It’s never too early to think about where that first construction job could take you – and how you want to get there. Practical work, academic study or professional construction qualifications?
A career in construction doesn’t begin and end with bricklaying. With both apprenticeships and construction degrees available, you have all kinds of options to develop your career. The biggest buildings in the world were built one brick at a time – so aim for the stars and plan ahead to develop a skyscraper career!
1. A practical career
There are plenty of ways to shine with an employer when you take on practical work. As you might expect, putting the effort in and being a team player your boss can rely on will go a long way.
Ways to impress your construction employer include:
- Bewilling to take on physical work (including construction operative jobs like bricklaying and scaffolding). These roles are open to young people without lengthy training or high-level academic qualifications.
- Develop Young Professional skills like positive attitude, communication and teamwork.
- Be the one your employer can turn to if they want something done quickly, carefully, on weekends, or on early or late shifts.
Remember that every physical job you do builds your experience and insider knowledge of the best ways of working. It can lead to being a dependable member of your team, and also to opportunities like apprenticeships in specialist areas like carpentry or plumbing.
2. An academic career
A tried and tested way of moving up from an entry level job is to take on extra training and soak up all that learning. Build your knowledge of the construction trade. Get to know best practice and health and safety. Learn to work with different equipment and use a range of construction techniques.
You can do vocational training, like apprenticeships. You can also apply for construction degrees. As you build your skills and experience over time, you can also do professional qualifications that will help you get higher-paid jobs with more responsibility (fancy being a site manager one day?) that look great on your construction CV.
Construction training and academic courses include:
BTECs are a practical alternative to A-levels, for people who prefer to learn by doing, not by studying books and doing written exams.
Apprenticeships last 1-4 years and you will earn money as you train and build practical experience.
HNDs (Higher National Diplomas) are a form of further study. If you want that specialised training but you still want a hands-on practical route into a construction career, a Higher National Diploma course could be right for you. HNDs are an alternative to university degrees and don’t involve all that classroom study. Instead, with an HND you can put your training to use in the workplace. You can even convert a construction HND into a degree if you do a 1-2 year ‘top up’ course when you complete your HND.
Foundation degrees – again, if you’re not looking for a classroom-based academic degree, you might be interested in the vocational training offered in a foundation degree. Foundation degrees are created through the joint effort of educational organisations and employers. You will get vocational training with an employer as a result.
Undergraduate degrees take around 3-4 years to complete. They show employers that you are dedicated and willing to make a big investment in the future of your construciton career. You’ll get the knowledge and skill in key areas of construction (or specialist areas) and may also get knowledge of areas like business or management, depending on the degree you choose.
There are some construction jobs you often need a degree for. They can be quite creative, well-paid and high-profile or responsible jobs. They include things like architecture, building surveying or structural engineering.
Construction degree apprenticeships are available in a range of fields. If you can’t afford to go to university, you can still do a degree apprenticeship in a subject like building surveying. Your tuition fees get paid by your government or employer, and you earn a salary while doing a mix of working and studying on the employer’s time (so you still get weekends free).
3. Professional Construction Qualifications
You may reach a point in your construction career where you can’t climb higher without getting accreditation and becoming a qualified professional. There’s a huge range of professional construction qualifications out there, so you’ll need to see whiche ones best suit your specialist area. For example, to take on a construction management job and become a site manager, you might need to get certification from the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB).
Future-proof your career in construction
Construction is becoming high-tech in order to stay future-proof. Surveyors frequently use laser technology, for example! You’ll always learn new and better ways of doing things, or specialise in areas of construction that excite you. When you begin your construction career, stay on top of new construction trends – like using new equipment or materials. You may not land your dream job right away, but if you stay curious, enthusiastic and keen to do your best you will learn skills and knowhow to get you where you want to be.
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