UK plumbers, along with other tradespeople, are calling for government support to increase the availability of skilled workers by encouraging apprenticeships, according to new research conducted by Plumbfix's umbrella organisation, Screwfix.
More than three-quarters of UK tradespeople, including professional plumbers, want the government to raise the number of apprenticeship places from 110,000 to 400,000, to encourage as many school leavers to take up apprenticeships as currently go to university. Only 40% of tradesmen considered immigration as an important issue, with many more worried about the shortage of skilled workers in the UK.
Screwfix's Tradesman Manifesto is based on a survey of more than 600 tradespeople, the results of which were then submitted to the Chancellor in March 2015.
Many of the plumbers, electricians, builders, carpenters and other tradesmen questioned have little or no experience of taking on apprentices, with only 14% having employed one in the last year. Cost is the biggest barrier to taking on an apprentice for more than one third of tradespeople, with research suggesting more funding for apprenticeships would allow businesses to train future tradesmen and women. Many qualified plumbers and other trades also feel that low pay is discouraging potential apprentices and more than half would like to raise the minimum wage to attract the best new talent.
The report revealed that nearly three-quarters of tradesmen believe the amount of tax their business pays is of great importance. Eight-nine percent support current commitments to continue freezing fuel duty and 84% want the personal income tax allowance to increase to £12,500, believing that such measures would have a positive impact on their business and encourage growth.
Andrew Livingston, CEO of Plumbfix and Screwfix, said: "As a key supplier to the trade, we wanted to give professional plumbers and other tradespeople a voice by gathering feedback and submitting it on their behalf to the government. Many of our customers are busier than ever right now and it's important we work closely with wider industry and government to consider new ways to help them and to encourage growth in their businesses."
Views on other important topics were also captured by the Tradesman Manifesto. Nearly three-quarters of tradespeople want action to reduce paperwork and cut red tape as more than half say they spend nearly one month a year on form filling and bureaucracy. Tax is also an important issue to UK tradesmen with 72% considering tax to be a priority for future government to take action.