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A general construction operative (or labourer) does many jobs on a building site, from mixing concrete to digging holes.


Average salaries are in the region of £9,000.00 to £22,000.00. Salaries will vary depending on location / employer

Career Profile

A general construction operative (or labourer) does many jobs on a building site, from mixing concrete to digging holes.

What they do

This is one of the best construction jobs for a start to a career in construction, and anyone who enjoys working outdoors. Many people start out as a labourer before moving into other roles.

General construction operatives have a wide range of skills and are needed right across a building site, so it’s no surprise they are in demand. They work alongside skilled tradespeople, helping to build everything from a new home to a motorway flyover.

Operatives are involved in projects from start to finish and follow all the safety procedures in place to prevent anyone being hurt or injured. 

Typical duties include:

  • Mixing and pouring concrete to make foundations, beams or floors
  • Mark out the area for the site using string lines strung between stakes, and put up huts, ladders, barriers and safety signs
  • Laying drainage pipes, pavements and manhole covers
  • Operating hand machinery such as drills, pumps and compressors

Hours & Salary:

  • Newly trained general construction operatives can earn in the region of £9,000 - £15,000
  • Trained with experience general construction operatives can earn in the region of £15,000 - £20,000

Salaries depend on location, employer and any overtime you may do. Self-employed general construction operatives set their own pay rates.


 Find out which career in construction is right for you with our Personality Quiz.

Learn more about construction careers – and some of the misconceptions surrounding them – with our Myth Buster

Case Study

Sean - Groundworker|2:31

Michael Owen is a General Construction Operative with BAM Construction. 

Every day on site is different as there’s such a wide variety of jobs to be done. I work with the other tradespeople on whatever needs doing that day.

At the moment I’m spending time ensuring that pathways around the site are suitable for the other employees to use. Health and safety on site is really important and my job helps to keep everyone working on the project safe.

How did you get started?

At school I did a BTEC in Sport and Recreation and wanted to be a physiotherapist. However, when I finished school I knew there was a job waiting for me working in construction with my dad.

As I wanted an income I took the job and worked with him for a few years. Then I applied online for a construction apprenticeship with BAM. After having an interview I was successful in getting the job and started my apprenticeship in General Construction Operations.

What do you like about your work?

I enjoy the physical side of the job, which means I’m working with my hands a lot and doing a variety of tasks that are important to the safe running of the construction site. These include keeping pathways clean and tidy and free from obstructions.

I also like the fact that I’m often working to tight and challenging timescales. Although this puts pressure on me, I find that I work well in these situations and get a lot of job satisfaction.

Any new skills?

I’ve gained some skills that are specific to the job I’m doing, such as learning to safely dismantle the scaffolding walkways used on site. I’ve also learned to set up pumps that help to control the water levels.

I have new skills that will help me on other construction industry jobs I might do in the future, too. These include working as part of a team, using my own initiative to complete a task, following instructions from others, and paying attention to detail.

What are the highlights of your construction career so far?

I was very proud to get my apprenticeship with BAM and know that I’m getting one of the best construction qualifications with work experience on a building site.

The types of project that BAM work on can be very prestigious, such as the Manchester City Football Academy I’m working on at the moment. It’s great to be able to say to my friends that I’m involved in creating the new academy.

What do you aim to be doing in 10 years?

I’d like to develop my skills and experience in construction so that, within the next 10 years, I’ll have my own construction company and be working for myself. If I continue to motivate myself and gain more knowledge I know I’ll be able to achieve this.

Any advice on how to get into construction?

I’d fully recommend working in construction, especially the trades/practical jobs, to anybody thinking about a new career. Construction offers lots of variety and opportunity if you’re prepared to work and learn. 

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Qualifications & Training

Scotland 

A good general education is useful. You need basic reading and numeracy skills.

You might enter through a Modern Apprenticeship leading to Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) Level 2. You can check the Scottish Building Apprenticeship and Training Council (SBATC) website for details.

You must hold a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card or equivalent to work on a site. You must pass a health and safety test to qualify for this scheme and an aptitude test may need to be taken before entry.

For more details about construction jobs in Scotland visit the SDS My World of Work website.

England & Wales

Although there are no set entry requirements to become a general construction operative/labourer, some employers ask for GCSEs or equivalents such as Standard Grades in Maths and English. It’s also an advantage to have some experience on a building site.

You can to do an apprenticeship with a building company, with on-the-job training for part of the time and going to college for the rest. You could also consider trainee construction jobs.

Apprentices usually work towards the NVQ in Construction and Civil Engineering Services (Construction Operations) at Levels 1 and 2. The NVQ includes options in concreting, drainage construction, laying kerbs and channels, and excavating holes and trenches.

To find an apprenticeship, check out the Government's apprenticeship website or, in Wales, Careers Wales.

Want to find out more?

Try our Matching Service for work experience opportunities in your local area, with new opportunities being added on a regular basis. 

Looking for a vacancy? 

Here are some construction vacancy websites you may find useful: 

Indeed

Jobsite

The number of jobs vacancies related to your preferred job role may vary daily, as these are external websites. Check regularly to see new opportunities as they are posted.

Career trends and forecasts

2470 additional staff needed

According to the latest Construction Skills Network research, the UK construction industry will need an additional 2470 Labourers every year for the period 2017 - 2021. The highest demand for these construction vacancies will be in Wales followed by East Midlands, Scotland, East England, North West, North East and South West.

Progression Opportunities

Explore the progression opportunities below

Search other careers

Find out more about other roles in the construction industry and what they involve.

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