Home » Student Resources » What Are The Trades?

What Are The Trades?

Two gas trainees installing copper piping

The trades are a vast industry of various roles, skills and specialities. Generally, “tradesperson” or “skilled worker” describes those who completed vocational education, including on-site training/work experience.

The trades are divided into three categories. First is the skilled industry trades, including welders, mechanics and programmers. The construction trades include electricians, bricklayers and gas engineers. The final of the three is the skilled service trades, covering nurses, therapists and aides. (Source: JCISD)

With the industry ever-evolving and the housing market increasing, there is a huge demand across all sectors of the trades industry. And with fewer people taking up the trades, the need only increases – meaning there’s never been a better time to learn a trade and join the industry.

But you may wonder what roles make up the trades industry. As stated above, there are three categories, but we’ll be focusing on the construction trades for now.

Brick Layer
Electrician – Commercial
Electrician – Domestic
Gas Engineer
Painter & Decorator

Brick Layer

  • Bricklayers lay bricks, pre-cut stone and concrete blocks in mortar. (Source: Go Construct) The projects you’ll work on vary from repairs to walls, arches, and chimneys to creating the building’s external shell.
  • Though no formal qualifications are required to be a bricklayer, some companies may favour those with site experience or GCSE in specific subjects, e.g. maths and English.
  • As your expertise increases, you may choose to specialise in heritage or stonemasonry. Alternatively, you can move into apprentice training or supervising.


  • As a builder, you could work on the construction, maintenance and repair, renovation or remodelling of housing, non-residential property and industrial and commercial spaces.
  • You’ll start your career by prepping and cleaning areas, assisting the more experienced workers, helping with smaller tasks, and doing plenty of heavy lifting. As your experience level increases, you’ll gain more responsibility and work on more complex tasks and projects.
  • Some builders work their way up and become supervisors or managers, while others specialise in particular skills or projects. E.g. Some builders specialise in building domestic extensions.

Tradespeople using a drill to drill a hole in a piece of wood


  • Carpentry is the art of cutting, working, and joining timber. You’ll usually find two types of carpentry.
    • Rough: carpenters in this field generally work on the frame of a building. They’ll build the walls, floors, ceilings, etc., to create the skeleton of a property.
    • Finish: work includes flooring, staircases and trims. Due to these being visible, they’re required to be aesthetically pleasing, thus being finely detailed and neatly finished.
  • Colleges and training providers offer carpentry courses, requiring particular GCSEs depending on your desired qualification level. Otherwise, many learn carpentry through apprenticeships or work their way up alongside a professional.
  • Carpenters can move into specialised fields such as cabinet making or industrial or supervisor and training roles.

Electrician — Commerical

  • Any electrician requires basic electrical industry knowledge, but you’ll need an industry-recognised NVQ level 3 qualification to work as a commercial electrician.
  • Qualified to work on larger electrical systems than domestic electricians, you’ll be able to work in commercial buildings such as offices, restaurants and retail stores.
  • Commercial electricians often build their own businesses, while others move into supervising or training.

Electrician — Domestic

  • As a domestic electrician, you’ll typically work in domestic settings such as houses and flats. Typical jobs include installing lighting, switches and sockets, and replacing/repairing fuse boxes.
  • To become a domestic electrician, you can complete a college or private training course or an apprenticeship.
  • Many people start their electrical careers as domestic installers before working to gain further qualifications to improve their skills and earning potential.

Trainee gas engineer working on a gas cooker

Gas Engineer

  • Gas engineers are responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing gas appliances, including boilers, fires, and cookers. In addition, many gas engineers have experience in plumbing.
  • To become a gas engineer, you must complete an industry-recognised route resulting in ACS qualifications. Once you’ve gained those, you can apply to join the gas safe register.
  • Once qualified and experienced as a gas engineer, you can expand your skillset, moving into other areas of heating and power. After working for someone else, many engineers prefer to set up their own company or go into the training sector.


  • Locksmiths repair, replace and install lock and key hardware on cars, residential and commercial properties.
  • As property security evolves and new technologies develop, they may also assess security weaknesses to advise on how to improve the safety of a property. 
  • Becoming a locksmith will involve a combination of classroom and on-the-job experience. There is currently no legal requirement to work as a locksmith in the UK. However, completing an accredited training scheme will demonstrate your abilities to potential employers and customers.
  • Once you’re fully trained as a locksmith, you could work on a self-employed basis, set up a franchise or work for a national company.

Painter & Decorator

  • As a painter, your main tasks will be sourcing paints and tools and preparing and painting surfaces. Other tasks include moving furniture, preparing the surrounding areas, taping off, cleaning, admin and customer service.
  • You can become a painter through a course, apprenticeship or training on the job. Generally, training providers require you to have GCSEs of a particular grade/level before you can begin a course.
  • Some painters will subcontract for large businesses working in offices and hotels, whereas others prefer to work in domestic settings. As your expertise and skills progress, you may focus on one specific area of the trade or launch your own business if you haven’t already.


  • Plasterers prep and repair surfaces and apply plaster to internal walls and ceilings, creating a smooth finish. They also work similarly on external walls, known as rendering.
  • To become a plasterer, you’ll need to take a college course or apprenticeship. A lot of practice is required to perfect the art of plastering. Most people learn the trade by working alongside an experienced professional.
  • Once you’ve perfected the art of plastering, you may look to move into more specialised areas or go self-employed/start your own business.

Plumber connecting radiator pipework


  • Though gas engineers may often refer to themselves as plumbers, not all plumbers are gas safe (be sure to check ID before letting anyone complete gas work on your property). Plumbing and gas engineering does have some overlapping skills, however.
  • Plumbers typically install and maintain the pipes in our homes, whether for water, drainage or sewage.
  • The route to becoming a plumber varies. Some people choose to do a training course, earning their NVQ, while others prefer the traditional apprenticeship route.
  • Once qualified and experienced, many plumbers specialise in a specific area and learn different skills to supplement this. E.g. becoming a bathroom fitter and learning tiling and electrics.


  • Roofers are tradespeople who specialise in roofing. A roofer will spend their day repairing damage or installing brand new roofing.
  • To become a roofer, you won’t need any formal qualifications. Generally, you begin as a labourer and learn on the job, although some apprenticeships are available.
  • As a roofer, your career options include moving into site supervising or management or working self-employed as your own boss.

Joining The Trades

The trades boast many benefits, including job security, high earning potential and flexibility.

Are you interested in joining the trades industry? Get in touch with Options Skills today on 0800 802 1306.

All data correct at time of publication.