This article was written by freelancer Charlie Duffield

Whilst more than 350,000 young people enrolled on undergraduate university courses last year, studying after secondary school definitely isn’t the only route to future career success. There’s a world of opportunities in the workplace beyond graduate schemes, internships and academia.

If you haven’t heard the catch-all term, trade career, it refers to labour jobs which require specific training, such as a plumber, electrician, elevator installer, wind turbine technician, tile setter and many more. There’s never been a better time to pursue a trade career, as there’s currently a skills shortage, with demand for skilled plumbers, plasterers and electricians outstripping supply. Here are five things worth knowing about these lucrative and accessible industries.

You’ll earn more money than university graduates

 
And by avoiding university study, you won’t have accrued thousands of pounds worth of debt either! If you start as an electrical apprentice, you could even earn whilst you learn; whilst apprentices tend to earn below the minimum wage (currently £3.70 per hour) you can still earn money whilst gaining a qualification. As soon as you’re qualified you could earn £21,000 a year as an electrician’s mate, or up to £11 an hour, but it’s likely that you’ll progress to earning a higher salary quickly.

The average salary for an electrician is £32, 315 annually – a 5% increase from last year – and the average salary for a bricklayer is £25,164. Comparatively, the average graduate salary ranges from £19,000 to £22,000. As a skilled tradesperson, there are lots of ways to earn more money, such as signing up for agency work, working overtime, upskilling or becoming self-employed, which will further boost your income. A construction manager, or rotary drill operator within the oil and gas industry are amongst the most highly paid trade jobs.

The trade industries will be in demand for years

 
Innovation company Nesta published a report revealing what the job market will look like in 2030, and trade careers, such as engineers, are amongst those most highly in demand – especially considering the rise of automation. If you’re environmentally minded, had you considered training as a solar energy or wind technician, or undertaking a solar panel installation course? These are amongst the fastest growing jobs; learning a skilled trade can mean a job for life! Also, many current trade jobs are occupied by baby boomers who will be retiring soon. 43% of vacancies in skilled trades are vacant because of skills shortages, with 13% including electricians. According to a government report, 1 million homes are to be built in England by 2020, so the demand for skilled electricians, for example, is really high.

You can be your own boss

 
If you’ve always had an entrepreneurial side, pursuing a trade career could allow you to cast aside office politics and meddling managers, and go it alone. By training as an electrician you’ll know a lot more than your average DIY dabbler regarding avoiding fires and electric shocks, and can establish your own business and trusted client base. One of the most effective ways to control how much you own is to work for yourself. You’ll also be able to work flexible hours, but will have to deal with taxes and insurance, and won’t get holiday or sick pay.

Self-employed plumbers typically earn between £30,000 and £40,000 a year, but remember that you’ll have to set your own rates and come up with a business plan. The amount you’re able to charge also depends on whether you undertake domestic or commercial work.

Trade careers involve physical, hands on work

 
That is, instead of going square eyed from staring at a computer all day! If you’re not digitally dependent, trade careers are practical as you’ll be using manual labour to solve problems – which can be highly rewarding. According to this survey, tradespeople are some of the happiest and healthiest workers, and deemed more active than fitness instructors! Instead of sitting at an office desk all day snacking on biscuits, if you work in plumbing, electrical insulation and construction for example, you’re likely to have an active and healthy lifestyle alongside a comfortable salary.

Being able to use your abilities is the number one factor in overall job satisfaction; skilled tradespeople are some of the happiest employees as they’re able to use practical skills to make a difference and see tangible results.

No day is the same

 
You’ll often be out and about, meeting new people, and encountering new scenarios and places. If you’re looking for a career which is varied, with plenty of learning opportunities, working in a skilled trade could be for you. If you undertake an apprenticeship, your training might include dealing with vulnerable people, such as those with physical and mental disabilities, and how to protect yourself from any dangerous environments you might encounter.

It’s also a social environment, and you’ll be dealing with clients and fellow tradesmen, developing excellent customer service skills. There’s a whole range of job options available; life as a builder can be fast paced and challenging, whereas working as a gardener requires patience, creativity and an encyclopaedic knowledge of plants!