Skilled Trades Sector: Jobs, Skills and Job Outlook
Skilled workers and artisans are professionals who design and make things, or who install, maintain and repair things, using their hands and employing a high level of technical skill and expertise.
Skilled workers and artisans may also use machinery. However, what distinguishes their methods from the processes used in industrial mass production and manufacturing is that they mainly involve working by hand.
The skilled trades sector comprises a wide range of crafts and professions. Some skilled workers and artisans, such as plumbers, gardeners and painters and decorators, perform very practical activities, while others, such as goldsmiths, cabinet makers and tailors, are involved in making artistic craft products.
The practical and manual skills required to practice these trades are their key defining feature. Although the specific competences needed vary widely depending on the profession (e.g. woodworking and metalworking, shoe repair, or air conditioner maintenance), the entry routes tend to be similar, involving some form of technical education followed by on-the-job training, typically through an apprenticeship, with new recruits learning the trade and acquiring all the necessary skills by shadowing more experienced colleagues.
What types of businesses operate in the skilled trades sector?
The skilled trades sector consists to a large degree of small companies and sole traders. Most of those operating in the sector are small businesses providing services locally to companies and private individuals (e.g. electricians and locksmiths) or practicing traditional crafts (e.g. making leather goods or textiles).
Although the working methods employed by skilled workers and artisans differ from those applied by businesses involved in industrial mass production, both categories operate in many of the same sectors. For example, there are skilled workers and artisans operating in the building, engineering, textiles, leather goods, fashion and design sectors.
There are some activities, however, such as goldsmithery, luthiery or furniture restoration, that are the preserve of skilled workers and artisans. These sectors are characterized by limited production runs and one-off items, and the use of traditional production processes and materials such as wood, stone, pottery, glass, metal, fabrics, leather and other materials.
Companies hiring in the skilled trades the sector:
Skilled Trades - Trends and Job Outlook
Despite the increasingly technological nature of society and an economy that is dominated to in large part by industrial-type production, the market for goods and services provided by skilled workers and artisans continues to enjoy good growth prospects.
Demand for artisans and skilled workers capable of performing minor repair and maintenance jobs or producing personalized or made-to-measure goods is increasing, while the number of people interested in pursuing a career in the skilled trades sector is also forecast to rise.
Rather than standing still, the market for skilled crafts and trades continues to develop and evolve.Innovative tools and methods, made possible by technological advances and reflecting an increasing concern for sustainability, are being introduced, while at the same time there is a growing trend for rediscovering and re-evaluating local craft traditions that places great emphasis on the quality and workmanship of skilled work performed by a craftsman or woman.
In addition, although markets for craft products tend to be mainly local, the digital revolution is enabling producers to use social media and the internet to promote their goods and services abroad and thus reach new markets.
What skills are required in the sector?
For any skilled craftsman, the ability to use one’s hands is a key skills, which takes years of practice to learn and perfect. Practicing a skilled trade - particularly where the final product is an artistic craft product - requires technical expertise, precision and proficiency with the tools of the trade.
Equipment and tools
Knowing how to handle the ‘tools of the trade’ - whether they are of the hand or power, portable or bench variety - is a key part of any craft. This means not just being able to use one’s tools effectively to obtain the desired results, but also knowing how to look after and maintain them properly.
Craftsmen and tradesmen need great physical stamina to carry out their work, since it involves using heavy tools and equipment, lifting and handling materials, not to mention working stood up, bent over or kneeling down for long stretches of time.
Most skilled craftsmen handle relations with their customers directly, so they need to have strong communications, negotiations and sales skills. This will enable them to provide a better service, maximize customer satisfaction and increase the likelihood of getting repeat work in the future.
Skilled Trades - Job Descriptions
Interested in finding out more about jobs in the skilled workers and artisans sector?
Take a look at the job descriptions we’ve prepared: