Exactly five years ago, in the darkest depths of recession, we had the brainwave to launch a totally new trade journal delivered through the UK’s leading construction colleges to provide the very latest product and technical information to an aspiring new generation of tradespeople.
Apprentice Builder was born and universally well received, as it continues to be today, despite the strongly held belief in certain quarters that you couldn’t engage with young people in any form other than social media.
Clearly well intentioned at the time, we have to confess that there was also a certain amount of self-interest on our part; namely that in the hope of getting young bricklayers, carpenters, roofers and painters on board in their formative years, at the conclusion of their training they would naturally gravitate to our more grown up title, Professional Builder and get their monthly fix from the merchant’s trade counters for years to come.
The manufacturers who support the junior publication were also in it for the long haul, recognising the importance of brand building and a life-long attachment to certain tools and materials which is so prevalent in such a typically conservative market.
So far so good then, but new research suggests that we may have been even more successful in our ambitions than even we had initially intended.
Latest FMB figures show that almost 60 per cent of small construction company owners started their career as an apprentice and, remarkably, were running their own business within just seven years of completing that training. All of which means that in just a couple of years, literally thousands of those fresh-faced early readers will already be well down the path to fully fledged entrepreneurship.
And, of course, it comes as no surprise to learn that they themselves are going to be well inclined to the apprenticeship route, with 98 per cent of those current FMB owners valuing an apprenticeship over a degree when looking to recruit their own staff.
Call us biased but it’s long been our firmly held belief that very few industries have as much to offer a young person blessed with heaps of ambition and entrepreneurial spirit. Certainly, you would be hard pressed to find any other profession that could offer such a fast-track route from, say, bricklayer to business owner in just a handful of years.
And, of course, even if running their own business is not what some aspire to, an apprenticeship is the perfect springboard for a successful and rewarding career in its own right, with more than 80 per cent of FMB SME construction bosses confirming that employment in the sector offers high levels of job satisfaction with tangible results.
A further 87 per cent believe an apprenticeship teaches useful and practical skills to last a lifetime. What’s more, by the age of 23 a bricklayer with five years’ experience can earn more than £30,000 and rising in some cases to £52,000 in London.
Given the high levels of university tuition fees, young people have more reason than ever to properly consider a more vocational education with the ultimate freedom to work anywhere in the country, or indeed anywhere in the world.
If this industry is to thrive and attract the right sort of person in the future, this portrayal of successful entrepreneurs needs to be heavily promoted, not just in our journals but in the popular media, which are still far too quick to dwell on the negatives.
The Government too, through hard cash and concerted lobbying to potential employers, has a vital to play in recognising that, given the current mood of optimism, it has a once in a generation opportunity to break this seemingly inevitable cycle of skills shortages which have plagued the industry, and in turn the general economy at large for decades.
With the right encouragement, now by 2023 we could all be in seventh heaven!