30,000 per annum.
Plumber: a trainee plumber tends to earn £13,000 to £15,000 per annum. Once qualified, a plumber can earn up to £35,000 per annum.
Carpenter: inexperienced plumbers normally earn around £15,000 per annum but this can increase to an average of £25,000. Carpenters with a lot of experience can easily earn more than £40,000.

Related Companies

TitleHead OfficeIndustry
Otmoor Plumbing & HeatingAylesbury, BuckinghamshireTrades
Coastline ServicesRedruth, CornwallTrades
AstroKingswinford, West MidlandsTrades
Ensafe ConsultantsNorthampton, NorthamptonshireTrades

Qualification requirements & subjects to study

To get a job in this sector as a school leaver, it’s a good idea to undertake a vocational qualification. A diploma, certificate or short course can give you the practical skills you need to get a job in this sector.

Industry Bodies

Alternatively, you could look at apprenticeships in trades. Apprenticeships will see you studying and working for a company at the same time. You will work alongside experienced staff and will have one day off per week to study, usually at a local technical college or equivalent. This can be a great route for those who know what they want and don’t need to attend university to get themselves there.

Further Reading

British Woodworking Federation
Institute of Carpenters
Electrical Contractors' Association (ECA)
Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE)
Chartered Institute of Building
Federation of Master Builders
The Guild of Builders and Contractors
Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors Limited (APHC)
Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering
NAPIT
National Federation of Builders (NFB)
Builders Merchants Federation

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