Career Consultant: What price experience?

5 July 2010

Advice for an experienced manager who has found that a post-graduate qualification hasn’t boosted his prospects

Q. I have been working in the construction industry for more than 30 years, initially as an electrician then progressing through to supervisor and manager. I am qualified in both building services and construction management, thinking that knowledge and experience in both these areas would make my employment safer in future recessions. But it would appear not. Since returning to university and qualifying in 2006 I have only managed one permanent position and lost that due to the company going into liquidation.

I currently live in Glasgow and am willing to travel up to a 50-mile radius for a position, though there does not appear to be any work other than QS or business development (sales) in Scotland. I have traveled and lived in England for 15 years and missed out so much on the family life that I would like to attempt to build a life at home. Do you have any suggestions?

A. Craig Martin, Rok people director for Scotland, comments: Unfortunately, due to the challenging market conditions facing the industry, there are fewer “permanent” contract opportunities available. 

This is an unfortunate sign of the times and reflects the lack of confidence over the economic outlook in the construction sector. But it is all not doom and gloom and there are plenty of business segments and companies in our industry that have ridden the storm and are now experiencing growth. The challenge is to seek out these opportunities.

For example, in Scotland it is worth exploring the renewable energy sector, and targeting companies supporting the growth in wind and wave power. Despite the recently announced cuts in public spending, there remains strong demand to improve our social housing stock and while funding may come under pressure, there will continue to be opportunities in this area.

It is also worth targeting the numerous projects being launched in preparation for Glasgow hosting the 2014 Commonwealth games.

In theory, maintenance spend should increase when new-build projects are deferred, so your building services experience should be advantageous. Again, it is a question of market research and targeting the right companies in the right sectors.

In the meantime, I would encourage you to continue to pursue short-term and project-specific opportunities. This will place you in the shop window and can often lead to the offer of a “permanent” role. It can also provide you with a broad range of experience which will ultimately strengthen your future career prospects. On the flip-side, it does not remove the uncertainty, but unfortunately this may be with us for some time yet.

Please don’t get disheartened, as it is often amazing what opportunities can come your way.


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I am a part time HNC Construction student and I have desperately seeking employment within the construction industry as a trainee. I am finding extreme difficulty finding work as I live in the West Midlands, there more opportunities in the South East, however to my commitments at college, I could not move. Can you please advise me?

Moybul Ali, 1 October 2010

After completing a Construction management degree recently and also been a local builder - Bricklayer, extensions etc I have been trying my hardest to get that job that I went to Uni for and I am about to give in . I know quite well that construction is first to get hit and hard and also last to recover and then very slowly at best. My question is what would be the best alternative to now break into and without having to go and do more courses or Uni work as I and many others in the same predicament need a job and fast with all our crippling debts whilst studying. I am still very keen on construction but sick of the pitfalls and recessions we have had so would health and safety or managerial knowledge transfer help and if so how?

Had enuff, 13 October 2010

Dear Moybul

The construction industry is in many respects a “journeyman’s industry” and people have always travelled to construction sites, moving across the country to work on a particular project. You may have to cast your net further and take your studies with you. Depending on the college you are presently studying at and the details of your course, it may be possible to start the next stage of your HNC Construction course at an alternative college or university, or consider distance learning. I would advise you to talk to an advisor at your present college and contact universities and colleges in other areas of the country to discuss the options.

Do keep applying for every possible opportunity and use your time positively. The up-side to this difficult period when there are restricted opportunities is that it can provide spare time to plan and conduct a job search thoroughly. You could spend this time completing your HNC and gaining the best qualification that you can, picking up any extra courses to make your qualification diverse and current. Willmott Dixon are in fact growing in the Midlands and the North and you could find that with good, relevant qualifications, you are exactly in the right area of the country in any case. Therefore I would advise you to send your CV to our Head Office. We are accepting CVs for our 2011 Management Trainee Programme and have offices throughout England and Wales, including Birmingham. Full details of our Management Trainee Programme can be found on our website:

Richard Lee
Group Chief Human Resources Officer
Willmott Dixon Holdings Limited

Richard Lee, 22 October 2010

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