Robert Smith of recruitment consultant Hays Montrose says construction offers plenty of opportunities for older workers.
The construction business is booming, and as the recruitment pages of Building testify, there is an abundance of jobs to be filled. But with fewer young people entering the industry, there’s all the more opportunity for mature candidates. But older workers are not merely stand-ins for more desirable younger employees – many industry employers are actively seeking employees aged over 50 and are reaping the benefits of their experience. So, what are the opportunities for older workers within the various industry sectors?


I read recently that the under-30s are regarded as gold dust in contracting. So, if you are over 50, you could be forgiven for feeling sidelined. But not all contractors take on older people because they are taking what they can get. As Bill Chitty, manager of Hays Montrose’s Ilford office, says: “Your small to medium-sized regional contractor is crying out for mature candidates who have a good 10 years to give to the industry. They have a wealth of experience, they get the job done well and there is less danger of ‘job hopping’.

“Experienced, mature site managers and foremen are particularly desirable. A smaller contractor doesn’t want someone who’s going to be knocking on the managing director’s door in five years’ time.”

Surveying and engineering

Private practices may be chasing the minute pool of surveyors in their mid-20s, but the burgeoning public sector market has got wise. Hays Montrose manager Clive Brown, who is based in central London, says there is a big demand for mature candidates from local authorities and his colleagues say the same thing is happening in the structural and civil engineering sectors. Brown says: “Older candidates with good local knowledge are particularly suited to maintenance surveying roles that require good technical experience. My oldest candidates are well into their 70s. Preferring to remain static, their immense technical experience has proved invaluable in an office-based environment.”

Facilities management and building maintenance

Mature candidates have a wealth of experience, they get the job done well and there is less danger of ‘job hopping’

Of all the construction-related sectors, facilities management is undoubtedly the champion of the mature worker’s cause. The industry is still in its infancy but growing at a phenomenal rate and there is, as yet, very little FM-related education or training available. So, facilities managers need 10-20 years of experience to do a good job.

Tina Ling, Hays Montrose regional director for the South Home Counties, was delighted when a group of ex-army men, all over 50, asked to be put on the books. “These are dream candidates as far as FM is concerned. They are mature, disciplined and professional.”

Hays Montrose consultant Sam Baker adds: “Classic maintenance companies such as Haden and Drake & Scull have trained the industry and have had to watch their workers moving on to new companies. The commitment that you get from older guys makes them desirable.

“However, more and more of my clients are buying into the ethos of mobile engineering – and the resulting longer hours and long drives do tend to favour younger engineers. It works out more cost effective to pay one man lots of overtime rather than employing two, so it would be worth bearing that in mind.”

Any advice for older workers?