Build your Career

By J&C Team

Construction is a reliable trade, as people and businesses will always need homes and properties. It’s also hugely varied, so could suit you, whatever your skills and interests…

You may not previously have considered taking up a career in construction. Maybe you weren’t very good at craft, design and technology classes, and are rubbish at DIY? But construction is a broad industry, it requires all sorts of people, from all sorts of backgrounds, with different skill sets. In fact, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) says there are more than 150 types of roles in this field – that’s a lot of opportunities.

These include technical and analytic positions, physical jobs, plus roles in planning, procurement, health and safety, and infrastructure.     

There are around three million people employed in construction and the built environment, according to CITB. But there is still a housing shortage, which means more people are needed to join the construction industry. A lot more.

The industry is set to grow by 2.5% annually, according to research from CITB, which suggests there is a need for an additional 232,000 jobs over the next few years to deliver expected output growth to 2019. One of those jobs could be yours.

It’s a constantly changing industry which is always creating new challenges, so would suit those who enjoy variety in their work. If you are prepared to work hard, there are plenty of opportunities to move up the career ladder quickly once you’re in. You can develop your skills and knowledge as you work, too, as there is lots of on-the-job training available.

A great reason to get into the construction industry is the sense of achievement in helping to shape the world around you. You’ll be part of the essential work that helps to drive the 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. You could be building the next Shard.

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. Not only that, but more than a third of people working in construction are their own boss, so you could even end up running your own business.

Getting in

Vocational training has long been the most common route into the industry. You don’t need formal qualifications – just start at the bottom, as a Labourer, and work your way up. Alternatively, you can become an Apprentice.

An apprenticeship combines off-the-job learning with on-site experience. It allows 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 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

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 either via a portfolio of your work or you may be observed at work by an assessor.

Within reason, NVQs do not have to be completed in a specified amount of time. There are no age limits, either, and no special entry requirements. But they are only available if you are employed.

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 do a job or take an NVQ.

These are assessed via assignments, practical tests, written exams or online multiple choice tests.

Getting experience

You will need to demonstrate to an employer you have true passion and a genuine interest in the industry to land yourself a job. And this is where work experience comes in. It not only looks good on your CV, but gives you invaluable real-world experience – after all, knowing how sites and projects are run, and who is responsible for what, is really important.

Landing work experience in the construction industry can prove tricky (especially as many large firms have cut back on the number of formal work experience placements they offer).

Contact large construction companies, consultancies, small local firms, and everything in between. Take every opportunity you’re given, even if it’s only a few days’ labouring, as it will all help. Having real-life experience to draw on will help you to stand out from the crowd when it comes to interviews.

Work experience is also a great way to determine if there are particular specialisms you find more interesting than others – so view it as a personal vetting process, too.

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

Remember: a stint as an intern could end up landing you a job with that company, so start researching and applying sooner rather than later.

The graduate route

Construction isn’t an industry people readily associate with a graduate workforce, but university leavers are an important part of the workforce.

Many large construction companies have graduate schemes for those with a degree in a relevant subject, although employers will often also require some experience within an engineering or construction environment, which may have been accrued through work experience or an internment.

Many graduate roles will require skills that could be transferred from a different speciality and some organisations will put you through a postgraduate conversion course while you work.

Sponsorship is possible, but you have to prove to an employer you’re worth its while – and expense. While companies do like non-cognates (graduates without a related degree) who’ve made a conscious decision to enter the industry, you’ll need to make up for your lack of degree-level knowledge with work experience and enthusiasm.