(Careers in construction, part 1)

Earlier this month, we reported on how the construction industry in the UK will need over a quarter of a million extra workers by 2026, including 26,000 in Greater London and 24,600 across the East of England.

This is going to be a real challenge, not least because the numbers of young people looking to enter the sector are far below the numbers of older workers who are leaving their profession. One YouGov Omnibus survey found that only 3% of young people aged 18-24 had searched for a job in construction.

As schools and colleges across the country come to a close, it’s likely there are a great many young people who haven’t fully decided what to do next. To help, we thought we’d share what we know about some of the key construction trades and so the focus of today’s blog is roofing.

What does a roofer do?

Roofers work on the installation, repair and renovation of new and existing roofs (for domestic, commercial and industrial buildings) and deal with a wide range of different materials. For pitched or sloped roofing (the kind you see on most traditional houses here in the UK), that usually involves slate or tile. For flat-roofing, it can mean learning about several different roofing systems and working with materials such as bitumen layers, felt sheets, fibre glass, rubber, polymer, insulation and organic sedum (for brown or green roofs). Some tradespeople also focus specialise in techniques like thatching or leadwork.

The primary purpose of the roofing industry is to install roofing systems that help keep the building structurally sound, secure and waterproof. To fulfil that purpose, roofers carry out a wide range of physical tasks, for instance:

  • Following manufacturers’ instructions and procedures for installing the roofing materials (e.g. with rubber roofing materials, this can include mopping the flat area of the roof with a coat of warm melted tar).
  • Removing broken materials and carrying out repairs.
  • Installing rainwater goods and flashing.
  • Measuring and cutting around every protrusion such as vent pipes, sky lights and heating units.
  • Finishing off joints to make sure they’re watertight.

Seven personal qualities you’ll need

  1. Head for heights – Roofers obviously spend a lot of time working at height. Following the industry’s strict Health and Safety precautions will prevent accidents or injury but, if you’ve got any kind of fear of heights, this is probably not the right job for you!
  2. Hardiness – With the exception of some extreme temperatures (cold or hot), roofers generally undertake physical labour outside in all weathers. You need to be prepared to face the elements and maintain a good level of physical fitness.
  3. Good with the hands – Roofing work is highly practical and hands-on, requiring good hand-to-eye coordination, grip and dexterity.  
  4. Mental aptitude – Alongside the practical work, there are many tasks which require roofers to tap into their mental skills and capabilities. Some examples are reading/ understanding building plans, taking accurate measurements, completing health and safety assessments, responding to environmental issues and more.
  5. Flexibility – Most roofers will work a 40-hour week but this can vary. Bad weather can disrupt roofing work in winter and, as we’re witnessing this summer, so can extreme heat. Such disruptions may mean having to change working hours at short notice and/or needing to work longer hours during the milder times of the year. Being flexible to change is important.
  6. Teamwork – Most roofing jobs require you to work as part of a well-coordinated team. If you’re the kind of person that knows how to get on with the job while showing support for your team, roofing will be a good fit.
  7. Attitude – Completing the roofing work is a critical part of any building project as this is what allows the interior work to progress within watertight conditions. The roofing trade, therefore, needs people who are reliable and can commit to the job. As the techniques and materials used in roofing are continually evolving, it also needs people who are not afraid to keep learning and adapt their skills.

The benefits

Going into roofing might not be for everyone but it is a skilled profession that offers some great rewards to those who choose it. Here are just some of the key benefits:

  • Because demand for new housing and other building projects is so high, there are (and will continue to be) lots of job opportunities in roofing.
  • Roofers take home a very healthy pay packet, especially as they progress in experience and skill. You’ll certainly be getting well above lots of other professions like hospitality or retail.
  • Once you’ve established some skill as a roofer, you’ll be able to pursue many career progression routes (e.g. becoming a foreman, site manager, area supervisor, roofing director, health and safety advisor or small business owner).
  • Providing you don’t counteract the physical work with an unhealthy diet, doing this job will help you to stay physically active, fit and healthy.
  • There’s pride in this work. Many in the industry find it really satisfying to look back at the work they’ve just helped to complete and say “I did that”.
  • Roofing is a varied role, involving lots of different everyday tasks so you’re unlikely to suffer with boredom. As new technology is constantly changing the way the industry operates, you’ll also be met with new and exciting challenges as your career progresses.

How to get into it

Some roofers begin their career through an apprenticeship while others start out as a roofing labourer, picking up their skills and roofing techniques through on-the-job training.

Like most construction jobs, trainee roofers need to pass a health and safety assessment to qualify for a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card and might also need to complete an NVQ or similar qualification. Construction Skills and City & Guilds have an approved list of NVQ diplomas for roofers.

Sheriff frequently has openings for trainee and experienced flat-roofers so, if you’re interested in joining our team, get in touch.


Feature image: Sheriff Construction Ltd ©