Kicking Off a Career in the Construction Trade
In early 2015, multiple news outlets started to report that the UK was in the midst of a massive shortage of skilled trades such as plumbers, bricklayers, carpenters and plasterers. With such a significant skills gap emerging, there has been a big impact on building companies across the country over the last year - and this is now having a knock-on effect on the industry’s ability to tackle the ever-growing housing crisis across the UK.
Back in August 2015, the Federation of Master Builders highlighted this ‘desperate need’ for apprentices and quoted the results of its recent survey, which found that 66% of small construction firms had actually been forced to turn down new business, due to a lack of skilled workers.
In the same survey, the FMB also discovered that there are shortages of different types of tradespeople in different areas of the country. For example, plasterers are hard to find in the East of the country, while the West Midlands needs more scaffolders, and London is in dire need of both carpenters and bricklayers!
But it’s not all bad news – as new figures released by the CITB (Construction Industry Training Board) during this year’s National Apprenticeship Week (14th to 18th March 2016) indicate that UK Apprenticeships in the construction industry are now up 12% from this time last year, reaching new levels which have not been seen since before the 2008 financial crisis. So it seems that the situation is definitely being addressed at last.
Apprenticeship programmes are a common route into many trades, and are well worth considering as a stepping stone into the industry. They normally take around three or four years to complete, with a combination of on-site training and the ability to gain recognised qualifications at the same time. More information on Apprenticeships can be found at www.gov.uk.
Bearing the CITB figures in mind, now could be the perfect time to think about a career in the construction trade - so we thought it might help to outline a little more about the skills and qualifications required for some of the more well-known trades, along with a few of the ways in which you can make the first move into the industry.
With bricklaying, it’s not all about qualifications – as the more skilled you are, the higher the wage you could command. On-site experience is therefore incredibly valuable, making an Apprenticeship a really good route into the industry.
In addition to having strong practical skills, bricklayers also need to be good at operating in teams, as well as having the ability to work accurately and to read technical plans. And it probably goes without saying that you need to be very fit as well! As an experienced bricklayer you can go on to train for specialist work such as stonemasonry and restoration, as well as having the option to become self-employed or even set up your own business in time.
If you’re interested in becoming a bricklayer, there are a number of relevant qualifications which you must have. A good place to start is with a City & Guilds Level 1 Certificate in Basic Construction Skills, followed by the City & Guilds Levels 1 to 3 Certificate in Bricklaying. You can also find relevant information on the websites of Carillion PLC and the National Careers Service.
There are many types of carpentry occupations available, from traditional joiners through to restoration and trim carpenters. Joiners tend to have broad skill set, including the ability to make and fit wooden structures such as roof timbers and staircases, whereas restoration carpenters work to restore the wood elements of an historic structure to its former state. Meanwhile trim carpenters specialise in installing and repairing the moulding and trim found on windows, doors and mantels, so there are many different routes to consider!
A couple of key qualifications which you might want to look into are the Ascentis Level 1 Award in Wood Operations and the City & Guilds Level 2 or 3 NVQ Diploma in Wood Occupations. You can also find relevant information via the British Woodworking Federation and the City & Guilds websites.
Electricians work in a number of different areas, so there is a wide range of career paths open to you. These include installation and highway system electricians, or fitting and repairing electrical circuits in residential and commercial properties, or even working on major engineering projects. There is also the opportunity to focus on the renewable energy sector if you prefer, working with wind turbines and solar power systems for example.
All electricians need to have an industry-recognised Level 3 qualification, and two of the most popular ones are the City & Guilds Level 3 (NVQ) Diploma in Electrotechnical Services (Electrical Maintenance) and the City & Guilds Level 3 (NVQ) Diploma in Installing Electrotechnical Systems & Equipment (Buildings, Structures and the Environment). You can also find relevant information on the websites of British Gas, the National Grid and Trade Skills 4 U.
Painter and Decorator
In the painting and decorating trade, employers really do prefer a certain level of experience, but may then offer you further training and qualifications as part of your job. So to start things off, you could consider looking for work as a painter and decorator’s labourer. As with most trades, practical skills are required here of course, but an element of creativity and excellent attention to detail will also be huge assets. It’s also important to remember that you’ll need to be comfortable with heights and have a good sense of balance as well!
To get started, you’ll really need the City & Guilds Level 1 to 3 in Painting and Decorating and also the NOCN Level 2 Diploma in Construction Crafts – Painting and Decorating (QCF). You can also find relevant information via the National Careers Service website.
Most professional plasterers tend to start their career as a plasterer’s mate or labourer – or alternatively you can also find an Apprenticeship to get you started. If you can work quickly and accurately with your hands, then becoming a plasterer could be the ideal job for you.
Typical day to day responsibilities include preparing the surface of a wall by ensuring all plasterboards are level and any old plaster has been removed – followed by the tricky bit, spreading the wet plaster mix! There are also different branches of plastering to consider, such as solid or fibrous plastering – and you may also get involved in correcting or maintaining existing plasterwork using specialist hand tools.
Although you do not usually need formal qualifications to become a plasterer, at an entry level it will be a good idea to complete a City & Guilds Level 1 and 2 Diploma in Plastering. Relevant information can also be found on the Carillion PLC website and Mybuilder.com is a great place to look for work, once you’re up and running!
All plumbers need to have an industry-recognised qualification, and must also be able to follow technical drawings and plans – with good practical skills and problem solving abilities. Depending on the location of your work, typical responsibilities could include installing drainage, heating systems and water supplies, servicing heating and ventilation systems, or fitting joints and flashings to areas such as roofs and walls.
There are two pathways into the industry - an NVQ Level 2 Diploma in Plumbing and Heating or an NVQ Level 2 Diploma in Installing and Maintaining Domestic Heating Systems. A City & Guilds in Plumbing and Domestic Heating could also be useful. Relevant information can be found on the Plimbco Plumbers, Dyno and Higgins Plumbing websites.