Apprentices outshine graduates for salary, says FMB

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB), a national organisation representing small building firms, has undertaken research that shows the earning potential for apprentices in the construction industry, showing they are very likely to earn more than graduates.

The FMB surveyed members across the country for what they paid tradespeople across a range of disciplines, and compared them to average salaries reported for other industries that are normally taken by university and college graduates.

Site managers are typically the highest paid, averaging £51,266 a year nationally, with plumbers and electricians also earning very well. Some of the skilled workforce is found to be commanding much more. These are some of the national averages the survey found:

  • Site managers , £51,266
  • Plumbers, £48,675
  • Supervisors, £48,407
  • Electricians, £47,265
  • Roofers, £42,303
  • Bricklayers, £42,034
  • Carpenters and joiners, £41,413
  • Plasterers, £41,045
  • Scaffolders, £40,942
  • Painters and decorators, £34,587
  • General construction operatives, £32,392

These averages compare very well to some of the averages of other disciplines, such as pharmacists (£42,252), teachers (£37,805), qualified accountants (£37,748) and vets (£36, 446).

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, says: “Money talks and when it comes to annual salaries, a career in construction trumps many university graduate roles. The average university graduate in England earns £32,000 a year whereas our latest research shows that your average bricky or roofer is earning £42,000 a year across the UK. Pursuing a career in construction is therefore becoming an increasingly savvy move.”

Barry Mortimer, director of FMB London, says of his region: “Construction apprentices are set to earn significantly more each year than many of their university-educated peers. Our latest research shows that your average electrician in London is earning £58,000 per year and bricklayers aren’t far behind, earning £53,000 a year. What’s more, some bricklayers in London are commanding wages of up to £90,000 a year.”

Ifan Glyn, director of FMB Cymru, adds: “The FMB’s latest research shows that your average bricky or roofer in Wales is earning £42,000. Comparatively, many university graduates such as teachers and chartered accountants are earning significantly less. In Swansea, there are scaffolders commanding wages of up to £132,000 a year.”

The survey also pointed out that unlike apprentices, graduates often start their careers with huge debt. “University students in England will graduate with an average £50,800 of debt, according to The Institute for Fiscal Studies, while apprentices pass the finish line completely debt-free,” says Berry. “Not only that, apprentices earn while they learn, taking home around £17,000 a year. We are therefore calling on all parents, teachers and young people, who too-often favour academic education, to give a career in construction serious consideration.”

The industry’s widespread skills shortage − something highlighted in National Apprenticeship Week − is seen as one reason why those qualified in these construction trades are able to earn so much. Gordon Nelson, director of FMB Scotland, says: “We’re in dire need of more young people to join our sector. The FMB’s latest research shows that more than two-thirds of construction SMEs are struggling to hire bricklayers and 63% are having problems hiring carpenters.”

Gavin McGuire, director of FMB Northern Ireland, sums up the organisation’s determination to help resolve the skills problem: “The construction industry is in the midst of a severe skills crisis and the only way we can guarantee enough skilled workers in construction in the future is by persuading the next generation to join us. The FMB is committed to working with the wider industry and the government to encourage more new entrants into the sector. It is the only way we will build a sustainable skills base.”

Come to listen and talk about housebuilding careers – apprenticeship, diversity, training and leadership – at our New Homes Debate in London on Thursday 15 March 2018.

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