After trades jobs in the UK? Intrepid tradies enjoy your adventure - but tread with care!
Off to the UK? Read on for some tips on transitioning from the Aussie workplace to the UK construction landscape. We’ll also navigate the nuances of the thriving metropolis of London, since it’s a popular destination of choice for travelling tradies.
It has long been a tradition that young Aussies head off overseas to explore the thrills of European travel after finishing their trade apprenticeship.
Travel brings valuable hands-on life experience, the promise of new opportunities and the chance to broaden your work horizons.
Most young tradies take up the European 2 year Tier 5 working holidaymaker visa (Youth Mobility Scheme) if they’re aged 18-30, with the majority basing themselves in the UK due in part to the strong historical ties with Australia and New Zealand. This allows an ease of assimilation, good proximity to Europe and the benefits of the strong currency. Young tradies then take the opportunity to travel throughout Europe, and why wouldn’t you?
Hitting the job site in the UK
Working in the UK - the gateway to Europe - helps to fund such nomadic experiences and that is where having a trade has huge advantages. When searching for UK trades jobs however, those advantages also come with responsibility and also risk.
Construction is a global game, however it is played very differently in other countries, those differences need to be respected and understood to avoid potential hazards or hardship while on you’re on your working holiday.
One of these differences is the ‘Self Employed’ status that 4.5 million UK construction workers operate under.
The large majority of working holidaymakers to the UK also register as self-employed within the construction industry at the request of contractors and employment agencies and with this comes the requirement to understand exactly what that status means.
Going it alone
Self-employment in the UK construction industry is a double-edged-sword, and is not the same as in Australia or New Zealand.
There are many scenarios, however one example is: under ‘self-employment’ you do not need to give 4 weeks’ notice when you want to go traveling which is a big positive.
On the other hand the contractor doesn’t need to give notice that work is running out which is a stark negative. Also you are not entitled to sick leave or holiday pay, but on the flip side you get a slightly higher hourly rate and can claim all your expenses, food, clothes, travel, tools, partial rent etc. Working for yourself does lend itself to the nature of working and traveling over a 2 year period however it does come with its flexibility.
This is one of many differences between the industries like deregulation of trade licensing and construction industry tax scenarios which can all be discussed with your trusted downunder travel or training provier such as GB Construction Training. Deregulation of trade licensing means there is no government regulation that requires the use of a licence.
Tools of the trade - are they universal?
UK construction sites operate on 110v. While you will find that some site sheds and lunch areas have 240v, the site itself will have stepdown transformers throughout the project.
Also the UK has a different power outlet configuration and therefore any plug-in equipment from Australia or New Zealand is not usable on two fronts. Chargers are used in the site sheds where 240v is available, if someone wanted to bring their heavy 240v battery operated drills to the UK and then use an adapter they would need it tested and tagged by a qualified person. A big effort for a relatively cheap item in the UK.
Hand tools are mostly generic so it is advised that you pack some hand tools that are useful to your trade although having said that, tools in the UK are much cheaper than in Australia and New Zealand. We suggest not go overboard as you usually only have a 20kg-30kg of luggage allowance on an international flight.
People have shipped over tools in the past and that is an option however they can take several months to arrive. It seems cost effective at first as companies offer a door to door service, however when the tools arrive in London they will be held at Customs and import tax will be payable before they will release it to your chosen UK address - so be wary of that.
We can link you with the right company to supply you with the basic equipment you need to start work and you can build your kit over time. Most companies supply equipment outside hand tools, you are not running your own company unlike in Australia.
How much will you earn using your trade to travel?
Having a trade allows you to earn more money than working behind a bar for example. Depending on the trade you hold and the status of your role, the average wage across the industry is £32,888 per annum compared to the average bar job across the UK being £11,324
Using your trade in the UK rather than opting for a general job will allow you to travel further.
As mentioned earlier it is not as straightforward as just showing up in the UK and starting work, it’s advised that you seek a pathway that makes it as quick, stress free and affordable as possible to be site ready, that is why we have created our trademarked Start Up Packs specifically for a range of different tradies. These help with wiring codes of practice for electricians for example, and more broadly, health and safety assessments for compliance with UK regulations, they also include an oyster card and so much more.
Using these, your Australian qualification is recognised and you can train in the gap between industries. They cover deregulation of licensing laws, understanding self employment and insurance requirements that come with that. You’re also supplied with a range of opportunities through extended network contractors and recruitment agencies.
Be site aware and safety savvy
If you are thinking of taking a working holiday once you have qualified, or in the near future, please do your due diligence. Educate yourself about the dangers of working abroad in your trade, stay safe and enjoy the tantalising adventures that await!
Dreading the weather? It’s been given a bad rap and it’s not as soggy as you’re lead to believe, well when compared to much of the United Kingdom. At the end of the day it’s polar opposite from Australia, however you know what to expect. Sure it can get pretty gray and the sun goes down early in the winter but the pub scene more than makes up for it for thirsty tradies at the end of a long day.
It is true to say that working abroad in your trade can lead to great things.
Move over work, onto pleasure
When you go to England you just can’t miss its capital London. When you venture off to the UK, it’s a must visit city. Whether you want to frequent a quintessential pub, ride the tube or visit the popular tourist haunts, London has it going on. This city is a buzzing multicultural tapestry where boredom is almost unheard off. The city nicknamed ‘The Old Smoke’ isn’t always easy to navigate when you’re a freshie.
Everyone will have a differing opinion on what you can’t miss out on during your first visit, but before you start in the construction workplace, you’re best to familiarise yourself with the tourist sites, as your family back home will expect you to report on these. Let’s just rattle them off: Big Ben, The London Eye, Trafalgar Square, Tower Bridge, The Shard, Tower of London, The Gherkin, Hyde Park, Horse Guards Parade, Covent Garden. There are plenty more however there are many guides that will show you the ropes.
Save your pennies and travel on a shoestring
London sure isn’t cheap, the Aussie dollar doesn’t convert to much either, so yes the rumours hold water. Comparatively (compared to Sydney for example) expect to pay a third more for everything. Tips aren’t as essential in London as they would be in some countries, however it’s common to tip, so do it and be a good sort if it’s expected - 10% is a rough guideline.
Transport can be twice as much as it is in Aussie. Do you know you can save money by getting an Oyster card (included in our UK Start Up Packs). Also download the City Mapper app to make life easier. If your destination is indeed London (as there’s lots of construction work available there) get to know a bit of travel etiquette.
A different pace and culture - get used to it!
If you want to cruise on an escalator, make sure you stand on the right side. People race around London and will be zipping past you on the left so remember this to avoid any elbow shoves or hassles! We mentioned the tube earlier, and it won’t surprise you to know that it's a throbbing mecca of people on a mission!
Peak times such as rush hour in the morning anywhere from 7am-10am and 4pm-7pm and they can be a squeeze. They fill to capacity quickly and it won’t be a comfortable ride back. Don’t take it personally! People aren’t exactly besties on the tube. It may seem a bit cold but people are busy thinking about work, what’s for dinner, in deep contemplation or staring at their smart phones.
We love the nightlife
There are so many pubs in London, and don’t feel guilty for frequenting them every day, it’s standard practice. Often, people stay at home on Friday nights though, which isn’t exactly common place when you’re from the great Southern land.
London pubs are likely to be your second home. We suggest you try the mushy peas, and English fish n’ chips - even if just to say you’ve tried them. If you get homesick, there are many Aussie pubs scattered about. If you love your DJ’s and you prefer to party til the wee hours London has an amazing array of thriving clubs - the size of them will stagger you. Enjoy!
Be part of the footy frenzy
Us tradies are usually sports fiends and they’re no different in the UK. Soccer, well Football, reigns supreme as the sport of choice so be sure to attend a big name game - you probably haven’t experienced any other atmosphere like it!
Enjoy your Gap Year
Tradies thrive on a different lifestyle and London is the place to be. It’s a great place to build on your career and there’s so much to do in your down time.
Get your UK Start Up Pack today and get licensed to safely work on the UK job site!
Get work ready more quickly with our Tradie Start Up Packs, more info here.
Bon voyage - stay safe, work hard and play hard!