What are the 4 main sectors of skilled trades?


Having a skilled trade under your belt can set you up with a job for life. As Logic4training, the UK’s leading building services training provider points out, there are many reasons why people choose the skilled trades as a long-term career option. These include:
• On-going demand from customers
• Cheaper training options than paying for university fees
• Chance to learn while you work
• Opportunity to be your own boss and set your own hours
• Good salary and future earning potential
• Rewarding career and job satisfaction
If you’re thinking about striking out on your own as a self-employed tradesman, you’re not alone. According to the latest figures, self-employed workers now make up around 15% of the UK population – a figure that’s been steadily rising since 2001.
Better still, the number of skilled tradespeople bagging a six-figure sum for their annual turnover has risen by 60% since 2015.
Of course, there is plenty to learn about setting up your business, from creating a business plan and marketing to getting the right tradesman insurance. But for now, let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular skilled trades in the UK, to see where there is most demand (and most opportunity).

Main sectors for skilled trades

According to the Office of National Statistics’ (ONS) Standard Occupational Classification, there are four major sectors for skilled trades. These are:
• Skilled agricultural and related trades
• Skilled metal, electrical and electronic trades
• Skilled construction and building trades
• Textiles, printing and other skilled trades

Agricultural trades

Working in agriculture can be a challenging yet very rewarding experience. Skilled careers in this sector can relate to jobs cultivating crops, catching fish for human consumption, raising animals, growing plants and trees for sale, tending gardens and parks, attending to the upkeep of sports pitches and taking care of areas of forestry.
Worryingly, a recent survey by Barclays Bank, cited on Country Living, found that only 3% of millennials thought that agriculture was a desirable career option. It uncovered that nearly 40% of farmers in the UK were over the age of 65 and that the number of people under 25 running farms had slipped to 63% in the last decade.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the many challenges the agriculture industry faces nowadays, it still provides a viable, rewarding job option for those people who want to be their own boss, engage in physical rather than desk-based activities, and live a life that’s based in the great outdoors surrounded by nature.
The types of job that fall into this sector include:
• Farmers
• Horticultural trades
• Gardeners and landscape gardeners
• Groundsmen and green keepers
• Agricultural and fishing trades

Metal and electrical trades

This next sector includes job roles relating to the erection of metal structures, operating machinery, assembling parts, maintaining motor vehicles and installing, testing and repairing industrial, domestic and commercial electrical equipment.
Common jobs in this sector include:
• Welders
• Pipe fitters
• CNC machinist
• Refrigeration engineer
• Vehicle technician
• HGV mechanic
• MOT tester
• Aircraft engineer
• Boat builder
The Migration Advisory Committee has recently included electrical engineers on the UK’s skills shortage list, so it’s definitely a sector where professionals are in demand. As Engineering UK points out, some of the core occupations in demand right now include:
• Civil engineers
• Electrical engineers
• Mechanical engineers
• Quality control and planning engineers
• Welding trades
And there’s even more good news for skilled electricians – the 2019 Trades Salary Survey from TradeSkills4U, based on official ONS data, found that the average ‘Sparkie’ salary had risen 5% in the last year to £32,315. That brings electrician salaries just in front of plumbers at £31,055 and carpenters at £27,236.

Construction trades

As the government aims to build 300,000 new homes every year by the mid-2020s, it’s looking like skilled construction tradespeople will be in high demand for years to come.
Popular skilled trade roles in this sector include:
• Bricklayers
• Masons
• Roofers
• Plumbers
• Carpenters and joiners
• Glaziers
• Gas engineers
Figures cited by Simply Business found that roofers were some of the most highly paid workers in this sector, with average turnover hitting just over £65,000 a year. Joiners followed closely in second place, with an average turnover of just over £56,000.
Simply Business also suggested that your average turnover will be affected by where you live. For instance, carpenters in Sheffield enjoyed the highest average turnover, as did bricklayers in Southampton and electricians in Edinburgh.

Textiles and related trades

This sector encompasses many different trades across textiles, printing and food preparation. Popular job roles include:
• Weavers and knitters
• Tailors and dressmakers
• Print finishing supervisor
• Butchers
• Bakers
• Fishmongers
• Chefs
• Catering and bar managers
While UK butcher numbers may be struggling following the rise of vegetarianism and veganism in the UK, the aging profile of these skilled tradespeople is also a cause for concern. According to figures from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, cited in The Guardian, 75% of butchers have been working in the profession for more than two decades. Time, then, for some fresh thinking and diversification in this sector – a great business opportunity in an industry where UK consumers are still spending £18.3 billion a year.
The popularity of shows like The Great British Bake Off has also seen a rise in the number of artisan bakery businesses popping up around the UK. The UK bakery market is estimated to have a retail sales value of £3.8 billion, so plenty of opportunity to set up your very own bakery business and turn that hobby into a proper business venture with the right training.

Protecting your business with contractor insurance

Whatever type of trade you end up choosing, you need to make sure you and your business are protected by contractor insurance. Everything from your tools to your business equipment and legal expenses can be protected.

Contractor combined insurance can include cover for negligence, public liability, professional indemnity insurance, employers’ liability, business insurance, Buildings insurance, contents insurance and business interruption


Frequently asked questions


What is the most in demand skilled trade in the UK?

In the United Kingdom, the demand for skilled trades varies across sectors, yet one consistently in-demand skilled trade is that of construction and maintenance contractors. With a significant emphasis on infrastructure development and refurbishment projects, contractors specialised in construction, electrical, plumbing, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) services are experiencing a substantial demand. This trend is driven by both residential renovations and large-scale commercial developments. As the UK continues to focus on sustainable building practices and energy efficiency improvements, contractors with expertise in these areas are particularly sought after, highlighting their pivotal role in the UK’s evolving construction landscape.

What are the main benefits of being a contractor in the UK?

One of the main benefits of being a contractor in the UK is the potential for higher earning opportunities compared to permanent employment. Contractors often receive significantly higher daily or hourly rates, reflecting the specialised skills and flexibility they offer. Additionally, contractors enjoy greater autonomy over their work schedules and project choices, allowing for a more balanced and tailored professional life. This flexibility extends to the ability to take on diverse projects, enhancing skill development and professional growth. Furthermore, contractors can optimise their tax efficiency through various legal frameworks, such as operating through a limited company, thus maximising their take-home pay.

Do I need contractor insurance as a contractor working in the UK?

As a contractor operating within the UK, securing contractor insurance is a prudent decision that safeguards your business against potential liabilities and unforeseen risks. This form of insurance can include several types, such as professional indemnity, public liability, and employers' liability insurance, each designed to cover specific scenarios that could otherwise financially cripple your operations. Whether you're a sole trader or run a contracting firm, the law mandates certain insurance types, such as employers' liability insurance if you have employees. Having contractor insurance also enhances your credibility with clients, demonstrating a professional commitment to safeguarding your projects and their interests.

How does professional indemnity insurance impact a contractor?

Professional indemnity insurance significantly impacts a contractor working in the UK by providing essential protection against claims of negligence or professional misconduct. This type of insurance safeguards contractors from financial losses arising from legal actions and compensation claims, ensuring their business operations remain uninterrupted.

Additionally, holding professional indemnity insurance enhances a contractor's credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of clients, often making it a prerequisite for securing contracts. In an increasingly litigious environment, such insurance is indispensable for mitigating risks and maintaining professional reputation, ultimately contributing to long-term business sustainability.