Career and financial advice when looking to work in the construction industry
The construction industry offers a wide range of roles, from stonemasonry and structural engineering to surveying and project management. Different roles require different skills and aptitudes, but in general terms, if you’re a practical person with an interest in how buildings and other structures are put together, the construction sector could be for you.
With so many different roles and areas of expertise, there are also many different routes into the sector. It can also make a difference if you are seeking to enter the industry as a school leaver, graduate, or armed forces leaver, or if you are looking to change careers from another sector.
Apprenticeships can be a good route into the industry, as you are essentially employed while learning the skills of your chosen role. Pay is lower than in regular employment, but there is a minimum wage for apprentices (set at £3.30 per hour from October 2015), and the average weekly apprenticeship salary was £228 per week in 2014, according to the National Pay Survey of that year.
Traineeships offer hands-on work experience and training packages for young people aged 16 to 24 and can last from a couple of weeks to six months. There are occupational qualifications, including the National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) and Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ), and degrees are available in many different areas and subjects, such as construction project management. Those looking to change careers, including Forces leavers, might already have a number of transferable skills. The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) should be able to provide further advice on cross- and up-skilling.
As a worker in the construction industry, you could find yourself permanently employed by a particular construction firm, but many more work as contractors, contracting on a shorter-term basis to undertake various projects. A reputable umbrella company can be invaluable for contractors, as it will essentially act as your employer, processing a PAYE payroll, offsetting business expenses against tax and liaising between the contractor and client.
Pay can vary widely depending on your role, skills and experience. The average salary for a construction project manager, for example, is £43,776 according to payscale.com. An assistant quantity surveyor, meanwhile, can expect to earn something in the region of £22,737.
Job stability and the size and growth within the sector are other important factors for anyone considering entering the construction industry.
Chairman of the CBI Construction Council and construction firm The Midas Group, Steve Hindley, has said: “We are susceptible to up and downturns, but over the years successive governments have used construction as a turn-off, turn-on mechanism for stimulating economic activity.
“This has led to the industry laying off more than half a million people over the past two recessions as public-sector work has dried up, creating uncertainty for people looking at the industry as a long-term career option.”
However, the industry has been forecast to grow by almost a quarter (23%) from 2014 to 2018, and it was reported in October that the sector continued to create jobs for the 28th month running. It remains an industry prone to experiencing peaks and troughs in demand, but it can still provide a rewarding career path for people with the right mind-set.