After graduating university and working in retail and hospitality, Sophie decided to try something different and applied for a construction apprenticeship. Since then, she's been awarded CITB's Apprentice of the Year and is now a Trainee Site Manager on a new hospital build in Orkney.

There are so many different roles in construction it's great to not feel consigned to one specific path.

Case study
Category Information
Based Orkney
Employer Robertson

How did you get into construction?

I actually went to university straight after my final year at school. I studied Photography and Film as I really enjoyed the subject, but I never really felt suited to a career in it. After I left university, I worked in retail and hospitality as I decided where to go with my career. I saw the opportunity for an apprenticeship in construction, and it massively appealed to me. I decided to grab the opportunity and I’ve never looked back!

I had no proper construction experience beforehand but the great thing about apprenticeships is that you’re there to learn. I only wish I’d considered an apprenticeship straight from school, as not only do you gain so many skills, but you earn as you learn too, which you just can’t do at university in the same way.

Try and get as many opportunities to work on different sites as you can too, because experience is invaluable in this industry and you definitely learn best when you can actually see something happening.

Sophie Turner

Trainee site manager

Tell us a bit more about your experience as an apprentice.

During my apprenticeship I discovered how much I loved the Construction industry and once I completed my apprenticeship I was keen to progress my career. CITB supported me throughout my apprenticeships, with regular visits from my apprenticeship officer when I was away at college, and at my usual place of work. They made sure I was being given work that was relevant to my apprenticeship and that I was being paid the right amount.

On a personal level, they made sure I was happy and supported, and if I had any questions or issues they were always there to help. 

After using Go Construct to explore different career paths and find out what roles I would be suited to, it pointed me towards a management role, so I decided to study for a HNC in Construction Management in the evenings. I felt that this would give me the best chance to progress and luckily I managed to secure a role as a Trainee Site Manager with Robertson who are building a new hospital in Orkney. Big projects don’t happen very often in a small place like this so it’s a fantastic opportunity to be given. 

What do you like about construction?

I like that I have the opportunity to be involved in such a big project. It’s so important to the community I live in, so it’s great to see the impact it’ll have. It’s great to see all the work that’s involved and learn all the different roles on a construction site as well see the project evolve from start to finish.

I get to meet lots of different people who have huge experience of the industry, and this can support encourage me in my learning. Robertson are an exciting company to work for and I love being part of their team. 

What skills do you need in your job?

In site management I think teamwork is a key skill as there are so many people involved both on site and behind the scenes, so you need to be able to work with lots of people from different backgrounds and trades – from tradesmen to engineers. You also need to be organised and thorough in your approach, as you’re involved in both quality of the work and the health and safety on site. 

Tell us about something you've been really proud of in your career.

The highlight of my apprenticeship is definitely winning CITB’s GB Apprentice of the Year award – I couldn’t believe it! Not only did it feel like a great achievement but I had a fantastic day hearing about what other apprentices had achieved. I got to meet lots of inspiring people on the day, and it’s a great boost to my CV!

Did you find that your earning potential in construction is what you expected?

It’s been great to be paid as I’ve learnt in this role and as my skills develop my pay will increase and reflect this.

I’m really pleased with how my salary has risen over time and having this increase in pay means that my partner and I are now in the position to build our own home with a self-build mortgage. He’s a plumber (and did an apprenticeship too) so between us with our construction experience it’s a really exciting time for us. 

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

I’d really like to keep learning and progressing. I’m keen to study for a degree in Sustainable Construction after my HNC is complete as I feel that’s where the future of construction lies.

One day, I’d like to look after my own project, so project management is another career option I could look at. There are so many different roles in construction, so it’s great not to feel consigned to one specific path. 

Do you have any advice for someone thinking about a career in construction? 

Work hard at school! Don’t think you’ll never use certain subjects because those maths formulas I learnt in school and said I’d never need I now actually use in college.
Try and get as many opportunities to work on different sites as you can too, because experience is invaluable in this industry and you definitely learn best when you can actually see something happening.

Utilise websites like Go Construct as well because they have so much information on them about the different roles you can find in construction, so it could really help you find the best route for your career.