LEARNING A TRADE - TIPS FOR STUDENTS
The need for tradespeople is as high as ever. Even with more people attempting basic DIY around the house, tradespeople are vital members of society needed for large, complex jobs.
The recent announcement of government investments into infrastructure proves how important the industry is and why it is a fantastic career path. Similarly, with new schemes encouraging businesses to provide ‘traineeships’, the incentives to hire a beginner are even greater.
Learning a trade can be done at any age, but if you’re a student and interested in the industry, there are many paths you can take. We have delved into beginning a career as a tradesperson and have found the best tips and tricks for students. We have also looked into the benefits of employing young people and why businesses should take steps to prioritise those starting their careers.
Tips on preparing for a career in a trade
Work on your fitness
Many jobs within the trades are physically demanding as you can be on your feet all day in challenging environments. Therefore, it can be advantageous to work on your fitness if you’re looking for a skilled trader career. It can also prove your dedication to future employers! However, don’t let this element put you off a job as a tradesperson. Depending on what path you choose, every role is different, and you will have time to adapt and build the specific strength you need.
Educate yourself on health and safety measures
Whether you’re looking at becoming a plumber, bricklayer or gardener, there will be certain health and safety rules that you must follow to prevent injury.
Before you begin your career as a tradesperson, it’s sensible to educate yourself on the rules and regulations for your particular trade. This can range from equipment and PPE to legal safety measures that are taken to protect you and the general public. It will also impress future employers if you know these already.
Gain work experience
If the opportunity presents itself, getting some experience in a trade will greatly help you secure a course or apprenticeship when you come out of school. Whether it’s a Saturday or Summer job, it can be a nice introduction and let you gain some basic experience - something that’s looked at highly from a prospective employer.
If you’re enrolled in an apprenticeship or training course, you can enter competitions such as Skillbuild. Skillbuild sees trainees and apprentices from all over the UK compete in their chosen trade. A great addition to a CV, entering events like this proves you’re passionate and highlights your interest.
Decide which path you want to take
The trade industry is absolutely huge, with countless roles available in many sectors. If you’re unsure which type of role you want to go into, it’s wise to extensively research each one. From potential salaries to personal interest and career development opportunities, there’s lots of information online and your school’s career advisor may also be able to help.
Furthermore, attending events like Skillbuild as opposed to entering it may help. Many people are inspired by what they see and are provided with valuable insights into many different trades.
There are also usually two routes to becoming a qualified tradesperson: an apprenticeship or a college course. There are pros and cons to each, and there may only be one option depending on where you live. This is also something to research before you make a final decision.
Speak to a qualified professional
If you know someone in the skilled trade industry, it’s definitely worth speaking to them. Ask them to be honest about the pros and cons of their profession, and if they have any advice on how you can get involved. They might also have some helpful contacts to point you further in the right direction.
Take advantage of your time left at school
If you’re determined to get into a certain trade profession, you may be tempted to not work as hard at school. We strongly advise against this as there are plenty of hard and soft skills you can take from school into employment. Communication skills, technical skills and basic numeracy and literacy skills can greatly help you in whichever trade you choose to focus on.
Benefits of Taking Further Education For A Role In The Trades
Taking on further education in the trades industry not only trains you for the skills of the trade, but also comes with additional benefits. Studying builds focus and understanding of what a student wants with their career. This develops their enthusiasm for a career post-education and is great for prospect potential.
If you are looking for a university degree in the trades, some of the following courses may be for you. We have included percentage scores from University League tables, which are based on entry standards, student satisfaction, research quality, research intensity and graduates completing their courses.
The top three universities that provide electrical and electronic engineering courses are:
- The University of Cambridge with a 100%
- The University of Oxford with 99%
- The Imperial College of London with 98%
For building courses, the top universities are as follows:
- Heriot-Watt University and UCL (University College London) tied for first with 100%
- Loughborough University with 99%
- Ulster University with 98%
For mechanical engineering courses, the top three universities are:
- The University of Cambridge with 100%
- The Imperial College of London and the University of Oxford tied with 98%
- The University of Strathclyde with 96%
The University of Cambridge and Imperial College London are stand out universities for courses in the trades. Furthermore, Imperial College London saw a 91% chance of graduates having a career 6 months after graduating, with University of Cambridge showing 86%. Lancaster University and London South Bank both also saw high rates of students having a career 6 months post-graduation, with 89% and 88% respectively.
If you’re still unsure whether university is the right direction for you, a 2017 study reveals that 92.1% of Engineering Undergraduate students were employed after graduating. This highlights that students have strong workforce prospects after graduating, with the right skills and knowledge of the industry.
Courses and Apprenticeships for You
Universities are not the only option if you are interested in further education in the trades. A college course or apprenticeship scheme could also be a great choice.
These are some of the top training providers for apprenticeships in the trades industry, ranked out of ten by Rate My Apprenticeship:
- Leeds College of Building 9.1/10 - This college offers intermediate level 2, advanced level 3, higher level 4/5 courses, and degree apprenticeship programmes. From bricklaying to gas engineering, the college has a range of courses tailored to work in the field.
- Kirklees College 9/10 - Kirklees College offers intermediate level 2, advanced level 3 and higher level 4/5 courses in construction, motor vehicles and engineering.
- Lincoln College 8.3/10 - Lincoln College offers apprenticeships for intermediate level 2, advanced level 3 and higher level 4/5 in electrical installations and mechanical/manufacturing engineering.
Benefits of employing young people
There are many reasons why businesses should think about employing students within their organisations. Not only are you helping others further their careers, but also gaining plenty of benefits for the business too.
- In-house training means high standards from the get-go.
Your new employee will be taught to the same standards as the rest of the team, providing long-term benefits if you keep them on. There will be no bad habits or lower-quality methods that they’ve learnt elsewhere - a student will work to the same high standard as the best of those you employ..
- Young people can offer a breath of fresh air to your business.
Hiring new people, especially young people, can have a positive impact on your current employees and the business as a whole. More often than not, people just out of education bring a fresh approach and hard-working attitude and can rub off positively on others. You may also learn something from them, too.
- Young people often stay loyal to the business for longer.
When you provide the opportunity for someone to start their career, it increases the likelihood that they’ll stay loyal to your company. This can reduce recruitment costs in the future, but more importantly means you have a motivated and hard-working member of the team.
- Beginners can take on smaller jobs.
It’s common that more experienced members of the team have to neglect smaller, simpler tasks for bigger ones due to lack of staff. Hiring a beginner means they can focus on these tasks and other members of the team can concentrate on larger key areas. Offering out summer jobs to students who want to gain experience is a great way to get an extra pair of hands on board, benefit the wider team, and help accelerate somebody’s career.
- You may be able to apply for funding.
The recent announcement of the traineeship scheme sees the government giving £1000 to employers who offer work experience to 18-24 year olds. Additionally, if you’re in England and thinking about hiring an apprentice, you may be able to get government funding to cover the costs of training and assessment. This is to encourage businesses to get onboard the apprenticeship scheme and provide more on-hand learning opportunities for young people. Additionally, there are independent organisations who offer levy, grants and funding to employers. CITB is one, and their aim is to make sure the industry has the skilled workforce it needs.
- It can demonstrate your Corporate Social Responsibility.
Taking the time to employ young people shows that you are willing to invest and support them. Being involved with initiatives like this can help gain new clients, as well as attract future employees who can become assets to your company.