The industry employs people with various skill levels, including operatives, skilled craftspeople, technicians and professionals such as civil engineers and surveyors. They are involved in all aspects of construction and can be divided into several main areas:
Graduates with non-technical degrees can work in areas such as HR, finance and contract law with construction companies.
The industry is fast moving. New methods, techniques and technology develop rapidly and legislation is always changing.
Construction is project based and good teamwork, forward planning and organisation skills are essential. Work involves collaboration with many specialists across the sector, with clients and the general public. Most construction workers enjoy the variety the sector offers, as well as being able to get out and about, and being able to see the finished product of their work.
Salaries vary widely across the sector depending on occupation within the sector, size of employer and regional variations. Average graduate starting salaries are around £24,500, with higher salaries offered by international companies and consultancies (The Graduate Market in 2011, High Fliers). Lower salaries are found in roles in regional and UK-wide contractors and local authorities.
Many people in the construction industry work a 37-hour week, but in certain markets there are opportunities for overtime. On major projects working hours are longer, including weekends. Working conditions vary from office-based roles to on-site work, which can be outside in all weathers.
The industry aims for a more diverse workforce through a range of developments such as the creation of employer diversity policies. Organisations such as ConstructionSkills offer initiatives to increase the number of non-traditional entrants to the sector. Despite these measures, there has been only a marginal increase in the number of women and minority ethnic groups employed in construction compared with ten years ago. In 2009, women accounted for 14% of employees but only 2.4% of self-employed construction workers. Minority ethnic workers formed 4% of the workforce (Construction Statistics Annual 2010).
Despite the recession from 2008, construction is a huge sector, employing 2,128,000 people at the beginning of 2011 (Office for National Statistics, May 2011). Growth is anticipated from 2013, though the number of construction workers in 2015 is expected to be 3.7% lower than at its peak in 2007 (Construction Skills Network, 2011).
Construction work occurs throughout the UK. Employment growth for 2011-15 is forecast at 7.8% for the UK, but with variations from 12.2% in South East England to 3.7% in North West England (Construction Skills Network, 2011). For Wales the estimate is just over 5%, while Scotland and Northern Ireland expect employment growth of 8.3% and 8.5% by 2015. Prospects in regions which rely more on public spending - particularly the devolved nations - may be affected by public sector cuts.
For information on working overseas, see opportunities abroad.
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