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Work experience

Try it out: work experience - all your questions answered

What is work experience?

Work experience is a way to discover what different jobs in the construction and built environment sector are like. Depending on your interests, you could be shadowing expert carpenters, plumbers, managers, engineers, administrators, surveyors or others from a range of onsite and offsite professions.

Work experience can help you get a feel for a job you’re interested in and will improve your CV, making you more employable. It also allows you to network and start making professional contacts within the field of work you’re interested in, which could be useful for the future.

Whilst qualifications are important, work experience of any type shows employers that you can put your knowledge into practice and have developed other important skills such as team work, reliability, communication, and logical thinking. 

So, whilst construction-related work experience may help you get into the industry, if you’re entering the world of work for the first time, it’s definitely a good idea to tell employers about your Saturday job, or any time spent volunteering.

Who is work experience for?

Anyone can apply for work experience, no matter what stage of their career they’re at. Placements are usually aimed at those who lack experience in a particular area or  want to see what a role is really like before deciding whether it’s for them.

Work experience is particularly useful if you’re a student or recent graduate, as it will help you develop necessary skills and prepare for the world of work.

Many construction employers see previous work experience as essential, so if you’re planning to enter the industry, a placement could hugely improve your prospects.

What’s included in work experience?

A work experience placement in the construction industry can last anywhere from a few days, to a few weeks or more. 

Advertised positions or work experience arranged through a school or college will usually specify how long a placement is. If you arrange your own work experience, you can discuss how long it will last with your employer.

Generally, work experience offers a chance to shadow skilled professionals as they go about their job and assist them with day-to-day tasks.

Depending on the role, your work experience may take place indoors or outdoors. You could be based on a construction site, in a workshop, at a client’s premises, in an office environment or across a mix of all of these.

Your employer should give you an induction and ensure you’re aware of health and safety procedures before you start. If necessary, they’ll provide you with personal protective equipment (PPE) to wear at work.

What happens after my placement?

Once your work experience is over, the company providing the opportunity may recommend you apply for a vacancy in their company or they might be able to give you a reference to help you gain a job elsewhere.

If you are still studying, you can add your work experience to your CV when you start to look for work or further educational opportunities. University and college tutors will look favourably on work experience, weekend jobs and volunteering and may ask you about it in an interview, whether it’s specific to your studies or not.

Of course, you may have discovered that the role you experienced is not for you, in which case you could look for another placement that you feel could be a better fit. Work experience doesn’t commit you to anything and, through it, you can keep building your skills and understanding of work.

Will I get paid?

Work experience is usually unpaid, although placement providers might offer to cover some of your expenses, such as travel costs. If you are still in education, your placement provider may be able to offer financial support or advice, depending on your personal circumstances. 

How do I find work experience?

Some construction companies and job sites advertise work experience placements online or you may be able to find an opportunity through your school or university. Alternatively, you could arrange work experience yourself.

It’s a good idea to research companies you’d like to work for. If you find an employer that doesn’t already offer work placements, you could write them a formal email or cover letter  to explain why you would like to apply for experience, detailing your existing skills and those you’d like to develop. 

You could apply to more than one company at a time to improve your chances, or help you gain experience with different employers. 

What’s in it for employers?

By offering work experience, construction employers can help students make a successful transition from school to work and improve their job prospects.

Work experience allows businesses to access a pool of fresh talent and shape potential at an early stage, whilst offering current staff an opportunity to develop their supervisory and mentoring skills.

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