Clair Graham, manager of the Saint-Gobain Weber Technical Academy, explains how learning new skills can help plasterers to grow their business and reach new clients.
The latest Construction Skills Network Report from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) estimates that 225,000 extra workers will be needed to meet UK construction demand by 2027. That’s 45,000 additional workers every year.
The same report estimates that the total workforce in the construction industry was 2.66 million in 2022. Of that, 51,000 were plasterers but this is expected to shrink to 48,900 by 2027.
Meanwhile, the most recent construction output figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that the industry is moving in a positive direction with construction output in February 2023 increasing by 2.4%. This was largely due to a 4.5% increase in repair and maintenance work and a 1.1% increase in new work. This is great news for plasterers with increasing home maintenance and repair work as well as commercial retrofits and upgrades.
Retain the people we have
It’s clear that as well as bringing fresh talent into the industry via more outreach to schools, work experience opportunities, college courses and apprenticeships, we also need to retain the people we already have in the construction industry. One way we can do this is by embracing a range of opportunities for upskilling, whether that is through more official routes such as vocational education, apprenticeships and distance learning or through onsite training support from manufacturers.
Since the COVID pandemic, we’ve noticed a trend for tradespeople upskilling to develop new skills in areas that have synergies with their original skills. For example, at the start of lockdown, we saw an increase in plasterers learning more about new techniques in rendering and render protected insulation as they needed to adapt their skills to the work that was available and could be done safely outside a property. While these skills may appear easily transferable, it’s still critical to have a solid understanding of the products being applied.
Why should plasterers upskill?
There are a host of reasons why plasterers should consider learning a new trade that complements their existing skillset. We’ve outlined some of the top reasons below:
- Boost earning capacity – additional skills can help you to increase your earning potential by taking on the most profitable jobs;
- Make the most of the seasons – rendering is perfect for the summer months, whereas plastering can be done indoors when it’s lashing down outside;
- Keep it interesting – learning new skills and products helps to keep your job interesting and ensures you to keep up-to-date with the latest technologies and modern methods of construction;
- Meet new people and contacts – attending courses extends your network, giving you the opportunity meet new clients, sub-contractors and potential employers or employees;
- Upsell to your clients – when you find a good customer, it’s good to keep them. Upskilling will enable you to offer different trades to the same client, helping to build your business and reduce risk;
- Stay at the forefront of industry change – learning additional skills will also help you to support the environment with green solutions. One example of this is render protected insulation systems which offer thermal efficiency for hard-to-heat homes, reducing both CO2 emissions and the homeowner’s heating bill.
How and where to get your training
If you’re interested in learning a new skill, training is available through a variety of routes including college courses, distance learning and onsite training support from manufacturers.
Since 2014, Weber has run regular training courses at its own Technical Academy in Flitwick, Bedfordshire, delivered by a qualified and award-winning team who are fully committed to helping combat the skills shortage within the industry.
To make our training more accessible to a wider audience, we’ve recently launched a new initiative to bring our courses to the north of England.
Working in conjunction with our Partner Colleges, previously known as the Elite Colleges Programme, our one-day courses provide opportunities for construction firms to access training on the latest best practice methods. The training will be held at colleges and other training academies within the wider Saint-Gobain group across the UK.
The courses will help companies to develop the skills of their teams while establishing and growing relationships between further education providers and local employers. Weber’s first course was hosted at Tyne Metropolitan College on 13 April, with local tradespeople attending flooring training in the construction department of the college.
Our training is designed to help all tradespeople thrive in the building industry. Whether that’s students just starting out in their career or more experienced people who want to learn an additional trade or diversify their business. Having access to facilities and getting hands-on experience with construction products is a vital part of learning and developing new skills.
Plasterers enhancing their skills from traditional render solutions and materials to new techniques and engineered products can also access support on site from our applications manager. All of Weber’s ‘apps’ managers come from a practical background. Many have worked on sites and because they’re all hands-on people, their insight, knowledge and experience are really beneficial to applicators.
They work with applicators and give best practice presentations, on-site demonstrations, and toolbox talks as well as supporting on complicated projects when needed.
To find out about the range of courses available from Weber, visit our training academy at Training Academy | Weber UK.