Another Brick in the Wall!

By J&C Team

With more than 150 roles to choose from, there’s something for everyone in the construction industry!

There’s more to construction than hard hats, boots and high-vis jackets. With more than two million people in various construction jobs, the industry is one of the biggest and most diverse in the UK. And with a drive to build more homes to make up for the housing shortage, a lot more people will be needed.

The Construction Industry Training Board says there are more than 150 types of roles in this field – that’s a lot of career opportunities. These include technical and analytic positions, physical jobs, plus roles in planning, procurement and health and safety.

Pressing Need

According to the CITB, the industry needs 36,000 new recruits per year from 2017 to 2021. In some areas – such as wood trades and interior fit-out – the need for new workers is acute. There is also the ongoing challenge of replacing an ageing workforce, which will be more pressing if Brexit stems the flow of workers from abroad.

Construction is a constantly changing industry that’s always creating new challenges. If you’re prepared to work hard, there are plenty of opportunities to move up the career ladder. You can develop skills and knowledge as you work too, as there is lots of on-the-job training available.

One great reason to get into the construction industry is the sense of achievement helping to shape the world around you brings. You’ll be part of the essential work that helps to drive the country’s economy forward, constructing a huge range of buildings and infrastructure, including houses, schools and hospitals, roads, motorways and train stations, and large investment projects such as big-name stadiums and skyscrapers.

Your career path is likely to be varied and may well change as you begin to specialise. You may start as a labourer, for example, then go into carpentry or plumbing. You could even end up running your own business – more than one-third of people working in construction are their own boss.

On-the-job Training

Vocational training has long been the most common route into the industry. You don’t necessarily need formal qualifications – you can start as a labourer and work your way up.

Alternatively, you can become an apprentice. Apprenticeships combine off-the-job learning with on-site experience, allowing you to learn the skills for your role while working towards the qualifications you need to rise up the ranks. Apprenticeships are highly valued by employers and are very successful within this industry, where practical experience matters.

You need to be in full-time employment with a construction company to be able to complete an apprenticeship, so you are earning as you learn. Apprenticeships are offered at craft, technical and higher levels, so you can continue to progress your career (see page 64 for more information).

You can also study for national vocational qualifications (NVQs) or
the equivalent Scottish vocational qualifications (SVQs). These show you have the skills to do the job in line with national occupational standards, and are gained while you work. They’re assessed via a portfolio of your work or you may be observed by an assessor.

NVQs do not have to be completed in a specified amount of time – within reason. There are no age limits either and no special entry requirements, but they are only an option if you’re employed in a suitable position.

If you’re not, progression awards, certificates, diplomas and other vocational awards can help you learn the knowledge and skills that you would need to impress employers or take an NVQ. These are assessed via assignments, practical tests, written exams or online multiple choice tests.

Experience Counts

To land a job, you will need to demonstrate to an employer that you have true passion for and a genuine interest in the industry. This is where work experience comes in. Not only does it look good on your CV, it also gives you invaluable real-world understanding – knowing how sites and projects run is very important. It also gives you the chance to see if this is what you want to do as a career.

To find work experience in the construction industry, get in touch with large companies, consultancies, small local firms and everything in between. Make sure you take every opportunity you’re given, even if it’s only a few days’ labouring on a local building site – it all counts.

Having some real-life experience and examples to draw on will help you to stand out when it comes to interviews. Work experience is also a great way to determine if there are any particular specialisms you find more interesting than others – so view the placement as a personal vetting process, too.

And don’t think that just because you’re studying towards a formal qualification you don’t need work experience. If you’re currently enrolled on a built environment degree, for example, then work experience is important; if you’re studying for an unrelated degree, it’s imperative.

And remember: a stint as an intern could end up landing you a full-time, paid job with that company. So start researching and applying for those positions as early as possible.

Graduates in construction

There’s a whole range of jobs open to graduates, whether or not you have a related degree such as construction management. If you have a degree that’s not directly related to the construction industry, you may need to take a construction conversion course and gain work experience, but some areas of the business won’t require you to do this.

Construction companies are often looking to hire people with marketing or business development degrees, for example, and IT or digital experts. The volume of design and management roles in the industry also allows graduates to transfer skills from any degree to forge a career in construction.

Higher national certificates (HNCs), higher national diplomas (HNDs) and degrees can be studied full-time at university or part-time while you’re in a construction-related role. In England, they can form part of a higher or degree apprenticeship. Wales and Scotland have similar qualifications.

Roles available to graduates include:

  • Quantity surveyor – works out how much a building will cost to construct and is in charge of keeping a close eye on finances
  • Sustainability specialist – concerned with environmental impacts and the longevity of any sustainability schemes across the lifespan of a project
  • Site supervisor/technician – looks after the technical, organising and supervising side of projects, from new housing to multimillion-pound roads and railways
  • Environmental adviser – ensures construction projects comply with environmental regulations and targets
  • Risk manager – identifies and assesses possible threats to the workforce and the company. Puts plans in place for if and when problems arise, and decides how to avoid any future problems