Some jobs that people do are pretty difficult to explain to outsiders. If you’re a Consultant Brand Evangelist, for instance, you might have a hard time getting people to understand what you do all day, and what you have to show for your efforts at the end of it. If you’re an apprentice bricklayer you won’t have any problems like that. It’s what makes working in the construction industry so rewarding; the results of your work are there for all the world to see.
Construction is a great choice if you like to work with your hands as well as your brain, and if you don’t want to be staring at the same four walls year in, year out. You might think of these apprenticeships as very traditional roles, compared to something in IT for instance, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about the flexibility the industry offers. Most tradespeople can choose to become self-employed or to work for a bigger firm, and can change their status when it suits them. Of the 2.5 million people working in construction, more than 800,000 are self-employed. It’s a project based industry so you can usually decide for yourself when to go on holiday, or when to work extra hours to pay for the holiday. And if you fancy a year or two working in another country, tradespeople are in demand all over the world. Building sites are much the same in Australia as they are in the UK, just a bit warmer maybe.
What does an apprenticeship involve?
An apprenticeship usually lasts between two and four years depending on where you're based and what level of qualification you're studying for.
As an apprentice, you will:
- be in full-time employment
- be paid a minimum of £3.30 an hour - many apprentices earn considerably more
- gain a nationally recognised qualification
- get hands-on experience to help you develop the skills you need to kick start a successful career.
On the job training is structured to ensure you learn the right skills. Off the job training will be arranged for you at a college or training centre. You can complete this training on day release, or over a number of days in a series of blocks.
What do I need to start?
For a trade apprenticeship, you should ideally have standard grades in Maths and English, technology subjects or a Skills for Work Construction Crafts qualification so that you can do the necessary calculations, measurements and theory. If you don’t have these, don’t worry, there are other ways in. Some trades will require a basic level of physical fitness so you’ll be able to handle the materials correctly.
How do I go about getting an apprenticeship?
Apprenticeships are overseen by a wide variety of companies and trade bodies. You could start work with a local builder and ask them to offer you an apprenticeship or join one of the training schemes run by major companies like Barratt Homes or Persimmon. Alternatively, you could apply through a body such as the Construction Industry Training Board.
What if I prefer not to work with my hands?
Like any other, the construction industry needs professionals and managers. There are higher level apprenticeships on offer in fields such as architecture, surveying, planning, maintenance, construction management, building services and civil engineering.
How much will I earn when I qualify?
CONSTRUCTION MANAGER - £42,000
QUANTITY SURVEYOR - £35,000
ELECTRICIAN - £30,765
PLUMBER - £28,532
CARPENTER - £25,694
BRICKLAYER - £24,669
PLASTERER - £24,000
These are average earnings across the UK. A self-employed plumber working in London, for instance, is likely to earn quite a bit more than the figure quoted here, but it’s not a bad guide.
What's it like working in construction? Some common myths explained.
Its far to say that the construction sometimes has a bit of an image problem, though it’s a fast-changing industry. Here are a few common myths, though at least one of them isn’t a complete myth, as you’ll see.
Building sites are dangerous - Absolutely not. No industry is more health and safety conscious than construction. You can’t get on a building site, even as a labourer, without a CSCS card to show you’ve passed the Construction Skills Certification Scheme safety course. Health and Safety training will be an integral part of your training - just try walking on site without a hard hat and steel capped boots and you’ll be sent home.
It’s a man’s world – Not as much as it used to be, though most construction apprentices are still male, 98% of them in fact. This is changing a lot though, and a female electrician or plumber is no longer a complete rarity. Many women relish the flexibility these jobs offer and the potential they offer to achieve a proper work/life balance.
It’s an old-fashioned industry – No. Building materials and methods are constantly evolving and you’ll be expected to keep up with them. Traditional methods, or heritage skills, are still in needed to maintain old buildings but they’re very specialist areas, and very well paid. And finally…
Construction apprenticeships offer limited career potential – Definitely not. The sky’s the limit, to be honest. Whether you want to be your own boss, or progress from tradesman to Site Manager or Surveyor, the opportunities are there.
A growing sector
The construction sector grew by 2.5% last year and needs 135,000 additional apprentices between now and 2020. There’s no point in saying it’s not about people in hard hats and hi-vis. It is, but that’s only a part of what’s it’s about. Employers need people who they can train to take advantage of new technology and improved ways of working. They need craftspeople, but they also need managers to grow their businesses, both here in the UK and abroad. As the industry evolves, construction sites have become better places to work; safer, fairer and more aware of the need to reflect our diverse society. If you want an industry where you can make your mark, and learn to do a job that really matters, you couldn’t do better than a construction apprenticeship.
Interested? Seek out the latest UK building and construction opportunities on our site by clicking here.