A degree and a pile of debt – the net result after several years of hard study and student nights out. But how prepared are graduates for the tough world of work and the particular demands of construction?

Crème de la crème
Crème de la crème

The good news is that construction is becoming a more popular choice for students. According to the University and Admissions Service, applications for building courses by January 2004 reached 8815 – a 16% increase on the previous year. There were 25% more applications to study civil engineering and a 17.5% increase in those pursuing a career in architecture. Research from the Graduate Trends Institute (GTI) indicates that construction graduates earn a healthy £19,000 in their first job, a figure that can rise to up to £32,000 for a 27-year-old QS in London.

The bad news is that research by the GTI shows there was a 20% increase in the number of vacancies for entry level positions in the built environment sector in 2002 and employers saw a 13% increase in the number of job vacancies in 2003. Moreover, in April 2004 the Construction Industry Council reported that in the preceding year, 65% of professional services consultants had experienced difficulties in recruiting staff with the appropriate skills. Engineering, project management and multidisciplinary firms had the greatest recruitment headaches.

So construction is attracting new blood, but the industry needs to recruit even more young people and improve the standard of education on offer.

A graduate drive

ConstructionSkills has several initiatives to encourage more graduates to apply for one of the 405 courses on offer in the UK that relate to the built environment. It produces regular updates about careers in construction, and has also linked up with GTI to create designajob.co.uk. The website links construction students with construction companies to produce an online one-stop shop for jobs, sponsorship, events and careers advice. Currently, 2500 students are registered on the site.

CITB-ConstructionSkills also provides grant support for employers who take on postgraduates for work experience.

If hired, there is further grant support available for the graduates’ continuing training. Another initiative is Construction Ambassadors, a scheme that trains graduates working in construction in presentation skills so they can go back to their colleges to tell students about their experience. More than 840 young people have so far been trained by the scheme.


The SSA is supporting the development of approved training schemes – an agreement between a firm and a professional institution that outlines training for staff – and the development of lifelong learning networks.