If you’re thinking of studying a building or construction-related qualification, you might think you need an A-level in maths or physics. However, there are many different roles in the construction industry, and as many different routes to get there.
We talk to two women who used their A-levels to take a different path into construction.
Claire Wallbridge -Training Officer, Natural Stone Industry Training Group
Claire Wallbridge pictured centre in both images
Getting into construction
I was born into a stonemasonry family and my husband was a builder with his own construction company, so I’ve always been in and around construction.
An opportunity arose for me to join the construction sector 13 years ago as a training manager (sometimes known as a learning and development manager). It’s a sector I grew up in so I knew it offered great opportunities to progress.
After studying A-levels in politics and literature
I got my A-levels in Russian and British Political History and English Literature.
After graduating as a qualified teacher, I did lots of continuing professional development (CPD) - all to do with training.
I’ve studied everything from understanding conservation and heritage, through to standard health and safety training.
Having come into construction with a postgraduate degree in teacher training, my training remains ongoing.
My job as a training manager is to identify what skills and knowledge my contractors need and develop training for them.
A part of everything that happens in the world
I love the diversity of construction and the people who show so much enthusiasm for it.
Construction is a part of everything that happens in the world - from infrastructure projects through to building hospitals for the future.
People can say, ‘I worked on that’. It’s great to be part of a team effort and something much bigger.
There’s a role for you in construction
My role as a construction ambassador is to show that there are many opportunities and roles for everyone.
If you want to work in a structured environment, or to be artistic, dynamic, or if you like a rigid, structured environment - there’s a role in construction to suit you - whatever your preference is. It’s a sector that moves as the population moves.
You can do it. I work to show young people my passion. And people say that passion is infectious.
If you don’t get the A-levels or GCSEs you wanted
It’s not the end of the world. If you fail your GCSEs you haven’t lost. There are many routes you can take - apprenticeships can be an incredible route.
You can come into construction at any time.
It doesn't matter what A-levels you’ve got. What matters is your commitment and passion.
People come in in their 30s and 40s. There are still so many roles for them. Don’t give up if you don’t get your grades. It’s never too late.
Sarra Hawes - Director, Hawes Building
Sarra Hawes pictured right in first image and onsite
The A-levels that got me into construction
I left school with O-levels (equivalent to GCSEs) in English and technical drawing.
I then did chemistry and maths in college and that was enough to get into an ordinary national diploma (OND) - equivalent to an A-level qualification - in technical graphics when I turned 18.
Technical drawing and graphics gave me the skills I needed to get my first job in construction.
Gaining qualifications on the job
Although I had the job it was probably dependent on me gaining the building studies qualification. All in all, I spent 6 years studying.
No two days are the same
You might work with completely different people one day, or in a completely new location. It’s challenging and there are always problems that you have to find solutions to.
It’s great to work outdoors and you’re never stuck in one place.
Inspiring young people
By talking to young people, I think I really open their eyes. I tell them you can easily go from one role to another. You can come in as a tradesperson and become a manager.
There are such a lot of great opportunities for young women. I try to encourage parents to see the opportunity and diversity of careers in construction.
Getting into construction after your A-levels
You don’t have to come to us with all the qualifications - you can work and study part-time.
You just need to show initiative. You can:
- Go to trade fairs and exhibitions and talk to people in construction
- Get on Instagram and follow people who are doing stuff you’re interested in
- Take photos of things that fascinate you - whether it’s carpentry work at home, models you’ve made, or construction work you’ve helped family or friends with. Take those to an employer and tell them why you’re interested.
Contact building companies and tell them what you want to do. We’re always looking for enthusiastic, determined people.
Find a career in construction
Find out which construction roles suit your skills and interests by using our career explorer.
Get started with a traineeship
If you’re looking for a job or apprenticeship but don’t have the right skills or experience yet, a traineeship could help.