Pimlico Plumbers' founder Charlie Mullins believes the drop in skilled tradespeople reported in a new survey is not a recessionary issue, but due to underlying problems in the UK education system.
Mullins was reacting to figures released by insurance firm Simply Business, which revealed that the number of skilled tradesmen in the UK dropped by 7% in the last year.
According to the survey, plumbers have been hit the worst, with a 25% drop in numbers over the last four years.
However, while the survey cites the current economic climate – including a depressed housing market – as the cause for the drop, Mullins believes it is because of years of insufficient training opportunities for the skilled traditional trades.
Mullins, who employs more than 200 at his Central London-based business, said: "This is not a recessionary issue, it's an educational issue, which is coming home to roost to the detriment of our industry and the economy.
“Vocational training became seen as sub-standard and secondary to academic-led learning in the last 20 years. The idea that to have a good career everybody needs to go to university is responsible for this.
"For too long, we have been playing catch up, trying to get the numbers of skilled tradesmen back up to the level this country needs – but at the moment it's been too little too late.
"Of course, the economic conditions haven't been the best and some businesses have struggled. However, there are opportunities out there for plumbers, electricians and the like. At Pimlico Plumbers we're looking to fill 30-odd positions at the moment and it’s always a challenge to find experienced and skilled individuals.
"Seeing as we're in National Apprenticeship Week this is the perfect opportunity to remind the country and those setting education policy that vocational learning – apprenticeships in particular – have to be the cornerstone of the training delivered for our industry to ensure numbers and quality of tradespeople are increased."