Construction is one of the industries with the highest skills shortages in the UK, with close to 170,000 jobs projected to be created by 2023 across the country. And, with more than 1 in 5 workers in the construction industry aged 50 or above, the time is ripe for young people to enter the job market in an ever more diverse sector.
For instance, more and more women are entering construction, a traditionally male-dominated profession, and are therefore challenging negative stereotypes about the industry.
Government-funded apprenticeships are available for many roles, providing young people with hard skills and qualifications across a range of activities. One myth to dispel about the industry — it’s not all about hard hats! From quality surveyors to engineers, construction brings together a host of roles and responsibilities for you to try.
Another myth is that construction is not a ‘career’. Like any other profession, it allows for its practitioners to move up through the ranks. Impressively, according to one study from the Federation of Master Builders, as many as two thirds of all construction bosses started their careers as an apprentice.
One pivotal advantage of the construction industry from the perspective of young people is that it will continue to provide employment opportunities. Times and attitudes may change, but things will always need to be built! This opens the door for regular employed work. Once qualified, you are not limited to a choice of employers — you can easily charge for your services in your local area, or even set up your own business.
Take a look below at the roles in the construction industry that are in really high demand (and well paid!) — have you considered any of these interesting career opportunities?
Bricklayers is the role in top demand in the UK, with an estimated shortage of 15,000 people in the industry. As the government is planning for the construction of 300,000 new homes in England every year, the demand for bricklayers has never been as high as now, and is not planned to reduce any time soon.
There are 3 main ways to become a bricklayer — you can either follow a college course, an apprenticeship or on-the-job training.
And — fun fact — Winston Churchill was a passionate bricklayer in his post-war days, building up walls in the garden of his Kent house.
2) Carpenters and Joiners
Carpentry and joinery is the second skilled trade in very high demand in the UK, with around 60% of construction companies reporting difficulties to hire.
While joiners typically work in a workshop where they create furniture, door or window frames using heavy machinery, carpenters are more mobile, working from one construction site to the other, assembling timber frames or building stud walls.
Choosing one or the other profession depends on your appetite for mobility!
While no qualification is required to become a carpenter or joiner, it is encouraged to complete a Level 2 Carpentry and Joinery Apprenticeship which takes around 18 months.
You may want to continue for another year to complete a Level 3 Advanced Carpentry and Joinery apprenticeship. There are more than 1,500 students who have started a Carpentry apprenticeship in Q1 2018/19 – why not joint the next cohort?
Don’t forget you will also need a CSCS card to be able to work on a construction site.
On average, site carpenters and bench joiners earn an average annual salary of £41k, more than certified accountants!
3) General Labourers
General labourers is another profession where severe shortages are reducing productivity, which may become even more acute due to the uncertainties surrounding Brexit, as 16% of the current labourer workforce comes from outside the UK. Severe shortages could therefore translate into higher wages for workers in the months or years to come.
While no specific qualifications are expected, a CSCS card is required to be able to work on a construction site to show that you have a solid knowledge of health and safety. Cards are relatively inexpensive and the simple procedure for acquiring them can be found by clicking here.
General labourers are tasked with a variety of responsibilities, from preparing and tidying the site to loading materials. Starting here is also a great entry point to learn more specialised trades on-the-job, such as carpentry, bricklaying or plastering, and to help you move up the construction career ladder.
4) Site Supervisors and Site Managers
Workers aren’t just hard to come by on the ground — 2/3 of construction companies are reporting experiencing issues hiring site supervisors and managers in 2019.
Basically, the role of site supervisors involves managing the site in accordance with health and safety guides. Site managers tend to have more responsibility than supervisors — it is their job to ensure that projects are completed in time and within budget.
These roles require a bit more training — you can become a site supervisor once you’ve completed a 3-year higher apprenticeship in Construction and have completed a SSSTS (Site Supervisor Safety Training) course.
As a Site Supervisors, you can often move up the career ladder and become a Site Manager after a few years — with greater managerial responsibilities — once you have completed your SMSTS (Site Management Safety Training Scheme) course. You can also expect to move up to other senior construction managerial roles, such as project manager or project director.
5) Quantity Surveyors
Construction companies are all pretty desperate about recruiting quantity surveyors, which is an issue not limited to the UK but acute worldwide. Some studies have described it as “a global crisis in the surveying profession”.
Quantity surveyors are responsible for estimating the amount of materials required for a building project and their costs over the lifetime of a building project. The efficient use of resources is of paramount importance to save money and reduce landfill waste. You are an important link between the office and the site, and it is up to you to save money and avoid potentially huge financial penalties levied upon employers who do not comply with environmental regulation.
It’s a very interesting profession for you to think about, with great recruitment opportunities, attractive salaries (£56k), and a relatively short training phase as it only takes 2 years to complete a Level 3 — Surveying Technician Apprenticeship.
Furthermore, the increased use of 3D modelling packages and BIM (Building Information Modelling) software makes it a profession with innovating digital solutions to explore in the future. This intelligent model-based process enables efficient and sustainable construction, but could also be put to great use in the planning, design and managing of buildings and infrastructure too. If you like technology, numbers and the construction sector, it’s an ideal role for you!
Starting as a junior quantity surveying can lead to very interesting senior roles, such as commercial manager, contracts manager or head of contracts.
I hope this has given some indication of the breadth of opportunities available to you in the construction sector, a sector that is in desperate need of young, fresh talent across the board.
Best of luck securing your first work opportunity!