New figures from a survey commissioned by JIB, JTL and ECA show that a quarter (25 per cent) of people aged 18 to 24 think low pay levels are a barrier to a career in the electrotechnical and plumbing industries. This figure rises to 40 per cent among respondents from ethnic minority (BAME) groups.
27 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds also perceive a lack of opportunities for career progression.
Findings indicate a lack of guidance from teachers and career advisors around careers in the electrical and plumbing industries. Only one per cent of all respondents were advised to consider an electrical or plumbing career by teachers, and two per cent by school career advisors.
Contrary to these perceptions, pay levels are in fact relatively high compared to average earnings in other industries. For example, according to figures published by the FMB in March, site managers, plumbers and electricians earn the highest average annual salaries of all trade professions, with £51,226, £48,675 and £47,265 respectively.
Routes into an industry career have undergone many changes in recent years and are now more varied than ever. The electrotechnical trailblazer remains one of the most popular apprenticeships in the UK. New options including the Technical Baccalaureate and traineeships can now provide further routes into an apprenticeship and open the door to further promotion within the industry.
Andrew Eldred, ECA Director of Employment and Skills, commented: “There are plenty of routes into the electrotechnical and plumbing industries, with a vast array of jobs at the end. These figures show that perceptions are still skewed among young people, who are the future of our industry. Add to that the finding that careers advisors are not talking to them about these options, and it becomes clear that more needs to be done if we want to see a world-leading cohort of electricians and plumbers emerge in the next few years.”
“Our own President Mike Smith began his career aged 16 as an apprentice, and went on to become Director of SES Engineering Services and President of the ECA. Mike’s story is proof that apprenticeships can be a springboard for careers that reach the very top.”
Jon Graham, Chief Executive of JTL, commented: “Here at JTL we’re allocating significant resources into attracting young women and those from the BAME communities into apprenticeships. We have a successful Ambassador programme that sees more than thirty of our apprentices taking on an ambassador role to talk to others about the decisions they have made to enter an electrical or heating and plumbing apprenticeship and to dispel the negative myths that still pervade these target groups.”
“There are challenges for any young person taking up an apprenticeship and it is our experience that many of those from minority groups are as successful in their studies and work experience as anyone, so the more we can attract to give it a try, the better represented they will be in the professions in the years to come.”
Steve Brawley, Chief Executive of the JIB, added: “The findings of the survey are not surprising given the lack of information given to young people about a career as an electrician. Earnings levels of electricians are significantly higher than average earnings and there are tremendous career opportunities. Young people aspire to careers which pay well and provide prospects. Our industry needs to do more to promote this message.”
Despite considerable career opportunities in the electrical and plumbing industries, respondents were seven times more likely to consider a career as a doctor or lawyer, and ten times more likely to consider a career as a teacher.
These findings come just a few weeks after it was revealed by JIB, JTL and ECA that half of young women are put off technical careers due concerns about a lack of gender diversity.
JTL runs a thriving apprenticeship ambassador scheme focused on women and BAME groups, ECA runs a successful award for apprentice of the year, and JIB runs a long-standing apprentice exchange programme. ECA and JIB both have policies and guidance for members on fair and open recruitment.