No wonder we are short of builders in the UK!

No wonder we are short of builders in the UK!

8:15 AM, 20th August 2018, About 4 years ago 7

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I’m looking for some advice. I have a young relative in Aberdeen who’s very keen to get into the building trade. He’s just done his CSCS and is awaiting the arrival of his card, but when applying for site jobs he’s getting told he needs a year’s experience.

Can anyone give advice on how he might get a year’s experience when he needs the experience to get a place? 🙂

Many thanks


Ronny Popat

11:26 AM, 20th August 2018, About 4 years ago

Hi Li
There are many house builders who offer apprenticeships so I would suggest your relative contacts them. I work for one but unfortunately do not operate in your area.

Good Luck!


11:31 AM, 20th August 2018, About 4 years ago

Best with someone who knows them. I have always had trainees, but some turn out to be unreliable, not turn up just when really needed, or nicking stuff, or no common sense, slow to learn, uninterested in studying up on stuff or trying to understand methods, probably not allowed to say thick or dumb, just stand there like a lemon. Or don't want to do the tough stuff that goes with the job. Want picking up and taking home. Not prepared to bike, bus or walk, or get up on time.

So personally knowing someone is best. It is understandable good tradesman reluctant to take on unknown someone who turns out to be a liability, reflects badly on his business and reputation that he has worked hard to build up.

The good trainees learn well, work hard, then leave and go out on their own!


12:28 PM, 20th August 2018, About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Ronny Popat at 20/08/2018 - 11:26
Thanks Ronny, I'll pass that on.


12:30 PM, 20th August 2018, About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Adrian Atkins at 20/08/2018 - 11:31
I do understand that; it's unfortunate he's not down here where I know more people. He's really keen to get into a trade; wants to start as a labourer to learn all the ropes and then move on into one of the specific trades. I've seen some of the builders' labourers down here so I know what you mean - some of them have to be prompted for everything!


10:22 AM, 25th August 2018, About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Lindsey at 20/08/2018 - 12:30
Starting work as a labourer is not really the best route to a trade. Training and qualifications to show he is capable would probably be better.


15:47 PM, 29th August 2018, About 4 years ago

You don't say why your relative wants particularly to work in construction. Does he have any specific talents or inclinations? "Construction" can mean many things, from small repair work to full new-build housing; there are many trades involved and professional roles like surveying or quantity surveying. Most builders I know started with some kind of trade before branching out into general building work, often working in league with the same team of subcontractors or "reliables" recorded in a little black book.
When these builders say they want one year's experience, what they really mean is: what can you do? why should I pay you a wage? This even applies to labourers, as there are good, average and useless versions of them: a labourer who can jump from task to task when asked; can guide in delivery vehicles safely; who knows the basics of site safety and can watch out for problem areas; and can make himself useful without being asked on tasks like sweeping up, buying site supplies, and looking after onsite materials storage and refuse management, is worth his weight in gold.
A couple of suggestions, short of signing up on a college course or apprenticeship:
1. the obvious way to get general experience is to use family and friends to make contact with a builder, and ask to labour on one of his or her sites, as a trainee and general dogsbody.
2. find a friendly builder or three in the local area, and ask them what they recommend a keen but inexperienced young person should do. This means ringing round or dropping by a site, or finding a friend, relative or neighbour who is looking for some quotes and tagging along to the meeting to ask questions. He needs to be prepared to face rejection!
3. Ditto if the builder isn't regularly at a local site, talk with whoever is the site manager. He will be a trusted lieutenant who has dealt with a multiplicity of people and problems on building site: he will have the power to hire people, fire them, and bollock them. If your relative can show that he is interested and keen and can use his common sense, he might find he's given a job on the spot, on a trial basis that may become permanent, at least for the lifetime of the site. For example, a Bulgarian builder I know got his first job on one of my sites, simply by turning up, looking around unobtrusively, and asking in his broken English if there was anything he could do to help out. We started with site cleaning and tidying-up, which no-one likes to do, and as the days went by, he proved himself invaluable, progressing to finding Bulgarian tradespeople he knew to do some carpentry when our booked person dropped out, finding a couple of labourers to help with installing some fencing, and so on. He didn't have an official trade, but he knew people who did, and proved to be a very effective mover and shaker who got things done. All his work in his first two years in the UK was found by just cycling or driving around and keeping his eyes open, and dropping onto smaller sites and asking if he could do anything. I wish more British people were that entrepreneurial! He found less joy at the big sites, as they are very procedural and usually have all their staffing needs worked out weeks in advance, although even this isn't always true.

Ian Narbeth

10:01 AM, 30th August 2018, About 4 years ago

He might offer to work as "an intern" (i.e for free but perhaps with travel costs paid) for a few weeks on the basis that if he is good at the job he gets taken on as a trainee. It's better than sitting on his backside watching Jeremy Kyle and Cash in the Attic and a decent builder may be impressed by his enterprise.

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