We must preserve Britain’s illustrious history of construction, Rishi.
WHERE have all our builders gone?
That’s the question that Ten needs to be thinking about right now.
The construction industry is what made Britain what it is today.
We also boast some of the world’s most impressive structures, works of architecture that have endured for a millennium and will continue to impress future generations.
These landmarks attest to our nation’s rich tradition of construction.
But even though these structures still stand, we no longer train people to build them.
Bricklayers, carpenters, plasterers, tile setters, and joiners were all added to the list of shortage occupations earlier this week, as announced by the government.
This means that visas will be easier to obtain for foreign workers who possess these skills.
UK failing woefully
As a result of a shortage of construction workers at home, the United Kingdom is actively recruiting in other countries.
Our workforce is drastically understaffed, and our ministers are scrambling to fill the gap.
It is a shortage all too familiar to many.
Long wait times and skyrocketing prices are a reality for anyone who wants to build a new home, get a loft conversion, or even just update their kitchen.
They always give the same explanations when asked why: they are booked up for months, they can’t find enough workers, etc.
This explains why the government has loosened up on visa requirements.
However, it is a step that causes widespread concern.
The United Kingdom is seriously lacking in its ability to produce sufficient quantities of builders.
If we can’t even train enough people to build an addition, how can we expect to be a competitive nation on the international stage?
Why have we let these proud professions die?
Now, I was never a builder.
Though I am now an elected official, I previously worked in a more manual capacity.
Formerly, I worked as a coal miner at the Littleton Colliery in Cannock, Staffordshire.
Like my father and grandfather before me, I spent six years working in the mine.
There, the temperature could rise dramatically as I made my way through the cavernous tunnels, chipping away at the coal that would eventually be transported to the surface via conveyor belt.
The coal would be put to use in power plants, providing us with the energy we need to run our homes and businesses.
Just like the bricklayer, the plasterer, and the roofer, I was doing my part to construct Great Britain.
Now, Britain needs to get building again.
How can we do this?
First things first, we have to significantly expand access to apprenticeships in these fields of expertise.
The establishment’s disdain for builders and tradespeople has persisted far too long.
Our educational system is skewed in favor of sending kids to college rather than a trade school or a construction site.
However, such elitism is a mistake because it lacks long-term perspective.
A skilled tradesman can now expect to make significantly more than a college graduate.
They can avoid the mountain of debt that many college graduates face by starting their own business, all while having more control over their time and lives.
Furthermore, it is uncommon to come across an unemployed plumber or electrician.
Secondly, students need access to high-quality vocational education programs in schools and universities.
For this reason, it is essential that schools provide students with adequate opportunities to practice these skills.
Institutions of higher education should form partnerships with regional construction companies and artisans to help their students find and enter these in-demand, high-skill positions.
Businesses, recent graduates, and the British economy can all benefit from this.
Third, we need to change attitudes.
It is natural for parents to want the best for their children.
A college education was for far too long only a pipe dream for the vast majority of the population.
Elite students left for college for three years to read books and write essays, while everyone else worked.
Earning while they learn
That has changed now, and quite right too.
Young people from lower- and middle-income backgrounds have used a battering ram approach to enter these elite institutions, and the result is a new generation of brilliant thinkers.
But I’m concerned the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.
Far too many young people are pushed into higher education simply because it is expected of them, rather than because they have a genuine interest in or passion for the subject matter.
It is what their mates do.
This is the next logical step, according to their educators.
A lot of them, though, would be better off if they could get paid to learn a trade.
They can acquire the marketable abilities that the nation so desperately requires and still go home with some spending money at the end of the week.
It is time for a national shift in attitude in which bricklayers receive the same level of respect as architects.
The fact that Britain will be actively seeking construction workers abroad should serve as a wake-up call to the current administration.
Rishi Sunak needs to advocate for more apprenticeships and skilled workers in the community.
As a nation, Britain takes great pride in its long history of construction.
We must not let that die.