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Britain is a proud country, with a proud tradition of building – we must not let that die, Rishi

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WHERE have all our builders gone?
That is the question which should be worrying No10 at the moment.
Britain is a proud country, with a proud tradition of building2Britain is a proud country, with a proud tradition of buildingCredit: Getty – Contributor
Rishi Sunak should get out there and bang the drum for more apprenticeships and tradespeople2Rishi Sunak should get out there and bang the drum for more apprenticeships and tradespeopleCredit: Getty
Brickies, carpenters, tilers, these are the people who built Britain.
And we have some of the finest buildings in the world, monuments to craftsmanship that have stood for a thousand years and will stand for a thousand more.
These landmarks stand as a testament to our proud history of building.
But while we still have these buildings, we have lost the art of producing workers who can create them with their own hands.
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Earlier this week, the Government announced that it is putting bricklayers, carpenters, plasterers, tilers and joiners on the shortage occupation list.
This means foreign workers who have these skills will find it easier to get visas to live and work here.
UK failing woefully
Britain has failed to produce enough builders here at home so we are having to go hunting abroad for them.
There is a giant hole in our labour force and ministers are scrambling to plug it.

It is a shortage all too familiar to many.
Anyone wanting to build a new home, get a loft conversion done or even do up their kitchen faces painfully long waits and rocketing costs.
Whenever you ask why, the answer is always the same — they can’t get the workers, they are booked up for months, etc.
Given this, it is understandable that the Government has relaxed visa rules.
But nonetheless, it is a move that should worry us all.
The UK is failing woefully to produce enough builders.
How can we be a country that competes on the world stage if we can’t even train enough people to put up an extension?
Why have we let these proud professions die?
Now, I was never a builder.
But before I entered politics and became an MP I did work with my hands.
I was a coal miner at the Littleton Colliery at Cannock, in Staffordshire.
For six years I worked down the pit, as my dad and grandad did before me.
There, the heat could soar as I wound my way through the deep tunnels, cutting away at the coal which would then get loaded on to a conveyor belt and passed up to the surface.
This coal would then be used to fire up the power stations that created the energy to heat our homes and keep the wheels of industry turning.
I, like the bricklayer and the plasterer and the roofer, was play-ing my role in building Britain.
Now, Britain needs to get building again.
How can we do this?
Well, first of all we need to massively increase the number of apprenticeships in these skilled trades.
For too long the establishment has sneered at builders and tradesmen.
The system has been skewed towards send-ing our children to universities rather than to a workshop or building site.
But this snobbery has been a short-sighted mistake.
Nowadays, a skilled tradesman easily earns more than many graduates.
They can work for themselves, giving them greater flexibility to choose their own hours and control their own lives, while they avoid the mountain of debt many university students come out with.
And you rarely meet an unemployed plumber or electrician.
Second, schools and colleges should provide proper, high-quality vocational training.
This means having decent courses at schools on which young people can try their hand at these practical skills.
Colleges and schools should buddy up with local building firms and craftsmen to get their students into these high-skilled, high-demand jobs.
This is a win-win for business, school leavers and the UK economy.
Third, we need to change attitudes.
Parents want the best for their children, that is right and proper.
For too long, the dream of a university education was exactly that for most people — just a dream.
Only the privileged went off to campus for three years to read books and write essays.
Earning while they learn
That has changed now, and quite right too.
Working-class and middle-class kids took a battering ram to these closed institutions to become some of our brightest scholars.
But I worry that the pendulum has swung too far the other way.
Too many young people are shunted off to university not because they want to go or because they feel passionately about what they are studying, but because that’s the done thing.
It is what their mates do.
It is what their teachers tell them is the next step.
Yet many of them would do better earning while they learn in a trade.
They can get the skills the country so badly needs while having cash in their back pocket at the end of the week.
We must change the country’s outlook so we are as proud of our brickies as we are our architects.
The decision to go looking abroad for builders for Britain should be a wake-up call to this Government.
Rishi Sunak should get out there and bang the drum for more apprenticeships and tradespeople.
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Britain is a proud country, with a proud tradition of building.
We must not let that die.

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