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General construction operative

Construction labourer, groundworker

Construction operatives are involved in a range of practical tasks on a construction site, including preparing ground ahead of building work taking place, and carrying out manual work whilst a project is in progress. This could range from mixing and pouring concrete, to laying drainage pipes, moving materials and more.

Average salary*




Typical hours per week

42 - 44

How to become a general construction operative

While there are no formal qualifications needed to become a general construction operative, there are several routes you could take to help you pursue this career. You could complete a college course, an apprenticeship or apply directly to an employer for work. 

You should explore these routes to becoming a general construction operative, to find out which is the right one for you. Although some of these options have certain qualification requirements, many employers are more interested in people who are enthusiastic, willing to learn and can follow instructions.

You may need a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card to work on a construction site.

College/training provider

Although there are no set entry requirements, anyone considering a career as a general construction operative would benefit from achieving GCSE qualifications (or equivalent) in maths and English.

You could study for a Level 1 Certificate in Construction Skills or a Level 2 Certificate in Construction Operations to improve your abilities and job prospects.

You’ll need:

  • Up to 2 GCSEs at grades 3 to 1 (D to G), or equivalent (level 1 course)
  • 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent (level 2 course).

> Equivalent entry requirements explained

> Find a course near you

> Funding advice


You could apply for an intermediate apprenticeship as a groundworker or construction operative with a construction company.

You’ll need 2 - 3 GCSEs, usually including maths and English, or equivalent, for an intermediate apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships are open to anyone over the age of 16. As an apprentice, you will be fully employed by your company and expected to work a minimum of 30 hours a week. Your time will be split between on-the-job experience and a college or training provider.

> Find an apprenticeship near you

> Guide to apprenticeships


You could apply directly to an employer to become a general construction operative, on-site labourer or trainee, especially if you have some previous on-site experience. This would give you the opportunity to develop your skills from more experienced members of the team, and your employer may provide training to help you specialise in a particular area of construction.

Work experience

Work experience is essential to gaining employment within the construction industry. You could gain this at school, or by working weekends and holidays with a company or relative who works as a general construction operative. Potential employers will always be pleased to see work experience listed on your CV.

> Find out more about work experience


The varied nature of a general construction operative means that having a range of skills is ideal. Desirable skills include: 

  • Good level of physical fitness
  • A head for heights
  • Ability to understand instructions and carry them out 
  • General understanding of health and safety issues.

What does a general construction operative do?

As one of the best jobs for someone looking to begin their career in construction, a general construction operative is responsible for a variety of different duties, including: 

  • Helping skilled tradespeople with every aspect of the building process
  • Being involved in projects from start to finish
  • Following all health and safety procedures
  • Mixing and pouring concrete to make foundations, beams or floors
  • Digging trenches for foundations
  • Fixing scaffolding and building frames
  • Laying pavements and resurfacing roads
  • Assisting bricklayers, carpenters and other colleagues on-site, by providing materials
  • Marking out the area for the site using string lines and putting up barriers and safety signs
  • Laying drainage pipes, pavements and manhole covers
  • Operating hand machinery such as drills, pumps and compressors
  • Operating machinery such as excavators and dumper truckers
  • Working outdoors in all weathers.

How much could you earn as a general construction operative?

The expected salary for a general construction operative varies as you become more experienced.

  • Newly trained general construction operatives can earn £17,000 - £20,000
  • Trained general construction operatives with some experience can earn £20,000 - £30,000*
  • Self-employed general construction operatives set their own pay rates.

Hours and salary depend on location, employer and any overtime you may do.

* Salaries have been collected from multiple industry sources and have been updated as of 2019


Check out the latest general construction operative vacancies:  

As these are external websites, the number of vacancies related to your preferred role may vary. New opportunities will be posted as they come up.

Career path and progression

As a general construction operative, you could complete qualifications and training to become a qualified tradesperson, such as a bricklayer, carpenter, plant operator or more. 

With more experience, you could move into more senior roles, such as a site supervisor, team leader or construction manager.

Alternatively, you could set yourself up as a self-employed contractor.

Progression Opportunities

Explore the progression opportunities below

  • Current role General construction operative One of the best jobs to begin your career in construction, you'll be helping wit...
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  • Current role Construction team leader Take the next step in your career as an Occupational Supervisor. Work with new m...
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  • Current role Plant operator Plant operators use heavy machinery (known as ‘plant’) to dig, lift and move mat...
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  • Current role Highways maintenance operative Ensure the roads, pavements & motorways are well maintained & conduct repair ope...
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  • Current role Civil engineering technician Combining science & technology, Civil Engineering Technicians solve many problem...
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  • Current role Site Engineer/Technician Acting as the main technical advisor on projects ranging from new houses to rail...
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  • Current role Clerk of works The Clerk of Works inspects the site, construction, building quality & liaises w...
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  • Current role Contracts manager During a construction project, the contracts manager overseas the contracts proc...
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  • Current role Self-employed contractor A self-employed contractor or sub-contractor runs his or her own construction bu...
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  • Current role Construction manager Construction managers are required to handle the practical side of managing & pl...
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  • Current role Senior manager Senior managers and heads of department are responsible for leading teams of peo...
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  • Current role Project manager Oversee construction projects from start to finish in order to achieve successfu...
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