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:
- Site managers earn £51,266;
- Plumbers earn £48,675;
- Supervisors earn £48,407;
- Electricians earn £47,265;
- Civil engineering operatives earn £44,253;
- Steel fixers earn £44,174;
- Roofers earn £42,303;
- Bricklayers earn £42,034;
- Carpenters and joiners earn £41,413;
- Plasterers earn £41,045;
- Scaffolders earn £40,942;
- Floorers earn £39,131;
- Plant operatives earn £38,409;
- Painters and decorators earn £34,587;
- 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)