Intrigued by the construction trade, but not sure what type of roles are up for grabs? Wonder no more with our handy guide to three construction career paths…
Building Services Engineer
The life of a Building Services Engineer revolves around the design, installation and maintenance of systems and facilities that enable buildings to function efficiently. This spans from electrical systems (lighting and power systems) to mechanical ones (escalators and lifts). The role involves regular visits to sites – from listed buildings to engineering plants – where you will assess how your computer-aided designs are working in practice. Building Services Engineers work with Structural Engineers as well as Surveyors and Builders, to ensure projects are carried out on budget and on time. With the industry-wide trend towards more eco-friendly practices, many Building Services Engineers will need to advise a client how they can incorporate more sustainable materials and systems into their buildings, so being up to date with the latest advancements is essential.
The building blocks
Those working in building services engineering will typically need an undergraduate degree, but you don’t necessarily have to specialise in building services (although you may need to study for a post-graduate conversion course for some employers). Those degrees accredited by the Engineering Council (www.engc.org.uk) or that have a scientific, environmental or mechanical focus, may still be relevant – however, you’ll have to accrue work experience in building services to show your skills and knowledge are transferable to this aspect of construction. (Always check with employers’ general requirements before enrolling on such a course.)
The Contract Manager is responsible for overseeing projects from start to finish – ensuring all work is completed on time and within budget. Organisation is premier in this career path: you could be working on a single, large project or lots of smaller schemes, and you will be the first port-of-call when it comes to the development in hand.
With each project a very different beast to tackle, every day in this role varies: one week you could find yourself ensuring health and safety regulations are being adhered to by carrying out risk assessments, the next you may be sourcing more labour to ensure you meet the critical deadline. To work as a Contract Manager, you are commonly required to hold a valid SMSTS (Site Management Safety Training Scheme), which is a course accredited by CITB-ConstructionSkills (the skills council for the construction industry).
The building blocks
There are two ways to become a Contract Manager: the first will require experience of working in construction management, contracts or transferable experience from a similar project-managing role. The second route of entry is to work your way up the ladder, starting out as a Contracts Assistant or Administrator in a construction company. Some companies have training programmes available for budding Contract Assistants or Managers – often requiring a BTEC, HNC/HND (in a subject such as construction and the built environment) or degree-level study in building management, surveying or
Facilities management (FM) is one of the fastest-growing areas within the industry, and involves ensuring a building functions efficiently and smoothly through out its lifetime. A Facilities Manager typically would be responsible for fire safety, security, health and safety, as well as the operational issues – such as car parking, pest control and cleaning – of a building. Project management is an essential aspect of this career path, with a facilities manager expected to liaise with clients as well as contractors to ensure that any issues on a building site are addressed immediately. Again, those working in FM will need to consider sustainability – such as recycling and waste. It’s not only once a building has been constructed that a Facilities Manager will be involved, either: increasingly, they oversee the planning stages and construction to ensure services operate efficiently and can be easily maintained.
The building blocks
To become a Facilities Manager, university study is one of the most common entry routes. Although all graduates are able to work in the field, it is preferable to study surveying, business studies or engineering. Not studied a relevant topic? Consider FM at post-graduate level. You can also become a Facilities Manager with an HND or a foundation degree.
Entry without either an undergraduate or foundation degree is possible, but you would be unlikely to enter at manager level, and would typically need to study for more relevant qualifications while working – such as the Level 3 qualifications provided by the Institute of Leadership and Management (www.i-l-m.com). These qualifications are available in FM, and are carried out either in the classroom or the workplace.
Words: Jessie Bland
[This article was originally printed in Jobs & Careers with Hilary Devey magazine in May 2013]