Ask the vast majority of parents what they want for their children and most will include a university education in their Top 10 list. But let’s face it — the world is changing. A college education can cost you tens of thousands of pounds that you won’t pay off for many years to come. And by the time you reach the relevant age, perhaps you might feel sick of the classroom and prefer venturing out and earning a crust.
Given the shortage of tradespeople in the country, it might be an area of interest for you. Not only is it a good way to start earning money, but it’s also exceptional money if you go about your business correctly. And entering a trade could be a platform for many other things, including working for one of the biggest construction companies, taking your skills abroad around the world, and even starting your own business. Plus, of course, you won’t be saddled with that extraordinary amount of debt that many students leave college with, and if you develop your skills, you are pretty much guaranteed work whenever you need it.
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why you might want to enter carpentry, building, plumbing or the electrical trade. But what, exactly, do you need to get started, make a name for yourself, and become a success in your profession of choice? We’re going to discuss everything you need to know in this post, so read on to find out more.
Before we get started, what constitutes ‘a trade?’ In short, it’s skilled work — typically manual — such as carpentry, electrical work, and any type of building work including finishing jobs like tiling, and plumbing. There is a trade for everyone, according to tradition, although all of it requires a good deal of physical exertion and fitness in the vast majority of cases. That said, it’s not all about brute force. You need an enormous amount of skill to excel in carpentry, and the delicate nature of household electronics needs a lot of studying to understand, as well as a lightness of touch to install and repair sensitive electrical parts. It’s a good idea to choose something you are interested in, as the skills you will learn can give you a lifetime career.
There are many different entry points into the world of trades. You could start off as an apprentice for a local tradesperson. Your employer will pay you a small wage while you learn the skills needed to work on your own, and you will also have to go through a college course of study. You can go to college off your own back, too, but it’s generally accepted that it’s best to find an employer first. College courses are mostly practical, with a good lot of theory involved — especially if you are training to be an electrician.
Once you have your certification — it usually takes something like two years of study while you are an apprentice — you are halfway there. Sure, you can do the job, but can you do it safely? Some trades require you to get other certification. For example, you can qualify as a plumber, but until you get your Gas Safe Registered certificate, you won’t be able to touch any gas works. Similarly, an electrician needs a Part P certificate to prove they are capable of working in a kitchen or bathroom. However, once you have all your paperwork, you are technically free to do what you like. Your employer that gave you the apprenticeship may require you to work for their company for a couple of years if they contributed payment towards it, but other than that you are ready to go.
However, never assume you can just turn up on the job without insurance. According to the Tradesmen Insurance specialists, you will need public liability insurance at the very least. This will protect you if your work is responsible for causing an accident or injury, and without it, you are treading on fragile ice. If you decide to start your own company — more on which later — you will also need employer’s liability insurance, to make sure that you have cover in the event of one of your workers having an accident on site. Don’t forget, as soon as you start employing people — or even inviting them onto your premises or sites — you are responsible for their safety.
As we mentioned in the intro, there is a shortage of many different types of tradespeople in the country right now — and it’s a definite advantage for anyone looking at entering any of the major fields. Don’t forget, every household, business, and organisation in the country will need to hire tradespeople at some point, so there is — theoretically, at least — an endless supply of demand, and not enough people to service it. If you can position yourself as a good value, reliable service, there is no reason why you can’t succeed — it’s all down to you and the quality of work you can deliver. But your prospects don’t stop there. Many builders go on to end up in high positions at national and global construction companies. An electrician could end up working in all kinds of well-paying industries such as aerospace and defence. And even welders who pursue ongoing education could end up in one of the best paid — and most dangerous — jobs in the world with underwater welding. Get a trade, and you could find yourself in a very highly sought-after industry if you play your cards right, keep learning, and network with other tradespeople as much as possible.
Starting a business
Many tradespeople serve their apprenticeship, stick around with their employer for a couple of years, and then start a business. It’s not for everyone, but it does give you an incredible amount of freedom to choose the type of clients you want to work with. However, don’t forget that you are a business first and foremost, so if that side of your armoury is lacking a little, you might benefit from taking some basic business classes. You will need to know everything from your bookkeeping to your marketing at first, and although much of your work will come from word-of-mouth recommendations, it’s still important to embrace that side of running a business. Eventually, you will be in a position to take on apprentices and other members of staff — and if you want to start earning big money, this is the way to go. Ultimately, tradespeople can only charge what the market is prepared to pay, and if you go too high, you will find yourself priced out unless you are offering something no one else can. And there are only so many hours in the day, so your earning potential is capped. Hiring other workers means you can start thinking about working on multiple sites and actually grow your business.
You will also need to focus on hiring support staff as your business grows. Again, it’s important that you use your time as cost-efficiently as possible, and if you’re spending a day every week filling out your admin records, billing people, and ringing back potential clients, it’s costing you money. So, you might think about getting an admin assistant to help you deal with paperwork. You could also consider hiring a bookkeeper or accountant to take care of your finances. And you might even have a salesperson to answer the phones and deal with customer bookings — after all, when you are in the middle of a busy job and keep having to stop to answer the phone, it’s not going to go down well with the customer whose house you are working in.
Whatever trade you choose and whichever way you work, you will always find it incredibly beneficial to carry on learning throughout your career. A reputation can only take you so far, after all, and in every trade, there are new techniques, practices, and developments that move things forward. You don’t want to be left behind, whether you are working for yourself or someone else, so embrace learning as much as possible. Trade shows are pretty good places for finding new tools that can make your job a lot easier, and you will also encounter plenty of courses run by professionals that will teach you new ways of working. Ultimately, if you keep learning new skills and developing yourself, you will find yourself becoming more sought after in your particular niche. It will keep you sane, too — not everyone can do the same type of work over the 40-45 years of being employed or running a business.
As you can see, starting a trade holds a lot more potential than you might think. It’s a great, honest way to earn a crust, and there is plenty of opportunity to move on to exciting new fields. But it all has to start somewhere, so have a think if you would suit a particular line of work and make your decision from there — it might be a shrewd move in a world where there is a constant shortage of tradespeople.