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10 Common Misconceptions About Tradespeople

Trainee electrician taking notes at the workshop bench as two other trainees work in a bay

Tradespeople are hardworking and honest, from plasterers and painters to gas engineers and electricians. They all have a skill and want to do their jobs without hassle. Regrettably, several common misconceptions about tradespeople taint the industry, leaving homeowners untrusting and others put off starting a career in the trades.

1. It isn’t easy to find a job

With a booming housing market, increasing population and homeowners spending billions on renovations, all kinds of tradespeople are in high demand across the UK. 

Brits are said to have spent £110 billion on home improvements through the recent pandemic, which has meant an increase in demand. So much so that some tradespeople have to turn down work as they can’t do it all. As a result, there is more than enough work to go around, making it a perfect time to learn a trade.

2. All tradespeople are cowboys

Unfortunately, as is often the case, a few people can ruin it for everyone. According to Consumer Rights Expert, there are at least 100,000 complaints about cowboy builders each year.

There’s no denying that there are cowboy builders that aren’t qualified or skilled enough to complete the jobs they undertake. As a result, they leave people with unfinished work on their properties or, worse, in dangerous situations.

That said, they are in the minority – they just get more publicity than the good ones. There are thousands of professional, honest and qualified tradespeople out there. For instance, there are currently over 140,000 registered gas engineers and more than 76,000 businesses on the Gas Safe Register alone.

It can be hard to trust tradespeople when people see, read, or hear things about rogue traders. That’s why tradespeople must show off their work, qualifications and expertise, providing peace of mind for customers.

3. They’re overpriced

Over five million results will appear when you enter ‘why are tradesmen so expensive?’ on a search engine. But are tradespeople expensive? Or is this just another one of the common misconceptions?

Tradespeople have to earn a living. It’s also important to remember that to complete that job, they’ve trained and gained experience and knowledge for years.

Consider material costs, the time to travel and buy them, transport and fuel to the job, and labour costs. Not to mention the extra time spent writing up invoices and doing other paperwork. So, there’s much more to being a tradesperson than people might think.

According to Tradesman Saver, the average daily rates in the trades are as follows:*

  • Carpenters: £120 – £150
  • Bricklayer:  £155
  • Labourer: £100 – £160
  • Electricians: £150 – £200
  • Plumbers: £150 – £200
  • Builders: £120 – £200
  • Gardeners: £90 – £160

*This is an average. Prices vary depending on location and how skilled/experienced a tradesperson is. 

Electrical trainee working on consumer unit wiring

4. You can’t earn a good wage

How much you earn will depend on your skills and experience in your chosen trade and where in the UK you are based. However, electricians and gas engineers make well above the UK national average. 

Gas engineers earn, on average, a substantial £37,500. (Source: Reed.co.uk) which is well above the average UK salary of £29,600 per year (Source: UK.Jobted)

In addition, when you’re self-employed, which is common in the trades, you set your rates and decide how often you work. This combined means your earning potential could be even higher!

5. They don’t clean up after themselves

Some rumours are going around about electricians on-site and amongst those in the trades. More specifically, that electricians aren’t very tidy.

This, of course, isn’t strictly true. In every trade, there are those who clean up after themselves and those who don’t. Luckily, those who don’t are in the minority and a bugbear of other tradespeople and customers alike.

In fact, On The Tools found that the second most annoying thing about the other trades is those who don’t clean up after themselves for tradespeople.

So, when looking to hire a tradesperson, customers can be safe knowing that the vast majority are tidy.

If you’re a tradesperson, make sure you swill your mug out, sweep up any dust and wipe the surfaces at the end of each day. You’ll probably find it increases your chances of a good review and recommendations.

6. Tradespeople are uneducated

The term working class is defined as “the social group consisting of people who are employed for wages, especially in manual or industrial work.” (Source: Oxford) So naturally, many people in the trades industry are from a working-class background. The problem comes with the stereotypes that surround working-class people.

TV and other media depict working-class people as less educated than middle or upper-class people.

Stephanie Lawler, a British sociologist, found that media representations of working-class communities focus on what the homes lack. Not just in terms of material items but “a lack of ‘taste,’ knowledge’, and the ‘right ways of being and doing (Source: QZ).

So, with working-class people viewed as uneducated and tradespeople mainly from working-class backgrounds, the misconception that tradespeople are uneducated continues. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Whether working as an electrician or builder, carpenter or welder, you must train and learn a lot to become a professional.

Though trades roles may not necessarily require attending university, it’s important to remember that attending university isn’t the only signifier of intelligence and skill. For example, gas engineers and electricians train for years to become qualified. And after that, they continue to undergo on-site training and written and practical exams to update their knowledge and skills.

7. They’re lazy

Laziness isn’t a trait of a tradesperson. Laziness is the sign of a cowboy tradesperson.

Many tradespeople join the trade at a young age, following in their parent’s footsteps. Others go into another industry before deciding they’re better suited to a more manual role. Finally, some enter the trades at an older age, pursuing the career they’ve always wanted. Though their start points may be different, what they all have in common is the passion they have for their job.

A survey by Ironmongery Direct. found that 72% of tradespeople surveyed were happy or very happy in their current role. In addition, 70% would recommend their jobs to others. And it says a lot that plumbers have been named the happiest workers in Britain.

Tradespeople don’t work for half a day and skive off for the rest or sit around drinking tea. Instead, they put a lot of time and effort into their work. As a result, you’ll often find them working late to finish a job for a customer, and a large percentage offer a 24/7 emergency call-out service to help those in urgent situations.

8. They’re bad at time-keeping

Everyone has days when they’re a little late. Alarms fail to go off and traffic during rush hour is unavoidable.

According to a study by Heathrow Express, an average of 590,000 workers in the UK show up late every day.

Perpetual lateness, however? Not ok.

Thankfully, most tradespeople have excellent time-keeping skills, and why wouldn’t they? They have a diary to keep. If they turn up late to one job, it will only delay the start of another job. Therefore, putting them in a backlog and under a lot of pressure, the only way to rectify it is to cancel jobs or work late.

Again, this is another common misconception of tradespeople that persists due to a small number of people.

Trainee electrician stood on a stepladder in the workshop bay

9. Tradespeople don’t do small jobs

Many tradespeople prefer getting stuck into big projects, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, smaller jobs are precisely the kind of work they want.

Those small jobs are perfect for when they have a day or two free. For example, a plasterer may be able to render a whole property, but they’ll still be more than happy to plaster a box bedroom or porch.

You’ll often come across a standard line on many tradespeoples’ websites and other forms of advertising. ‘No job too big or too small’. And it’s true.

10. Trades are only for men

Traditionally, it was unusual to see women working in the trades industry, but that’s changing. 

A study by GoCompare Van found that the number of women taking on trade jobs in the UK is increasing. There has been a 366% rise in women taking on construction and engineering apprenticeships, with painting and decorating, plumbing and heating and electrics being the most popular trade jobs.

There is still some way to go in encouraging more women to pick up a trade and remove the misconceptions about women in the trades, but things are moving in the right direction.

Common misconceptions about tradespeople

Customers must know what to look for when hiring a tradesperson to avoid cowboys. However, it is also important to remember that the number of honest, hardworking tradespeople vastly outweighs the number of cowboys.

The trades are an excellent career path that can provide a sizeable salary, job progression and flexible work-life balance, to name a few!

If you’re interested in becoming a tradesperson, Options Skills delivers a wide range of gas and electrical courses to help you start your career. 

All data correct at time of publication.