If you are looking for work in the construction sector, and if you are new to the world of building work, you might be finding some of the jargon in the job adverts confusing. What is the difference between an essential skill and a desirable one? What is a CSCS card – and why do you need one? How can a worker without experience get themselves onto the career ladder? We answer all these questions and more, in order to help you secure the right construction job.

Know the difference between ‘desirable’ and ‘essential’ skills

When it comes to job vacancies, there are some skills you absolutely must have. These will be listed as ‘essential’ skills or qualifications. They often include safety courses that must be completed for legal reasons. Without holding the relevant paperwork or having the right work experience, you are unlikely to be given the job.

However, there are also secondary skills and qualifications which relate to a job role, often described as ‘desirable’ skills. A candidate without these skills could still be considered for the job, and the more boxes you tick, the more chance you will be successful in securing an interview and getting the job. Many jobs will even offer additional training in their desirable skills, to ensure you meet the high standards expected of that role.

What is a CSCS card?

One thing you will see listed as essential in the majority of construction jobs is a CSCS card. But what exactly is the card – and how do you get one? CSCS stands for the Construction Skills Certification Scheme. The card is a guarantee to your employer or client that you have completed the relevant exam, and that you are registered with the Construction Skills body.

Some employers will help new staff members acquire their card, especially when they take on an apprentice worker. However, the majority will expect construction workers to hold the card already. You can apply for a CSCS card yourself online [https://www.cscs.uk.com//], while employers can apply for cards in bulk through the same web portal.

The application process consists of a health and safety test, completed online. This is a multiple choice exam with a number of questions relating to construction site safety and best practice. Make sure you take the right test: this depends on the type of work you will be doing and the level of seniority in the role. The three categories are ‘construction related occupation’, ‘craft and operative’, and ‘technical, supervisory and management’. You may also need to supply evidence of any qualifications that apply to the work you will be doing, such as a City and Guilds or Higher National Diploma in a relevant field.

Finally, there is a charge of £30 to be paid. When the application is successfully completed, the card should arrive within 15 days. Make sure you apply in good time if you will need to present the card at a work interview, or when you start work at new premises. Without the card, you are unlikely to get the job – or be allowed access to the work site.

What does ‘time served’ mean – and how much experience is required?

For some jobs, experience working in a related field is essential. The job vacancy listing might request ‘time served contractors’. This generally means that the worker has three or more years in a relevant industry. Other job adverts might list a minimum level of experience – such as two years working on other sites. This is likely to be true of more complicated jobs, where specialist skills are necessary, or for supervisor and project manager roles.

If you are an experienced construction worker who has spent time working in your chosen industry, you are likely to meet this requirement. But what if you are fresh from college: will you be rejected for lack of experience? If you can prove in your cover letter and CV that you do meet the other specifications and that you hold the relevant qualifications, you still could be in with a chance. It may be worth speaking with a recruitment consultant who can help you find roles at companies where experience isn’t always necessary.

What desirable skills do construction workers need?

As well as holding the right qualifications and possessing the right knowledge, there are some qualities which help construction job candidates stand out from the crowd. For building work, there are some characteristics most employers want from their staff members. These include a strong work ethic. Can you demonstrate that you are hardworking and committed to getting the job done? In the interview, share examples of projects you worked hard to complete, and detail ways you have taken responsibility for the work you have done before.

Having a good level of strength and stamina is also important. Construction is a very physically demanding industry, with lots of heavy lifting and hard work involved. If you are already an active person, engaged in keeping fit and building your strength, this is likely to work in your favour. Employers look for candidates who are willing to learn, and extra training can always be given to improve skills: but without a basic level of fitness, which cannot simply be taught, the candidate is unlikely to be able to fulfil the requirements of the job.

The ability to think fast and solve problems is extremely attractive to a prospective employer. The fewer problems there are on a construction site, the sooner the project can be completed – saving the managers and developers money. Fewer problems also mean less risk, keeping workers safer. Therefore, bosses want to employ people who can spot problems quickly and solve them using their own initiative. If you can describe during the interview a time when you took charge of a situation and found a solution to a problem, you are sure to impress the recruiter.

For more information on working in the construction sector, or to hear about upcoming vacancies in commercial, residential and industrial construction, get in touch with Time Recruitment today.