Love thy neighbour – especially if they’re plumbers

Edge Foundation found that nearly half of the population have required practical help over the last 12 months with the majority (56%) likely to call upon a neighbour for assistance in a crisis

Everybody needs good neighbours – but practical qualifications trump degrees as the pathway into the most highly rated skills in the community, as new research reveals Brits would rather live next door to a plumber than a doctor.

Other practically skilled neighbours such as electricians, builders, carpenters and mechanics – all ‘hands-on’ trades – appeared below plumbers in the top ten list of the most valued neighbourhood occupations. Neighbours with jobs in law, psychology and politics came lower down the scale of perceived value, with actors coming bottom of the pile.

The report has been produced by education charity, the Edge Foundation, to mark VQ Day 2015, the annual celebration of vocational qualifications. Edge found that nearly half of the population have required practical help over the last 12 months with the majority (56%) likely to call upon a neighbour for assistance in a crisis.

Over the last 12 months, almost a third of Brits have suffered from plumbing problems, including blocked drains and radiator issues. A quarter of Brits (23%) are likely to call on their skilled neighbours in the event of their boiler or heating system breaking down, while one in five would ask for help with a blocked sink or drains.

Most valued professions of neighbours
1. Plumber
2. Electrician
3. Doctor
4. Builder
5. Mechanic
6. Carpenter
7. Policeman
8. Gardener
9. Nurse
10. IT technician

Least valued professions of neighbours
1. Actor
2. Politician
3. Psychologist
4. Carer
5. Footballer
6. Musician
7. Florist
8. Lawyer
9. Taxi Driver
10. Seamstress

David Harbourne, acting CEO of the Edge Foundation, which leads VQ Day, said: “Over a third of us cite ‘helpfulness’ as the most important quality in our neighbours with one in ten highlighting practical skills specifically. While ‘everybody needs good neighbours’ still rings true, our research shows that in 2015 it is the technical, practical and vocational skills that really add value to communities.”

When asked what skills, jobs or professions would be useful for neighbours to have in 20 years’ time, plumbers retained the top spot, followed by electricians. Doctors remained third in the list, with IT technicians jumping up into seventh place.

David added: “New practical problems will no doubt arise in line with lifestyle trends – people are increasingly asking their neighbours for technical help with Wi-Fi and computer problems owing to the increased digitalisation of our daily lives – but the need for help with universal, everyday problems such as plumbing endures. These types of practical skills are futureproof.”

John Thompson, CEO of the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors, said: “It is pleasing that over a 20-year period and from a very low base, plumbing is now seen as one of the most popular vocations, as well as being the most valued neighbourhood skill in the UK. This is in part because it is irreplaceable; the only way to fix a plumbing issue is to call in a plumber! As a skill, it cannot be digitalised, making this one of the most future-proof occupations. This research shows that universal skills such as plumbing will be in-demand long into the future.”

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