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Home Tradesman Insights UK Faces Talent Drain: The Risk of Losing Tradespeople to Opportunities Abroad

UK Faces Talent Drain: The Risk of Losing Tradespeople to Opportunities Abroad

The UK construction industry is facing a growing shortage of skilled tradespeople, with new data showing that many are looking abroad for better opportunities.

According to recent research by Rated People, 63% of UK trades are currently experiencing labour shortages. Over the past year, there have been over 1 million Google searches in the UK for trade jobs overseas, indicating a strong desire to work abroad.

Allure of “Giga Projects” in Saudi Arabia

One country attracting significant interest is Saudi Arabia, where searches for construction jobs have risen 293% in the past 12 months. The Gulf state is undergoing massive investment in infrastructure and tourism projects, providing ample job prospects for skilled British tradespeople.

Saudi Arabia has undertaken several high-profile “giga projects”, like the NEOM megacity, requiring huge numbers of workers. GlobalData projects a 4% average annual growth in Saudi’s construction market over the next four years.

Carpenters, plumbers, painters, and other trades have been disproportionately searching for work in Australia too, with searches up by over 150% year-over-year in many cases. Improved quality of life, high wages, and escape from the UK’s cost-of-living crisis appear to be driving factors.

Stemming the Talent Drain

With Brexit reducing European labour supply and an ageing workforce nearing retirement, the UK’s construction labour shortage is poised to worsen without intervention.

The average age of a UK construction worker is over 55, meaning a wave of retirements is imminent. And not enough youth are entering the industry, with only 10,000 enrolling in vocational T-Level programs in 2022-23.

More promotion of construction careers in schools is needed to attract youth. The government must also enhance vocational programs like T-Levels and incentivise SMEs to take on apprentices. Otherwise, the talent drain of British trades workers abroad is likely to continue.

Tradesman Talk

Are you a UK tradesperson who has considered working overseas? Or are you a business owner who has lost workers to opportunities abroad? How can the government better support you and the wider industry?

Let us know your views in the comments, and don’t forget to share this story by clicking the social links.

Until next time, make sure it’s Tradesman Saver.

Stephanie Lowndes

Stephanie is a Digital Marketing Masters Graduate with extensive Customer Service experience gained in the retail and hospitality sectors. Stephanie is currently a Senior Marketing Executive at Tradesman Saver.

All articles by Stephanie Lowndes

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