Is The UK Suffering an Electrician Shortage?


The shortage of electricians facing the profession and how it’s leading to higher pay, increased costs for employers and customers. What might be done about it.

Rising demand and declining numbers means an industry skills shortage

The government’s lofty house building objectives to meet the looming housing shortage combined with the shrinking of the numbers of registered electricians means there’s a shortage of skilled people, and it’s said that since the ‘leave’ vote during the EU referendum in June 2016 the situation is deteriorating further. This situation does, however, create a good opportunity for people to retrain and enter a trade where work is plentiful and likely to remain so.

One in three construction jobs unfilled

In May 2016 a UKCES (UK Commission for Employment and Skills) report found that one in three construction sector jobs went unfilled which in itself was an increase from one in four during 2013. The report further found the electrical, gas and water trades were severely impacted by skills shortages.

The FMB (Federation of Master Builders) most recent research findings in early 2017 found that shortages of electricians was at its highest point in four years with trades such as plumbing, roofing, carpentry and bricklaying similarly affected.

At this rate, the availability of professionals such as these Essex Electricians could be sharply reduced.

Increased costs

This has a knock on effect financially as a skills shortage means wages rise so increasing overheads for building, construction and electrician companies. Consequently, they in turn pass these on to their customers so adding to costs all round.

The £100,000 PA electrician?

Recruitment firm Manpower revealed sharp increases in pay for electricians and others in skills shortage trades such as plumbing and bricklaying. This led to a national newspaper showing some spectacular earnings figures including electricians on £3,000 per week, bricklayers earning the equivalent some weeks of a £50,000 per year annual salary, and even fire safety officers comfortably in the four figure a week bracket.

Although the sharpest wage rises were shown in the south east, wages are on the rise throughout the UK.

What can be done to counteract the skills shortage?

The government sees the way ahead as putting funding in place for more apprenticeships, and to this end announced an Apprentice Levy in 2015 that came into force in April 2017. It’s effectively a tax on larger employers who pay £3 million or more in wages and salaries each year; they pay 0.5% of their payroll into the Levy and this is used to fund new apprenticeships.

From these payments employers can draw funds to finance training for their apprentice – or apprentices – so it’s perhaps fairer to consider it more of an investment than a pure tax.

The government aims to develop vocational skills and increase the quality and quantity of apprenticeships with an overall target of three million new apprentice starts by 2020. It’s seen as a ‘win-win’ in that more people are trained and it benefits the company as they get a return on their training investment.

Other recruitment ideas

Three other areas are seen as worthy of attention to address the skills shortage:

Attract leavers  – try and attract those who have left the trade to return with incentives such as pay and interesting and valuable future career development and training.

Morale of existing electricians  – ongoing training and career development is also an idea to help ensure those working in the profession are motivated, happy and will remain interested and committed to their career.

Attract females to the profession  – the industry is trying to show how being an electrician can be an interesting, rewarding and well paid career for all. There’s more evidence of women taking roles in what have generally been male dominated professions, but this needs ramping up and its seen as a key under explored demographic for potential entrants to become electricians.

A major challenge

There’s no doubt electricians and those in related professions are in short supply and, on the construction front, puts severe pressure on the ability for house building targets to be achieved.

Bearing in mind the government is setting targets of 300,000 new houses built per year, not to mention the demands for ongoing electrical maintenance and installations from increased numbers of residential and commercial customers, then the electrician skills shortage clearly needs addressing.

One thought on “Is The UK Suffering an Electrician Shortage?

  1. I wont come back to the UK. £13.48 per hour is a joke not much more than when I left to go to Australia 5 years ago. If they want to know why theres a shortage thats why. How can you live on that rate comfortably? Its not an easy job, ots highly skilled and if they arent willing to appreciate that then ypu always have this issue.

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