Photograph courtesy of Alisman
All Things Being Unequal
With The Prince's Trust and HSBC Bank calling on building contractors to fill widely-reported skills shortages with apprenticeships, FM Magazine considers the advantages of alternative entry routes into construction.
As everyone knows, the smart money's going into property where it's driving up prices and stoking demand for new buildings—a situation that might well be short-lived, according to a report from The Prince’s Trust and HSBC last month.
For the problem with demand is it generates supply, and the problem with supply is its appetite for suppliers - who just happen to be the very same construction professionals who're nowhere to be seen right now.
With 47 per cent of contractors surveyed for the report admitting they've failed to fill key vacancies in the last year, is it any wonder its authors are calling on employers to invest in vocational training now to avoid disruption later?
Yet, despite their best intentions, proponents of a new entry route into construction modelled on The Prince's Trust's Get into Scheme for 16 to 25 year-olds may well be disincentivising new entrants further as several alternatives including employee-sponsored and graduate training schemes promise more specific skillsets and the promise of higher levels of future pay.
Mapping Expectations to New Horizons
According to Randstad's 2014 CPE Salary Survey, entrants to the construction industry should be aware of the cumulative impact on life-long earnings of different entry routes as illustrated by the example of a Senior Project Manager whose training included a formal degree, Higher National Certificate (HNC), Higher National Diploma (HND) or BTEC qualification typically earning £60,000 annually (or £250,000 more over a decade), when compared to a Senior Site Agent on £35,000 a year despite considerable overlap of the two roles.
Other construction roles that involve similar functions and usually require similar (if not identical) educational or professional entry qualifications, include Estimator (£44,000), Senior Buyer (£38,000) and Quantity Surveyor (£45,000).
Mapping New Horizons to Competencies
Although minimum educational requirements continue to act as a barrier for entry to many of the technical construction disciplines (including engineering-related ones), movement between different branches of the industry is commonplace and can be achieved by consciously adopting a lifelong learning approach to career development, combined with taking advantage of opportunities for reskilling and professional development that are increasingly made available by employers – and even by enrolling in local college and web-based training courses.
Levelling Out the Playing Field
As the construction industry becomes increasingly sophisticated in response to the increasing complexity of buildings, regulation and environmental legislation, new managerial roles and functions are emerging for which experience of core construction disciplines at any level of seniority combined with a professional management qualifications – typically in Construction Management, Project Management (or for professionals who already hold a first degree) a Master of Business Administration (MBA), creates opportunities for a “second career” involving off-site administration of construction projects.
Similarly, the growth of facilities management which focus on the operational management and maintenance of buildings and benefits from construction industry expertise, is providing additional opportunities.
By adopting a careful and conscientious approach to career planning and receiving the right levels of support from recruiters, new entrants to the construction industry can map out and follow a long and varied career that will often be as rewarding professionally as it is financially.
As with any life-changing decision, courage, dedication and patience are invariably required - the ancient biographer Suetonius tells us even the Emperor Augustus “found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble”!