JTL Blog

The truth about careers in the electrical and plumbing sector

plumber in kitchen

Are careers in the electrical and plumbing industries a good choice for young people? Well, here at JTL we know they are … but it seems that’s not a view necessarily understood or shared by young people.

The average salary for an electrician is more than £30,000 according to last year’s survey by the Office of National Statistics (ONS). That means electricians remain the best paid tradespeople, earning average salaries that far exceed those of carpenters, plasterers, roofers and tilers. Plumbers are second in line, with take-home pay that averages just above £28,500.

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) did some research of their own in March this year and they came back with much higher figures. They claim that site managers, plumbers and electricians earn average annual salaries of £51,226, £48,675 and £47,265 respectively.

Whichever you choose to believe, remember those are average figures so there are plenty of electricians and plumbers earning a lot more!

All that aside, we decided to carry out some research of our own* looking at perceptions of pay in the building services industry. Shockingly, we found that 25 per cent of people aged 18-24 years old are put off electrotechnical and plumbing careers by what they perceive to be low pay levels. Look at those aged 18-24 from ethnic minority (BAME) groups and that figures shoots up to 40 per cent.

Where are these perceptions (clearly way off beam) coming from and why aren’t we doing more to correct them? The future of our electrical and plumbing industries depends on a steady flow of high quality, motivated young people, keen to learn the skills of the trade, climb the ladder and become our next-generation business owners and employers.

So, we really need to bust these myths … and fast! A quarter of young people are dismissing electrical and plumbing careers without even giving them proper consideration, possibly because of a nmisplaced understanding.

It’s time that we all rallied around to spread some good news about the electrotechnical and plumbing industries. The pay is good; demand is plentiful (and will continue to be, despite an ever-changing wider workplace); the working environment is well regulated; and the opportunities to earn flexibly and independently (not to mention internationally) are wide and varied.

It all seems to fit the demands of today’s school and college leavers, so why the mismatch?

Our research (conducted by YouGov amongst 2,150 adults aged over 18) showed that only two per cent of respondents were advised to consider an electrical or plumbing career by their school careers adviser. They were seven times more likely to consider a career as a doctor or lawyer and ten times for more to opt for teaching as they were to stop and think about electrical and plumbing.

This evidences our belief that accurate and helpful careers information just isn’t making it through the school system to learners. As a result, young people simply don’t know enough about the benefits of a career in electrical or plumbing.

We need to work harder to get our message across if we’re to protect the future of our industry.

That’s why JTL has a team of apprentice ambassadors, whose role is to help spread the word to other young people about the benefits these careers can bring. That’s why we’re actively trying to engage with young people, parents, employers and mentors to encourage them to spread the word too.

Young people need to know that traineeships and apprenticeships are the starting point for a great career and can also be the spring board to a university degree, a management role or an independent and entrepreneurial future.

We need to kick the misunderstandings into touch, give our young people the opportunity to make well-informed careers choices, and safeguard the future of our industry.

There are plenty of excellent courses available across the country to help school leavers train for a role in the electrotechnical and plumbing fields. There’s plenty of information out there too. We’re a great starting point (just go to jtltraining.com) but there are other sources too!


*JTL’s research was conducted by YouGov for JTL, the ECA (Electrical Contractors’ Association) and the JIB (Joint Industry Board). It took place via an online survey on 20th and 21st February 2018.

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