Scaffolders earn more than architects, UK body says

Such is the state of the UK’s construction skills crisis that scaffolders now earn more than architects, a UK trade body has claimed.

The annual average salary of a scaffolder is now £40,942, according to a survey of smaller building companies, whereas that of a university-trained architect is just £38,228, says the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

In fact, plasterers, bricklayers, plumbers and electricians are all taking home more in pay a year than architects now, and not just architects but other professionals including teachers, veterinarians, nurses, and accountants, the FMB says (see list below).

The highest reported annual salary for bricklayers in London was £90,000 a year.

The FMB used its findings to urge young people to enter the construction industry through paid apprenticeships rather than rack up debt getting a degree.

"Money talks and when it comes to annual salaries, a career in construction trumps many university graduate roles," said FMB chief executive Brian Berry.

The research was carried out in the week commencing 29th January 2018 among FMB members.

Building firms across the UK were asked what they pay their tradespeople and the results, based on responses from 313 companies, showed that average annual salaries were as follows:

  1. Site managers earn £51,266;
  2. Plumbers earn £48,675;
  3. Supervisors earn £48,407;
  4. Electricians earn £47,265;
  5. Civil engineering operatives earn £44,253;
  6. Steel fixers earn £44,174;
  7. Roofers earn £42,303;
  8. Bricklayers earn £42,034;
  9. Carpenters and joiners earn £41,413;
  10. Plasterers earn £41,045;
  11. Scaffolders earn £40,942;
  12. Floorers earn £39,131;
  13. Plant operatives earn £38,409;
  14. Painters and decorators earn £34,587;
  15. General construction operatives earn £32,392.

The FMB compared these figures to what government statistics say are the average annual salaries earned in popular professions:

  • Pharmacists earn £42,252;
  • Dental practitioners earn £40,268;
  • Architects earn £38,228;
  • Teachers earn £37,805;
  • Chartered and certified accountants earn £37,748;
  • Midwives earn £36,188;
  • Veterinarians earn £36,446;
  • Physiotherapists earn £32,065;
  • Nurses earn £31,867.

"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. In London, a bricklayer is commanding wages of up to £90,000 a year," said Berry.

"Pursuing a career in construction is therefore becoming an increasingly savvy move. 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.

"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."

Berry concluded: "The construction industry is in the midst of an acute skills crisis and we are in dire need of more young people, including women and ethnic minorities, to join us. Our latest research shows that more than two-thirds of construction SMEs are struggling to hire bricklayers and 63 per cent are having problems hiring carpenters.

"This is a stark reminder of how the Government’s housing targets could be scuppered by a lack of skilled workers. The FMB is committed to working with the Government to improve the quality and quantity of apprenticeships because the only way we will build a sustainable skills base is by training more young people, and to a high standard."

Image: The annual average salary of a scaffolder is now £40,942, according to a survey of smaller building companies (National Access & Scaffolding Confederation)

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  1. Yet again the UK construction industry continues to fail to “keep up with Jones” The amount of scaffolding used in the UK is like the Dark Ages compared with North America.

    Also there is a determined approach to not have workers working outside the building floor plates.

    The UK waste millions on temporary scaffolding rather than investing in modern equipment.

    Perhaps this is a reflection of the mind set of the Carillion management.

  2. This is utter nonsense. PAYE trades get less than 30k a year. Self employed trades can earn good money on one job and then earn nothing for weeks or months. Its been feast and famine like this for at least the last 40 years.

  3. Child: “When I grow up, I want to be a doctor.”
    Parent: ”No son, you want to be a self employed scaffolder.”

    Anyone else think that this is likely to happen?
    Saying that the industry should try to deter young people from pursuing vocations to enter trades is ridiculous, concentrate on attracting them from similar industries such as engineering or manufacturing

  4. well if there is any truth in these statement, and like Andrew Hall, I don’t believe all I read, There won’t be many Architects around to design the buildings for all these operatives to the money this report seems to suggest.

  5. Does any one remember the formation of the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) in the 1970’s and the reason why it was formed?

    Construction companies were charged a levy that was based on turnover and this was then given to fund and support the CITB. In return the CITB was supposed to ensure there would be an adequate supply of trained and skilled workers to meet the demands of the industry. The objective was therefore to monitor the economy ensuring the construction industry would not be faced with the problem of labour supply and skill shortages.

    I understand the levy is still being collected but throughout my working life and since the formation of the CITB there has constantly been problems with the supply of skilled labour.

    Has the CITB failed in its mandate to predict, strategically manage and train the supply of labour to meet the demands of the construction industry? I wonder if this has been one of the main reasons for the distortion in the labour market over the years and the reason why we now have the present pay differentials.

  6. Are similar average earnings available for the year 2009/2010, or why not take a 5 or 10 year average to obtain a more reliable picture? Why sensationalise?

  7. Absolutely true this report. The self employed are living the dream life. Perhaps its a wake up call for the PAYE employees who believe in holiday pay and job for life security. This bricklayers and scaffolder are turning the table of career earning. Food for thought.

  8. I am a steelfixer and would say that my earnings are similar to your findings. However I work between 50 and 85 hours a week for my money, have no job security, pension and will be expected to work in all weather’s and conditions until I am 67. I wonder how architects compare?

  9. it’s true that tradies earn more per year at the moment, but over a life long career, non-practical work still earn more. the main reason is most brickies and chippies are completely worn out by fifty- if they make it to fifty and are still working. all expereinced trades i know are usually in some sort of physical pain. joints and back pain are the most common…

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