Photograph courtesy of Alisman
All Things Being Unequal
As we all know the smart money is going into property where it is driving up prices and stoking demand for new buildings.
According to a recent report from The Prince’s Trust and HSBC this status quo may not last long, however; and certainly without wholesale changes to recruitment and retention practices within the construction industry.
For the problem with demand is it has always generated supply, and the problem with supply is it requires the services of "suppliers" or, in this instance, skilled construction professionals who happen to be a rarity at the moment.
With 47 per cent of construction companies surveyed admitting they have failed to fill key vacancies during the past year, is it any wonder the Trust is calling on employers to invest in vocational training now to avoid future skills shortages that will have a disruptive impact on the industry and wider economic recovery?
Yet despite the best of intentions, the Trust's support for a new entry route into construction modelled on its Get into Scheme for 16 to 25 year olds, contains serious flaws as a "one size fits all" approach is poorly suited to a monolithic industry that permits other entrants to pursue career development paths that achieve higher levels of professional attainment more quickly.
Neither is it easy to understand how participants on the proposed scheme will compete against graduates and employer-sponsored apprentices in the absence of a level playing-field introducing aptitude-based assessment for all new industry entrants.
Mapping Expectations to New Horizons
Indeed, The Randstad CPE Salary Survey 2014 which is produced by one of the country’s largest recruitment agencies specialising in property, construction, and provides comparative data on actual salaries earned by new industry entrants ordered by seniority of starting position as well as location, identifies the existence of significant pay differentials between different built environment disciplines.
Recruiters and new entrants alike should take heed of the cumulative impact on life-long earnings that can accompany any decision to enter one branch of the construction industry rather than another (as even over a decade differences between a Senior Project Manager located in Scotland earning £60,000 and a Senior Site Agent on £35,000pa can amount to £250,000) despite significant overlap between the functions undertaken by people engaged in either role (which typically monitor the general progress of a project and involve overseeing the delivery of materials, client reporting and conducting safety checks) and similar entry educational requirements – that will typically include either a degree, Higher National Certificate (HNC), Higher National Diploma (HND) or BTEC qualification.
Other construction roles that involve similar functions and usually require similar (if not identical) educational or professional entry qualifications include those of Senior Estimator (£44,000pa), Senior Buyer (£38,000pa) and Quantity Surveyor (£45,000pa).
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 clearly from experience and knowledge gained in the construction industry, 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”!