by Richard McPartland
Have you ever considered a career in construction? The construction industry is one of the UK's biggest and most diverse employers - in fact, around one in ten jobs is in or related to the construction sector - that's around 2.5 million people currently in construction-related roles.
Here we explore the wide variety of construction-related jobs and signpost a range of career planning resources.
What is construction?
Construction refers to the designing, building and maintaining of the 'built' environment. Whether thinking about your house or a huge skyscraper, a football stadium or a bridge, all will have been designed and built by construction professionals either as a 'new build' or renovation/ refurbishment project. Construction professionals are required to ensure that projects are aesthetically pleasing, safe, secure, sustainable and are brought in on time and on budget.
The construction industry contains a range of sole-traders as well as companies both large and small - many targeting particular markets, such as healthcare, others working more broadly across many sectors. These companies offer a wide range of job roles.
What kind of construction jobs are there?
It's not just the architects, builders and engineers who you might already be aware of who are involved in construction projects. Consider the electricians who wire up buildings, writers who bring proposals to life and designers who develop plans. Moreover, what about the civil engineers, site managers, project managers or health and safety advisors who ensure projects are delivered safely, to a client's satisfaction and without injury?
In recent years the UK has seen significant investment in heavy infrastructure and growth in development of private housing schemes, creating significant employment opportunities - particularly for construction managers, civil engineers, plumbers, electricians and painters and decorators.
Consider an infrastructure project as a hypothetical example. A wide range of construction professionals will be involved in such a project from start to finish. Here we list some roles that may be involved at each stage...
Design and planning and pre-construction: Rail systems engineer, Geotechnical engineer, Traffic safety and control officer, Civil engineer, Structural engineer, Logistics and plant manager, Ecologist, Procurement manager, Contracts Manager, 3D Visualiser/specialist.
Geotechnical and earthworks: Environmental engineer, Hydrographic surveyor, Site manager, Land/Geomatic Surveyor, Banksman, Piling operative, Plant operator, Site engineer/ technician, Quality assurance manager.
Substructure and super structure: Tunelling operative, Tunelling section engineer, Welding fabricator, Scaffolder, General construction operative, Highways engineer, Formworker, Safety net rigger, Rig driver, Setting out engineer.
Drainage and utilities: Gas service installer, Civil engineering technician, Electrical engineer, Nuclear process engineer, Plant operator, Site inspector, Drainage engineer, Building services engineer, Compliance manager, Safety, Health, Environment and Quality (SHEQ) Advisor.
Finishes: Head of track, Landscape architect, Site inspector, Highways engineer, Traffic technical officer, Landscape manager, Compliance manager, Painter and decorator.
Operation, Repair and Maintenance and Management: Tunnel ventilation engineer, Structural engineer, Bricklayer, Stonemason, Structural engineer, Highways maintenance technician, Transport modeller, Surveyor.
It's not just the architects, builders and engineers who you might already be aware of who are involved in construction projects
What do some of these people do?
With a clearer idea of the wide variety of roles on offer, we thought it might be useful to explore a select few of more detail - exploring roles and responsibilities and typical day-to-day duties.
Architect: Architects design structures - alterations or extensions to existing buildings and entirely new properties.
Architectural technologist: Architectural technologists advise on science and engineering. Chartered Architectural Technologists (MCIAT) can lead a project and specialist in the technology of architecture as it relates to the design of buildings for use and performance.
Building services engineer: Building services engineers design, install and maintain services within the building. These services may relate to heating, lighting, power, security, health and safety or acoustics. They may work on designs of a building or ensure that the designs are properly implemented.
Building control surveyor: Building control surveyors make sure that building regulations and other relevant legislation is followed when buildings are designed and constructed, altered, or otherwise extended.
Building surveyor: A building surveyor provides advice on property and construction and is responsible for producing detailed Building Surveys which identify defects and advise on options for repair or maintenance. Building surveyors will also be required to work on preventative measures and to look for ways to make buildings sustainable.
Commercial/ Residential surveyor: A surveyor deals with the management, purchase sale or leasing of land or property and mayalso be called upon to value and survey property or act as an agent or broker during sales.
Drilling engineer: A drilling engineer is concerned with the operations required to drill oil and gas wells - from design, planning and coisting through to completion and decommissioning.
Site engineer: Site engineers organise and supervise construction projects - setting out locations for the installation of infrastructure both above and below ground.
Quantity surveyor: A quantity surveyor manages costs on a building or civil engineering construction project with an eye on minimising costs while achieving the desired standards and quality.
Landscape architect: A landscape architect aims to improve the quality of the environment by designing and managing open spaces such as public areas in towns, cities and the countryside.
Site managers: Site managers are responsible for ensuring what needs to happen, happens on a construction site - making sure the building work is finished to deadline, to budget and to the agreed quality, managing teams of workers on site.
Construction trades or crafts: Trades and crafts include bricklaying, stonemasonry, carpentry, joinery, demolition work, electrical work, painting and decorating, plumbing, scaffolding, steeplejacking, and wall and floor work.
What kind of organisation could I work for?
Construction is highly collaborative with many different organisations coming together to work on a project. All these kinds of organisations will have requirements for staff.
Consultants will be commissioned by a client to look after pre-construction elements of a project and, in turn, a range of professionals will work for the consultants to plan and design the project.
Contractors are involved in building the project once designs are finalised and will spend significant amounts of time on site.
Sub-contractors may also be employed by contractors for additional or specialist help in particular areas of a project. Again, sub-contractors, will spend lots of time on site.
Service staff will also get involved in construction. Whether working for a local authority or utility company (water, electricity, gas or telecoms) these professionals will need to engage with the wider project team.
What qualifications do I need?
GCSEs, the Welsh Baccalaureate, A-levels, Nationals and Highers are all useful stepping stones to a career in construction.
English, Maths and Science are compulsory at school (and are often key entry requirements for Highers and A-levels). After school these subjects will also stand you in good stead should you wish to take up a construction apprenticeship, which can give you the opportunity of earning a wage while learning new skills.
At school or college, if given the opportunity to choose particular subjects it's worth thinking about which would transfer most readily into a construction career. For example, design and technology offers the chance to practise working with your hands, while humanities subjects like business studies can give you an appreciation of how companies are run.
How can I find out more about job roles?
There's lots of information available online - websites such as the National Careers Service, contain job profiles which contain more information on the day-to-day duties you might be expected to perform and how to get the training and qualifications you need to be in contention for your desired roles.
The Construction Industry Training Board's Go Construct site contains information on the routes you might follow to become qualified and, eventually, land your dream job.
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