It is a topic of never-ending debate by politicians of all political affiliations: how to enhance Britain’s economic growth.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Amid intense discussions about tax rates or intricate infrastructure projects, it’s easy to overlook that growth can also be something straightforward – economic activity all around us in our daily lives. And we are facing a tremendous missed opportunity.
The country’s scarcity of skilled artisans means the UK could lose £98 billion in economic growth by 2030, according to research we released today in partnership with economics consultancy CEBR.
The figures are evident. We are already confronting a shortage of 166,000 traders, with vacancy levels near record highs. This gap is projected to rise to 250,000 by 2030.
Demand is expected to increase as homeowners look to enhance the energy efficiency of their homes, a crucial step on the road to net zero. Measures such as insulation, heat pumps, and solar panels will necessitate increasingly more skilled installers.
If there is no one to do it, a large portion of it won’t get accomplished. One in five Britons have already had to postpone or cancel home improvement projects because they couldn’t find a suitable tradesperson. This not only has economic ramifications but also impacts our lives.
Yet despite the unmistakable demand for skilled trades, many young people are missing out on trade career opportunities. Our research discovered that only 13% of 16-25s were encouraged by their school to consider career opportunities as a tradesperson.
The glaring gender difference in business is also impeding Britain’s progress. Only 2% of UK business people are women. Even by doubling the numbers, we could increase our annual growth to £800 million. That’s an enormous prize to leave on the table.
So how do we begin to close the business skills gap? We are proposing three ideas that we believe will make a difference, which will require a joint effort from both business and government.
Firstly, to aid the National Careers Service in better representing business careers in school guidance – from emphasizing how business roles can combat climate change to the opportunity to ‘be your own boss’. More traders should be invited to classes, particularly female role models, to directly share the benefits of a trading career.
Second, we need to make it simpler and more financially appealing for SMEs to employ and retain trade apprentices. This entails grants and National Insurance breaks, combined with a simple one-stop advice and recruitment service.
Finally, we need to ensure that trade apprenticeships are economically viable for young people. It cannot be fair that university students receive loan support to cover their living expenses, but there is nothing available for trade trainees. This is simply reinforcing outdated prejudices against apprenticeships.
Now is the time to remove the stigma associated with a business career. These are high-quality jobs, with significant earning potential, and should be given the same importance as jobs that necessitate a university degree. And by doing more to assist young talents in entering the business, we can support many years of sustainable development.
Thierry Garnier is the CEO of Kingfisher