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Putting it all together 

People working in construction shape the world around us. They’re involved at every stage of projects great and small, from planning a new bus shelter to to putting the finishing touches to the latest skyscraper. It’s an industry with lots of opportunities.

About the construction industry 

Construction is one of the most important sectors in the UK, and not only because it employs a lot of people. Without the construction industry we’d have no new roads, buildings or railways; and there wouldn’t be anyone looking after the ones we already have, either. 

There are a few stereotypes attached to the industry that it’s helpful to boot out of your mind right now: 

  • First of all, while there's always room for improvement in every sector there are nonetheless a growing number of opportunities for women, with hundreds of thousands already employed in the industry
  • Second, it's not all high-vis jackets and shouting (although of course that forms part of site life) – there are management roles, design and IT jobs and office positions too
  • Third, we're not talking about an old-fashioned world: construction workers can use the latest tech and techniques to get the job done

What can I do?

Careers in construction are as varied as the shapes and sizes of the buildings in our towns and cities. Whatever your talents and interests, there will be a role in construction to suit you. You might be working as part of a skilled team laying bricks or putting a new floor into a nightclub; managing a building site; or even carving stone gargoyles to repair a cathedral. 

Construction can be a hands-on profession and you can learn plenty of skills on the job. Training is available at all levels, from your first steps to moving into a senior position. Plus, you’ll be entering a global industry where your skills could be in demand with employers all over the world, so you could learn, develop your skills and travel as well. 

You’re not limited to carrying out building work, either. There are design roles, supervisory positions, and big construction firms have all the office, technical, finance and IT needs that any other company has. Or maybe you fancy being your own boss? More than a third of people working in the construction industry are self-employed, so you could even end up running your own business. 

The skills to build

People working in the construction industry come from all kinds of backgrounds and will need different skills to do their jobs. Some manual jobs will demand good hand/eye coordination and a decent level of physical fitness, for example; you’ll need a good head for maths to be an engineer; while a manager / supervisor will need to be a good leader and have business knowledge. 

If you’re interested in a career in construction it’s worth thinking about where your strengths are and what roles might suit you – but don’t forget that you’ll also develop a lot of the skills you need as part of your training. Alternatively, you can switch to construction from a different background and get industry qualifications to bring you up to standard.

Construction careers

Here are just some of the jobs available in construction:

Design and Management – architect, building surveyor, civil engineer, facilities manager, landscape architect, project manager, quantity surveyor, structural engineer, town planner

Technicians – architectural technician, buyer, CAD operator, estimator, site engineer

Craft roles – carpenter, joiner, demolition operative, floor layer, painter and decorator, plant mechanic, plasterer, roofer, scaffolder, shop fitter, stonemason

Training

There are plenty of different ways to get the skills you need for the construction industry, and only a few of them require a hard hat… 

Work-based & work-related qualifications 

Relevant NVQ and BTEC programmes include:

  • Construction and the Built Environment
  • Construction Site Management
  • Construction Operations and Civil Engineering Services
  • Construction Site Supervision

Don’t forget: BTECs etc. can also pave the way for a degree. 

Apprenticeships

There are relevant Apprenticeships at three levels:

Level Two (Intermediate) – equivalent to GCSEs / Standard Grades

Level Three (Advanced) – equivalent to A Levels / Highers

Level Four / Five / Six (Higher) – equivalent to Foundation Degree / Advanced Highers, Bachelor’s Degree

Apprenticeships include:

  • Civil engineer
  • Construction Steel Fixer
  • List Item
  • Property Maintenance Operative
  • Railway Engineering Design Technician

If you’re interested in degree level training, there are Degree Apprenticeships such as a BSc in Construction Management.

A Levels and Bachelors Degrees 


Useful A Levels might include:

  • Engineering
  • Business and Finance
  • Design and Technology
  • Maths

Already know that a degree is the way you want to break into the sector? Head to UCAS and find out what A Levels (or Scottish Highers / IB modules) you’ll need for the course that interests you. 

Industry-specific degree programmes in this area include Bachelors programmes in Construction Management, Project Management and Building and Surveying; you could also consider related programmes like Civil Engineering. 

Getting started

You’ll be able to find apprenticeships and jobs in the industry at careermap.co.uk

Routes into construction include:

  • Apprenticeships
  • Vocational qualifications / A Levels
  • Construction Diplomas
  • National Diplomas and Certificates
  • Higher National Certificates (HNCs) and Diplomas (HNDs)
  • Foundation Degrees (England and Wales only)
  • Bachelors Degree

Life as a construction apprentice

Construction is an incredibly varied industry and careers reflect that. There’s a lot more to it than swinging a hammer and drinking tea (although both of those things can happen): you might be working on a construction site; taking care of admin in an office; surveying a new building site; or learning to use the latest software to design buildings. 

Whatever your role or company, you’ll be expected to fit in and work well with your new colleagues. That means getting to work on time, being reliable and paying attention to instructions – particularly on building sites, where safety is very important. You’ll start at the bottom, but as your skills improve and you find your feet, you’ll be able to work your way up: many current managers in the industry started as apprentices, for instance.  

Construction can involve early starts, travel, being outdoors in all weathers and a lot of hard work. You can also expect deadlines, delays and all the challenges that come with working to a range of different building regulations and for different clients. However, it’s a great industry for gaining skills and qualifications, and you’ll hopefully be ready to build a lifelong career on those solid foundations. 

You could work in…

  • Infrastructure – roads and rail
  • Housing
  • Schools
  • Industrial building
  • Office and Retail
  • Repair and maintenance

The Facts

1 – £113 billion was the amount  the construction industry contributed towards the UK economy. 

2 –  £7.2 million construction jobs filled in 2018. That marks the highest employment rate in a decade.

3 – 23,000 apprenticeships within the construction and planning industry in 2017/18.

4 – 4.8 million jobs are expected to open within the specialty trade contractors industry by 2026.

5 – 71% is the number at which AI will improve the construction industry’s profitability by 2035.



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