Construction trades must recruit 244,000 apprentices to plug skills shortage, says new report 

Research shows young people are avoiding manual trades as the Welsh construction industry struggles with a housing crisis  

Building sites in Wales lack young workers wanting to learn, says bricklayer. Image credit: Mark Griffiths

There is a skills shortage in the Welsh construction trades, says a new report by trade directory Checkatrade. 

The UK needs around 244,000 qualified apprentices by 2032 to keep up with government targets in trades including carpentry, bricklaying, and plumbing, according to the UK Trade Skills Index 2023. 

As one third of the current workforce are over 50, there are concerns for what happens when they reach retirement. The index also shows young people will be key to unlocking the potential of the construction industry. 

Research commissioned by the Welsh government estimates over 14,000 new homes are needed every year in Wales for the next 15 years. However, the 2022/23 financial year saw just 5,785 homes built, according to the House Building Federation.

Mark Griffiths, a bricklayer from Swansea with over 25 years’ experience in the construction industry, explains: “You don’t see many boys coming through wanting to learn these days.”

“I think schools need to be doing more to show young people the potential in trades. They push education. But that isn’t always the best option for kids who are not academically inclined.”

Checkatrade’s Get In campaign highlights the vast skills gap in UK construction. Launched earlier this year, the campaign encourages young people to consider trade apprenticeships as a viable career path.

Construction worker wearing tool belt, black combat trousers and black jumper.
Trades such as carpentry, bricklaying and plumbing suffer a shortage of apprentices in Wales. Image credit: Callum Hill on Unsplash

Even though jobs in construction trades are often thought to be low-paid, UK workers can earn between £26,406 and £77,500 per year. An entry-level construction worker in Wales could earn £26,406, while the average salary for graduates from Welsh universities is £24,000. 

The Office for National Statistics reports that rental prices in Wales increased by 6.5% over the year to July 2023 due to supply and demand pressures. Their report sites “rising costs and dwindling supply” as the cause of rising prices.