Routes into Construction Career

Construction Career

There are several routes to the different careers within the construction industry. Craft industries offer jobs where employees train while they work through apprenticeships and other training schemes. Another way, where many construction staff have found success, is through recruitment agencies.

Technical occupations in the UK require GCSE qualifications or vocational equivalents, either initially or through on the job apprenticeship training. One example is that of Quantity Surveying. Quantity Surveyors are effectively cost managers within the construction industry and may be: (1) employed by Chartered Surveyor practices (referred to often as “PQS” derived from the term Private Quantity Surveyor) who normally represent the client’s interest and liaise with the Architect on the client’s team, preparing cost plans, preparing tender documentation, giving cost advice on variations, preparing monthly valuation payments to the contractor, agreeing the final account with the contractor, generally looking after the client’s interests (although the role can be referred to within some standard forms of contract as being a neutral role to value ‘the’ costs of the project), in practice it tends to be looking after the client’s interests primarily; or (2) employed by Main Contractors, in which role they manage the contractor’s costs, place subcontract orders, make payments to subcontractors, claim monthly valuations from the client’s surveyor (Private QS or “PQS”), cost manage variations, prepare internal cost reports to senior management and directors, generally managing the project commercially and protect the contractor’s interests contractually. Contractual aspects such as delays and extensions of time issues are also within the remit of the Quantity Surveyor (QS); or

(3) employed by Subcontractors, in which role they carry out a similar function to Main Contractor’s QS’s. The main difference is that they are normally submitting monthly valuation claims for payment to the Main Contractor, whereas the Manin Contractor claims from the client’s Surveyor (usually a Chartered Surveyor practice or Private QS “PQS”). Large subcontractors may also employ sub-subcontractors, thereby making the QS role similar in the cost management role, including placing sub-contract orders (to sub-subcontractors), valuing and claiming variations, preparing cost reports to senior management, etc; or employed by Local Authorities (local Councils, etc), whereby the role is broadly similar to that of private practice surveyors in cost managing project from the funding client’s perspective (in this case the Local Authority council within which they are employed), dealing usually with main contractors; or (5) employed by Developers; whereby the role may be a mixture of the role of a client’s surveyor (the funding client being the developer in this case) mixed with that of a main contractor in possibly employing package sub-contractors directly.

Other information: The most recognised body for surveyors in construction is the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (the ‘RICS’). It is more common for a private practice surveyor or local authority employed surveyor to be a member of the RICS, though RICS qualified surveyors do work within main contractors and sub-contractors (the writer of this Quantity Surveyor segment qualified RICS within private practice working on the client’s side, then migrated over to work for a large sub-contractor. Such cross-overs are quite common between client’s side and contracting). Quantity Surveying offers a great diversity of roles and in career path, working on a variety of projects and within different areas and facets of the construction industry. The qualification of “Chartered Quantity Surveyor” has been superseded as the RICS rules have replaced this with simply “Chartered Surveyor” (except those existing Chartered QS’s who registered to keep the Chartered QS title by a date now passed), and Chartered Quantity Surveyor practices have now largely adopted the title of “Construction Cost Consultants” and having the right to call themselves simply “Chartered Surveyors” – though still often referred to in the UK construction industry as “PQS’s”. It is also possible for Construction Cost Consultant practices to be occasionally employed by local authorities, contractors or subcontractors, on a particular construction project although not if they are already employed as surveyors for the same construction project.

As well as the role of Quantity Surveyor, other professions within the UK construction industry are for example: Architect, Engineer, Project Manager, Planner, Safety Officer. These roles may be in ‘Building’ (buildings such as Offices, Shopping Centres, Housing); or ‘Civil Engineering’ (structures such as Bridges, Dams, Motorways/Roads/Highways, Harbours/Ferry Terminals). While projects such as construction of new Power Stations or Naval Bases may comprise a combination of both ‘building’ and ‘civil engineering’.

Graduate roles in the construction industry are filled by people with at least a foundation degree in subjects such as civil engineering, construction engineering, architecture, building science and construction management. Graduates often receive specialized positions and gain qualifications such as chartered status.