A tough examination

11 November 2010

This month, two readers are concerned about the tough jobs market, despite studying to improve their chances. Our Career Consultants offer their tips.

Q I am a part-time HNC Construction student and I’m desperately seeking employment within the construction industry as a trainee. I am finding it extremely difficulty finding work as I live in the West Midlands. There are more opportunities in the south-east, however due to my commitments at college, I could not move. Can you please advise me?

A Richard Lee, group chief human resources officer, Willmott Dixon Holdings

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 your college and the details of your course, it may be possible to start the next stage of your HNC at an alternative college or university. Or consider distance learning. Talk to an adviser at your present college and contact universities and colleges elsewhere in the country to discuss options.

Keep applying for every possible opportunity and use your time positively. 

The upside to this difficult period 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 qualifications that you can, picking up any extra courses to make your experience diverse and current. Willmott Dixon is in fact growing in the Midlands and the north and you could find that with good, relevant qualifications, you are in the right area of the country in any case. You could send your CV to our head office as we are accepting CVs for our 2011 Management Trainee Programme and have offices throughout England and Wales, including Birmingham.

A Caroline Owen, business director at Hays Construction

It may be advisable to tailor your HNC modules to areas where professionals are more in demand. I would certainly recommend looking at law and contract, and tendering and estimating, as there are more opportunities at pre-contract stage within commercial teams rather than in site operations. I would also suggest being as flexible as possible with regard to the companies you approach — the top 10 contractors may not be recruiting, whereas smaller refurbishment contractors will tend to receive fewer applications. If you are still unable to secure work, offer your time in a voluntary capacity to demonstrate your abilities, gain experience and build up contacts. You are far more likely to be considered for work if you are already operating in the sector.

Q I have been a local builder and recently completed a Construction Management degree. I have been trying hard to get that job I studied for and I am about to give in. What would be the best alternative, without having to do more courses or Uni work? I and many others in the same predicament with crippling debts from studying need a job. I am still very keen on construction but sick of the pitfalls and recessions. Would health and safety or managerial knowledge transfer help and if so how?

A Glenn Foster, people leader, Rok

I can understand your disappointment, but hopefully it is not all doom and gloom. Construction is a diverse sector and there are still opportunities within it — some companies are really struggling but others are recruiting. There might not be so many landmark, prestige projects being built but there is plenty of maintenance and improvement work being done and FM businesses are doing well. Another growth area is demolition, with the emphasis on recycling buildings and re-using brownfield sites. Here, an understanding of building materials and processes is helpful.

Your course is likely to have had elements of project management, co-ordination and budget control in it. These are valuable, transferable skills so you could cast your net wider, looking at organisations that buy construction services where your hands-on knowledge would be useful, or consider building material suppliers.

The more skills you have, the better your chances. Don’t feel what you learned at university is wasted; just see how you can apply it to a range of possible opportunities.

A Sean Mcvittie, regional manager, Hays Construction

It is a challenging time, but there are things you can do to improve your chances. Have you tailored each application to the specific job requirements, or targeted specific sectors that are showing more resilience, such as rail, retail and utilities? In terms of health and safety, we are experiencing an increased demand for health and safety advisers, and managers. The potential downside is that they are not construction specific — opportunities exist within sectors such as manufacturing or health. So a move to health and safety might increase your job opportunities, but some relevant experience and qualifications would also be required.

Put it to the panel

Did our panel get it right? Do you have a question you’d like to ask? Post comments or questions — under a pseudonym if you prefer — at the bottom of this article. Our panel await your questions and are always happy to help.

More than 100 jobs on

If you've visited the site recently, you'll have noticed that a healthy number of recruiters are targeting CIOB members with recruitment adverts on the CIOB's own job site.

Here's a breakdown of the vacancies at the end of October:

Middle East: 25

Australia: 6

Europe: 4

South Africa: 3

China: 1

UK: 61

Visit: and upload your CV today


There is increasing recognition of the need for management skills in the construction industry. The Construction Industry Training Board (2000) was concerned that while construction graduates may be technically proficient, there is room for improving their ability to manage both the construction process and the people working in the industry.

Construction Industry Training Board (2000) Managing profitable construction: the skills profile. Bircham Newton: CITB.

I am currently studying a construction management degree at Northumbria University, and I am actively seeking an internship placement for 2011 within the construction industry any information anyone could provide to help me with my search would be greatly appreciated.

Shaun Henderson, 14 November 2010

I sat the CIOB cert in site management, then the CIOB diploma in site management which at the end gave me certificates stating level 4, that was completed in 2007. I am a junior site manager and about to start a build alone next year. These courses were meant to be benificial to my career but to date they are not even reconigised by the cscs scheme, why is that? all that I am eligible for is a level 3 site supervisors card. The college that I sat the course have stopped teaching CIOB, and its looking like im going to have to go back and sit a HNC level 4 before I can progress academically. Looking at the course structure its the same as the CIOB, am I going mad or just round in circles?

peter bourne, 12 December 2010

I fully understand your problem, CSCS is by far the most backward organisation in the construction sector ive came across. try having 2O years exoerience been self employed, freelance for 10 years, started own ltd company, degree educated, NEBOSH certs, APMG certs, city and guilds, BA Business Management and many many more !. BUT constructionskills only offer me a trainee cscs, is it because you get a young woman on the phone and goes away to find the answers your looking for ? only to come back and tell you to look online.
Its about time constructionskills sorted its self out, and recognised foundation degrees with a construction background after having completed a Fdsc at Newcastle College and finding out it isnt worth taking to the toliet after having been told otherwise by Newcastle College, wether its accredited or not it should still lead on to a third year top up in construction related subject which it doesnt. Why doesnt constructionskills get involed at education level and stop these colleges feeding people with false information about courses that are a complete waste of time.

john johnson, 1 April 2011

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