Do you really need experience for a construction job? Several would say that experience is not really necessary, and many construction companies do hire workers with no experience for smaller jobs. But according to James Day, an experienced AECOM public health engineer, experience is vital especially for construction and engineering students. "Start looking for work experience as early as you can, even in your first year," Day advices students. "Don’t wait for your department’s work placement tutors to feed opportunities to you."
And Day isn’t the only one who thinks experience is essential. Most graduate recruiters agree that construction-related experience really improves a graduate’s chances of landing job offers in the future. In the TARGET jobs recruiters’ board held last year, majority of recruiters pointed out that generally, when it came to job offers graduates who had industry work experience were better able to answer pertinent questions and tackle assessment exercises.
Benefits of Experience
The benefits of experience are not only limited to graduates, but extends to those who continue to expand their experience through the years. James Moschoyiannis, better known in the construction industry as Jim Moschoyiannis, is a director and shareholder of one of Australia’s leading construction companies, L.U. Simon Builders. But he didn’t get to where he is now simply out of pre-graduate experience, but years of continued experience and learning. Throughout his career Jim has handled projects of every scale and from every sector, which led him to be promoted from being project manager to construction manager in just 7 years and appointed director in just 6. His long and fruitful career is evidence enough that experience is crucial not only in landing those first construction jobs but making it to well-respected positions within the industry.
Gaining Experience at the Start
For the majority of those entering the construction industry the most difficult part is finding opportunities to gain experience at the very start. Usually, recruiters won’t take graduates on an unpaid basis due to minimum wage legislation, and most other companies can’t afford adding paid placement students over the people they have already hired.
So what can construction students do to gain some early experience? Here are some helpful tips:
• Get sponsored. Sponsorships or scholarships from construction companies will not only provide financial support to students but will guarantee work experience placements, particularly during the holidays.
• Apply for paid work experience schemes. There are plenty available online for all kinds of construction-related positions from quantity surveyors to engineers to project managers.
• Work-shadow. Knowing the predicament of construction students, recruiters have been very keen on giving students every possible opportunity to gain experience. One of these is work-shadowing opportunities. When students spend time observing professionals at work rather than taking on work themselves, they don’t go against any legislation and still gain insights regarding the work involved. To gain this opportunity, students must write well-researched and well-written cover letters and CVs asking for permission to work shadow a professional.
• Voluntary work. It’s possible to do voluntary construction work during the gap year, but this may require a fee or some fundraising for certain charities.
• Temp work. If possible, students should check whether they can get temp work in a related field.
There’s no doubt that experience bears a lot of weight in the field of construction. Gain it early and develop it consistently and you can achieve much success in the industry.