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Construction labourer Construction operative

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Construction labourers carry out a range of manual jobs on building sites.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £15,000 to £29,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37 to 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

There are no set entry requirements. On-site experience and GCSEs  in subjects like English and maths (or equivalent qualifications) could be helpful.

College courses in building or construction skills could give you some of the skills you'll need, or you may be able to get into this career through an apprenticeship.

To work with plant machinery like excavators or dumper trucks, you'll need to be 18 and have a driving licence.

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • the ability to follow written and spoken instructions
  • to be comfortable working at height
  • excellent teamworking skills

3. What you'll do

At the start of a job, you'll help to prepare the site - putting up huts, unloading and storing building materials and setting up ladders and scaffolding. Much of this will be hard physical work.

Once work gets underway, your day-to-day tasks may include:

  • groundworking - marking out and digging shallow trenches for foundations and drains
  • formworking - putting up or dismantling the shuttering that holds setting concrete in place
  • steel fixing - bending and fixing the bars used to reinforce concrete structures
  • steel piling - fixing steel sheets together to form temporary retaining walls for excavation work
  • concreting - layering and smoothing concrete for foundations, floors and beams
  • road working - concreting, laying kerbs, paving and resurfacing

You'll use various hand, power and machine tools. With further training, you may operate construction plant equipment like dumper trucks and excavators.

4. Salary

Starter: £15,000

Experienced: £16,000 to £21,000

Highly Experienced: £29,000

Overtime and various allowances may increase your income. Self-employed labourers set their own rates.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You'll usually work a basic 39-hour week, often starting early in the morning. Overtime at weekends and evenings may be required to meet deadlines. Seasonal work is common and overnight stays may be necessary.

You'll wear protective clothing and work mostly outdoors. The work often involves carrying heavy loads.

6. Career path and progression

With experience you could specialise in a construction trade, or progress to site supervision, estimating and construction management.

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Last updated: 10 September 2018