It’s still possible to walk into a labouring job in the construction industry and go from there. Even labourers need a CSCS Card these days, though – and that means passing a basic Operative level CSCS Health and Safety Test. For everyday site work with no skilled trade, your bare minimum requirement for getting work in over 80% of the UK’s construction sites is a Green CSCS Smart Card.
If you are looking to take up a skilled trade (most of the trades in the construction industry, and there are over 350 of those, are skilled), you will need to get the right training. The industry standard way to get recognised training in any skilled construction profession is through the NVQ or SVQ schemes, the Levels of which translate to varying levels of colour coded skill cards awarded by CSCS.
Becoming an Apprentice
The best way to get started in any skilled trade is by becoming an apprentice. Traditionally the way to become an apprentice in any skilled construction trade is to ask – to find a company that works in that trade and ask if they would like to take on an apprentice. Plenty of companies willing to take on apprentices will also be willing to give you the time off you will need to complete your NVQ or SVQ.
Make sure you have apprenticeship papers when you are learning your trade. They will show that you are training in your profession: and you will need them to support an application for the relevant CSCS Card.
Preparing for Your Trade
The better prepared you are, the more you will learn. There is no substitute for on the job training in construction – but preparation makes the difference between that training going in and sticking, and going in one ear and out the other. If you have studied joinery, even if it is only in books, then you will already understand the terms that are being used when your employers are training you.
The one piece of preparation you cannot be without is a passing grade in an industry recognised health, safety & environment test. You won’t be allowed onto a construction site without proof that you have passed such a test, which is what your first CSCS Card is for (usually a Red Trainee Card). The test itself can be prepared for by purchasing revision materials from Construction Site Skills. Your NVQ or SVQ will also cover basic health and safety for the trade you have chosen.
Ask Questions and You’ll Learn Faster
No employer likes a silent apprentice. The one thing you need in order to work in construction, above all other things (even qualifications and health and safety passes won’t help you much if you don’t have this) is enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. A skilled profession is only enjoyable when you are enthusiastic about it. You have to be able to ask what things are, and why things are done, if you are going to build the kind of relationship with your employer that brings you the job satisfaction, and the work, that you are looking for.