Construction isn’t an industry that people readily associate with a graduate workforce but, in fact, graduates are a vital life-force in the industry. According to TARGETjobs.co.uk and its panel of construction recruiters, while many companies are cautiously optimistic about the industry jobs market in 2013, they are still keen to employ graduates – particularly engineers of all varieties.
Many large construction companies have graduate schemes on offer for those who have studied an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject. For instance, if you have studied quantity surveying, then you may able to land yourself a place as a Graduate Quantity Surveyor, but a degree alone is unlikely to be enough. Employers will typically require experience within an engineering or construction environment – which may have been accrued through work experience, a placement or a Year In Industry. A common requirement for roles in construction is a full UK driving licence, as you may need to visit clients and contractors on-site, so it may be worth booking in those lessons to improve your employability.
Despite many circulating myths, you do not need to have a degree in construction to secure a graduate job in the industry. Roles that involve project planning and management will suit graduates from most backgrounds, although a working knowledge of construction will pay dividends. What’s more, if you don’t have a qualification directly related to construction, some organisations will take you on – if they feel you have the raw business acumen and skill set – and put you through a post-graduate 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 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 for construction.
Landing work experience in construction can prove tricky (especially as many large firms have cut back on their formal work-experience placements). With so many candidates seeking so few opportunities, competition is rife which, of course, makes standing out all the more important. Construction jobs – especially surveying and civil engineering – are so over-subscribed, you’ll need to demonstrate to an employer you have true passion and a genuine interest in the industry to land yourself a job. And this, of course, is where work experience comes in. It not only looks good on your CV, but it gives you real-world working experience, something which simply cannot be accrued in a lecture theatre.
When it comes to selecting companies for work experience, try to introduce some variety into your experience. Opt for large construction companies, smaller consultancies and everything in between, in order to ensure you’ve got a breadth of hands-on experience in your arsenal. This way, when it comes to job applications, and interview questions, you’ll have real-life experiences to draw on. Also, work experience is 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.
If you’re currently studying for a built environment degree, then work experience is important – if you’re studying an unrelated degree, work experience 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. If you gain a month’s placement over the summer of your second year at university, that company may just offer you a full-time role come graduation. And this is a much more common occurrence in the graduate recruitment market than you may realise: according to a recent study by High Fliers Research (www.highfliers.co.uk), record numbers of graduate jobs are being awarded to students who have previously worked for the employer during work experience or an internship – this accounts for a third of vacancies, with three-quarters of jobs at some firms filled by previous interns.
Words: Jessie Bland
[This article was originally printed in Jobs & Careers with Hilary Devey magazine in May 2013]