It’s no secret that the construction industry has been facing skills shortages for a considerable length of time.
With unemployment rising and further job losses on the horizon (the impact of Covid-19) coupled with what some are calling the ‘Brexodus’ effect when it comes to using (or rather losing) EU labour, the obvious solutions are retraining programmes plus greater encouragement for young people to enter into construction.
As finding and retaining good bricklayers and roofers is so important for our business, this week we’re sharing what we think are the most important skills and qualities for these roles.
Before we do that, here are the most common entry qualifications and training routes:
- Like most jobs in construction, trainee bricklayers and roofers need to pass a health and safety assessment to qualify for a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card.
- Becoming a bricklayer usually involves a combination of college training (e.g. NVQ Level 2) and on-the-job training or an apprenticeship, both of which are designed to help you develop the skills and dexterity required for you to confidently enter the trade.
- For roofing, while some will follow an apprenticeship route, most start out as a roofing labourer, picking up their skills and roofing techniques through on-the-job training. You might also seek to complete an NVQ or similar qualification.
- Basic literacy and numeracy skills are also important for many construction roles (especially for anyone looking to progress a long-term career).
Key personal qualities:
As well as being capable of mastering the methods involved in the trade, in our view there are several important personal qualities that make the difference between an average and an excellent construction operative:
A practical approach
As a bricklayer or roofer, you’ll be in one of the most practical jobs you could find. Continuously on the move, you’ll work with your hands to create structures and building features that spring up right in front of your eyes. For many, there’s nothing more satisfying than looking back at a completed building or roofing system and being able to say, “I did that”.
If you enjoy keeping fit and don’t mind working up a sweat, then construction work is definitely a good choice. You’ll need to be physically fit to do the job well but perhaps the best thing is that this works both ways. Do the job well and you’ll get even fitter!
Good with the hands
Good hand-eye coordination, grip and dexterity are necessary for both bricklaying and roofing. The good news is that many of the activities we carry out in general life could have given you these skills already. Playing sports, computer games, driving and cooking are all good examples.
Alongside the practical work, bricklayers and roofers need to be able to pick up all kinds of other skills and knowledge to do a great job. Examples include understanding building plans, taking accurate measurements, completing health and safety precautions, understanding environmental issues and more.
Today, the construction industry is also witnessing a host of new technologies – including robotics, drones, virtual/ augmented reality and smart materials – all of which look set to change the way on-site workers carry out their roles in the near future. Be prepared to adapt and keep training.
With some exceptions (e.g. storms and extremely cold temperatures), bricklayers and roofers work outside in all weathers so hardiness is a must.
While a 40-hour week is normal, this can vary. Really bad weather can disrupt work in the winter, so it can be the case that you’ll need to work longer hours during the summer months. Being flexible to changing working patterns is crucial.
Head for heights
An obvious one for roofers but bricklayers can also spend a lot of time working at height. The industry’s health and safety processes, precautions and training will keep you safe but, if the idea of heights sends your head into a spin, this might not be the job for you!
A team player
In most building projects, productivity relies on people that can work independently when needed but also demonstrate great teamwork and support for their colleagues.
Finally, if there’s one thing that can make one worker shine higher and brighter than another it’s attitude. The industry needs people who are reliable, punctual and can commit to the job. At Sheriff Construction, we also look for people who show real interest in our company’s values, are passionate about their craft, have ambitions and are not afraid to keep learning to achieve them.
A final thought
Going into bricklaying or roofing might not be for everyone. You will be required to work hard, you will be outdoors in all kinds of weather, and you will probably get sore hands and aching muscles. However, for anyone who’s willing to polish up their key skills, demonstrate a great attitude and be open to learning, the rewards include job satisfaction, a healthy pay packet and several progression routes (e.g. becoming a foreman, area supervisor, roofing director, health and safety advisor or small business owner).
Have you got what it takes?
Feature image: Bannafarsai_Stock/Shutterstock.com