Since a great deal of my time involves the finding and vetting of tradesmen on behalf of my clients, it goes without saying that the dwindling numbers of quality craftsmen (and sometimes women) are of concern to me.
Many formally trained and qualified people are reaching a certain age and therefore looking towards throttling back. However, they are not, unfortunately, being replaced at the same rate as their decline. Whilst there are still many good quality, motivated and genuine tradesmen out there, the ratio between good and not so good has taken a downward shift over the past 20 years and is showing no signs of improving any time soon.
One of the major reasons for the decline is that youngsters leaving school do not have the same motivation towards any form of manual work. I left school at 15 and by the age of 16 was embroiled in the construction industry. It was instilled in me to learn a trade for the good of my future. I had been brought up to recognise the value of hard work and so the building industry was considered the way forward. I had a thirst for knowledge that took me through a five year carpentry apprenticeship followed by numerous management and surveying courses. That same thirst still carries me on today following the invention of Modern Methods of Construction, Sustainability and Energy Performance. Sadly today, that attitude is rare, with a construction future being the last resort rather than a first. Couple that with the average 16 year olds attention span lasting the length of a short computer game and what chance do we have of recruiting someone who needs to invest several years before he can boast of being a tradesman. The 16 year old wants to be a chippy after five weeks not five years and quickly earn the big bucks. Also, what about the embarrassment of mum dropping him off at work the same as she has for the past 12 years!
16 year olds are seduced (and more than a little pressured my mum and dad) into "further education" which is mainly a numbers game for governments and universities. How often do we hear of uni graduates being unable to find a job at 23 ecause the 3 year B.A. degree in underwater basket weaving proved to be not so useful as advertised. If a young lad leaves school at 16 nowadays, he is considered uneducated and borderline useless.
Another purptrator to the dwindling numbers of high quality trained tradesmen is the unhealthy attitude of the employer. For most small and medium sized jobs, the main criteria is cost rather than quality. This thinking breeds the introduction of "trades" who's training took the form of a job seekers 6 week course and so will work for less than the man who formally trained for 5 years. One thing is for sure, if you are getting the works done cheap then you are getting a cheap job. Can you really expect the quality when you continually haggle down the price? The enormous influx of low earning Europen workers over the past decade is mainly down to the perpetual want for the employer to get the job done cheap. There are many seasoned trades men from Europe, however, my experience is that whilst they provide the enthusiasm and hard work ethic, the majority sadly lack in the understanding of our construction methods and regulations, making them a difficult entity unsupervised. You don't have to be Einsteinski to work out the probability of the works being completed on time, technically correct and to a high quality, but until our tradesmen are shown the respect for their training reflected in the amount they are paid, then the whole topic spins on its axis.
Of course there are many building workers who not only charge a lot but provide an inferior job and that's where my role comes into play. There are still, thankfully, a number of well informed, formally trained craftsmen out there and when I bring a team of such to the table, you can be sure that my experience and experiences have ensured the best quality for the budget.
However, the job becomes more challenging with the passing of time and tradesmen.