The war for talent: Get into construction

Ignore the official statistics that suggest construction activity in this country is slowing down – the industry is booming. Not only is this the message coming from Build UK members, who include the leading main and specialist contractors, but the trade figures prove it.

The latest report published by Build UK, in partnership with industry analysts Glenigan, confirms that 50 per cent of companies are operating at almost full capacity and see no signs of that slowing down. The biggest challenge today is recruiting the next generation of construction workers.

A powerhouse within the UK economy, the construction sector employs up to 10 per cent of the working population and will need 46,000 new workers each year for the next five years. In the war for talent, every employer, whatever their business, obviously wants to recruit and retain good people. The beauty of construction is the rich mix of opportunities on offer, spanning more than 150 different professions with tens of thousands of apprenticeship places available.FOC_web_BuildUK_2

It is not just traditional building skills that are in demand. Every company requires a back-office support network and front-of-house sales teams, offering huge flexibility to work full or part-time and the option of a warm office environment if the fresh air of a construction site holds no appeal. Operating in today’s digital world calls for cutting-edge technical skills, both to design and develop our built environment, but also to install and maintain it to the very latest standards.

As a result, everyone, whatever they are good at, can have both a job and a career for life.

As an industry, construction creates the built environment in which we all work, rest and play. Every day, it builds communities, growing the transport infrastructure and smart communications network, as well as delivering essential services, such as water and energy supplies.

The beauty of construction is the rich mix of opportunities on offer, spanning more than 150 different professions with tens of thousands of apprenticeship places available

Being part of a successful team is rewarding and having something to show for your day at work represents one of the big attractions of construction, says Build UK chief executive Suzannah Nichol.

“Not everyone can walk down the street and say ‘I built that!’ It’s a fantastic feeling and I speak from experience,” she says. “Joining the industry as a young engineer, I had no idea just how exciting life could be. My first job involved monitoring the stability of a beautiful historic façade in the heart of Westminster, while we demolished every other part of the building, inspecting complex scaffolding structures, setting out foundations for an enormous crane and drilling through seven concrete floors.

“Sponsored all the way by a contractor providing high-quality training along with a decent pay packet, I subsequently got into health and safety development, and visiting schools as a construction ambassador, then more recently giving evidence in the House of Commons and discussing apprenticeships with the minister for skills in the shadow of Big Ben. Life in the construction industry is certainly varied.”

Construction is a career with no limits. Whether you want to use your executive skills to manage multi-million-pound budgets, deliver the next high-speed railway, build a state-of-the-art football stadium or spend your days restoring heritage properties using the craft skills of a bygone age, there is a job for you.

Employers range from very large multinational companies operating in a high-level corporate environment to smaller and specialist contractors keen to develop their own skilled workforce. Recognising the need to hold on to that talent, the industry has its own pension and benefits scheme, with health and safety top of the agenda. With an average salary of more than £44,000, jobs in construction also offer people a realistic chance of settling down in their own home.

The passion and ambition within the industry to make a better world for everyone means construction is a great place to work, Ms Nichol concludes. “Anyone seeking a future career, a challenge or a change of direction is missing a trick if they don’t take a look at what the construction industry has to offer. A can-do attitude along with a willingness to learn and a desire to do your best are the core skills required,” she says.

“If nothing else, my career in the industry has taught me one thing: whatever you are into, get into construction – you won’t regret it.”

To get a taste for more go to and during Open Doors Week, June 13-18, 2016, you can visit a live construction project run by a Build UK member; visit