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Routes into Construction

Explore different training routes in construction, what might be required and how long you can expect training to last.
A group of three multi-ethic construction workers standing outside a building wearing hardhats, safety googles and reflective vests.

Construction sector jobs almost always require some sort of training, either before starting the job or once you have started your new job at a trainee level.

In the UK there are currently five main ways to achieve this training and each way will suit different needs and learning styles – there is no ‘one size fits all’ – which means there is a construction career for everyone! Here we explain what each route is, what might be required and how long you can expect your training to last.

Traineeships

A traineeship is a skills development programme that can last between six weeks and one year, though most will last around six months. Traineeships are specifically designed for:

  • those with little or no work experience
  • young people in education up to and including A-Levels
  • unemployed candidates
  • young people aged between 16 and 24.

Typically, the traineeship will include a work placement of 70 hours or more to develop the skills needed in later employment. Trainees will also get help with things like CV writing, English, maths, and digital skills, and can practise interview skills. While young people on traineeships won’t be paid, they may get help with expenses such as travel and food. The cost of the traineeship will be covered by the Government.

Apprenticeships

A large proportion of entries into construction jobs are from apprenticeships. This training benefits from being largely on-the-job, which means that you will get paid at the same time as you’re learning. Apprenticeships can be started straight from school but are open to anyone over 16. When undertaking an apprenticeship, you’ll split your time between your work and your learning, balancing practical and academic learning and working towards a qualification. Apprenticeships take between one and five years to complete, depending on the course and the level. Apprenticeships are available at intermediate level (equivalent to GCSEs), advanced level (equivalent to A Levels), higher-level (equivalent to a foundation degree), and degree level (equivalent to a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree).

T Levels

T Levels are a new two-year Level 3 programme, which contains a technical qualification, industry placement, and maths and English (if required) that can be taken after GCSEs or other Level 2 education in England. This programme is equivalent to three A-Levels. T Levels are based on the same standards as apprenticeships and have been designed by employers.
Unlike A Levels, T Levels have a greater focus on placement in work, with an 80% / 20% learning and working ratio, with a minimum of 45 days spent in an industry placement. There are three specific pathways within the T Levels in Construction including:

  • Design and Planning
  • Building Service Engineering
  • Onsite Construction.

Each pathway has a number of occupational specialisms that a learner can choose from. Achieving a T Level will help a learner to progress onto an apprenticeship, into employment, onto a higher level apprenticeship, or entry into a relevant degree.

College (Further Education)

Colleges offer very specific routes into construction, such as some of the trades we looked at in Week 1, but also qualifications that will enable you to take the next step into higher education or a degree. You can go to college straight after your GCSEs or return to college later in life to retrain and reskill. College courses vary hugely in length and time. If studied full time, they are often around two years long but can be shorter or longer. Many courses are offered part-time or through distance learning, as college education can complement work on the job. For construction, there are a number of technical and vocational courses, such as City & Guilds Diplomas and other qualifications, National Diplomas, and BTECs. You can also study A-Levels if you want to progress to university. The course costs vary but can be free or covered by your employer.

University (Degrees)

University education, also known as higher education, is another option if you want to gain an advanced academic or vocational qualification. Typically this involves three years of full-time study, though it could be longer if you choose a degree path that has a work placement of a year in the industry. Most degrees are studied at the university where they are offered, but it is also possible to study part-time and via distance learning. Having a relevant degree means that you can go into a construction job that you could not access through other routes – such as becoming an architect. You will need to have a Level 3 qualification in order to apply for university and courses cost just over £9,000 per year, for which you can apply for a student loan.

Over to you

  • Why do you think there is more than one way into a construction career?
  • What do you think are the advantages and drawbacks of each route?
  • Which ones appeal to you?
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