Charity aims to boost number of school leavers becoming tradespeople with new ‘Try a Trade’ pilot scheme, launching in the West Midlands



A West Midlands charity is set to launch a new initiative aiming to tempt more young people to become plumbers or electricians after new research found the industry needs DOUBLE the number of trades apprentices recruited every year or risk crippling shortages. 

In a bid to make an impact on the issue, the HomeServe Foundation, the registered charity of FTSE-listed HomeServe Plc, has launched a new pilot initiative in schools across the West Midlands called ‘Try a Trade’ which it hopes will help boost the number of Generation Z school leavers entering the sector. 

HomeServe Plc, based in Walsall, has also donated £120,000 to the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Scheme which enables large employers to pledge their unspent levy to fund the training of apprentices at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the region, boosting the economic recovery from Covid-19.

Charity aims to boost number of school leavers becoming tradespeople with new ‘Try a Trade’ pilot scheme, launching in the West Midlands

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands meets HomeServe Plc CEO Richard Harpin, who were joined by pupils from the Streetly Academy, one of 15 schools in the West Midlands to take part, to officially launch the project in Sutton Coldfield.

The ‘Try a Trade’ pilot from the HomeServe Foundation is being spearheaded by HomeServe PLC CEO Richard Harpin and Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA>. Joining them at the launch were pupils from the Streetly Academy in Sutton Coldfield, one of 15 schools in the West Midlands to take part.

The initiative follows research by the charity which found the UK will need to recruit and train 193,000 more qualified plumbers, electricians, and skilled trades such as joiners as the industry swells to 7.3 per cent of total employment in 2030 – a level not seen for the last 30 years.  

Soaring demand for tradespeople means the sector will need to train 21,400 new recruits every year to meet the target – double the number of successfully completed apprenticeships seen in the UK pre-pandemic.  

The UK Domestic Trades Skills Index, commissioned by the HomeServe Foundation charity and carried out by leading global macro-economic analyst Capital Economics, found the industry needs to recruit at least ONE MILLION new workers to meet construction, home repairs and improvements and climate change demands as the industry grows by 4.1 per cent a year.  

An exodus of 191,000 EU workers under 50, combined with an increase in job changers over the pandemic, has pushed the average age of the industry up, with a third now aged over 50. 

Richard Harpin, CEO of HomeServe PLC, said: “The good news is that despite Covid 19 and Brexit, the UK construction and trades industry is experiencing incredible growth - and this is expected to continue apace for the duration of this decade.  

“What stands in the way of this growth is the availability of skilled trades workers across the country. We need a significant step change in the number of apprentices in key trades if we are going to see the industry reach its full potential. We can’t afford to ignore this.  

“Therefore, what we need to see now is an overhaul of the recruitment process and a united effort across education and industry, and the private and public sectors, to bring more young people and career changers into the industry. Right now, youth unemployment is 10 per cent amongst 18 to 24-year-olds, so we’ve developed a genuinely impactful programme to help young people understand the potential the industry offers while supporting small trades firms to take on a young trainee.”  

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “If we are going to build a local workforce fit for the future, we must continue to recruit and train our young people. Alongside traditional university options, we must not forget there is a plethora of exciting and well-paid routes into a practical trade that are available right now. We need qualified electricians to install electric vehicle chargers, we need heating experts to help us roll out renewable energy systems, and we need engineers to enable green retrofitting of homes.

“Try a Trade is a brilliant way to open young people’s eyes to the world of opportunity out there for them. The West Midlands has always been the industrial heartland of the UK, and now is the time to see a new generation of tradespeople blossom here in our region.” 

According to the UK Domestic Skills Index report, which explores 11 construction trades including carpenters, plumbers and electricians, the workforce will need to expand by 232,000 from 2020 levels to 2.5 million. Two fifths of the rise in construction employment will be in the housing improvements and repairs sector.  

Homeworking, net zero and housebuilding ambitions have all contributed to increased growth projections, with renewable energy installation and insulating the UK’s 19 million-strong housing stock, high on the agenda.  

The report suggests that plumbers and heating engineers, who will be responsible for installing 600,000 renewable energy boilers a year by 2028, is set to rise by 39 per cent (or 57,000) by the end of the decade. 

But the exit of almost 200,000 younger EU workers and the pandemic accelerating the exit of experienced workers in the sector, means the industry must urgently accelerate training plans.  

Call for industry backing 

The HomeServe Foundation is calling on the construction and trade industry to back its call for a government-backed, industry-wide solution - and quickly - to tackle this deepening skills crisis. It points to its Try a Trade pilot as a potential way forward for the industry to rally behind. It is already backed by JTL Training, Paragon Customer Communications and the West Midlands Combined Authority.

Richard Harpin added: “There is a way forward. We must unite policy makers, business and education and collectively work harder to encourage young people to consider a high-quality career in the trades sector. We need to improve the industry’s reputation by demonstrating the great opportunities it offers. Net Zero, for example, could help us change the conversation among young people.  

“One of the challenges the industry faces is that 60 per cent of the work is carried out by small companies with nine or fewer employees, either directly employed or sub-contracted. That makes training and passing on skills to the next generation harder.  

“But we’re confident that if we can all work together, we can get this right.” 

Trade initiative needed in schools 

The HomeServe Foundation’s ‘Try a Trade’ initiative will see the charity, in partnership with Amazing Apprenticeships, work with careers services, local trades firms and training providers to help school leavers learn more about a career in trades and match them to opportunities in the sector.  

The ambition is to encourage young people, their teachers and careers advisers to see the full range of trade occupations are seen as a good option again. Part of the scheme’s motivation is to also signpost trades opportunities to parents and carers and hooking up young people with training providers and employers offering traineeships and apprenticeships.

Try a trade will focus on selected key trades:

  • Bricklayer
  • Carpenter/Joiner
  • Floorlayer
  • Gas Engineer
  • Landscaping, Electrician
  • Painter & Decorator
  • Plasterer
  • Plumber
  • Property Maintenance

The Foundation is also soon to launch a new apprenticeship matching service for SMEs, which will help match local trades firms with potential new recruits of all ages. 

Share this story