Why We Need Women In Construction

Everyone should have the right to a decent and affordable home to call their own. Sadly, decades of underinvestment means that the UK is currently facing a ‘homes shortage’, sometimes described as a ‘crisis’.  

The state of play leaves many adults still living with their parents or putting up with overcrowded accommodation or worse still, leading to homelessness. Clearly the time has come to invest in building more houses but with an aging construction workforce, it may also be time to rethink some of the inherent traditions (and prejudices) involved in construction.

There are serious problems on the horizon for the construction industry. With estimates suggesting that around one in five workers are approaching retirement age, with a further 26% aged between 45 and 55 years old, it’s clear that crisis or not, the priority is going to be in making sure that there is a workforce numerous (and skilled) enough to build the required new homes. For Service-leavers aiming to get into construction it’s a pretty picture with further research undertaken by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) (January 2014) estimating that 182,000 extra jobs will be created in the next five years as the economy improves.

Growth sector

The demand for an additional 245,000 homes each year has led the CITB to estimate that housing will account for over a third (37%) of the UK’s total annual construction output between now and 2018. They also suggest that the requirement to repair and maintain properties and the modernisation of social housing create further opportunities.

Changing the culture

According to independent think tank, The Smith Institute, the sector faces a recruitment challenge that is likely to bring to an end a culture of people joining the industry simply because a family member already works within it. Furthermore, because young people appear to know little about the sector and its opportunities, it leaves the industry to focus on the possibility of recruiting both women and men at a later stage in life. Building and construction carries a reputation of being dominated by trades requiring physical strength whereas, in fact, there are many roles that require training and expertise ahead of bulk and muscle.

Construction Industry Training Board


For Service-leavers looking at entry-level roles into construction, here are a few ideas:


Bricklayers are required to read plans and work in a well organised way.

Whilst you may not need formal qualifications to become a bricklayer, employers will usually be looking for people with some on-site experience. (Some building companies may want you to have GCSEs in subjects like maths and English.)

If you have not worked in construction before, you could find a job as a labourer to get site experience. Once you are working, your employer may be willing to offer you training in bricklaying or you could invest in a training course at college (such as one of the following):

Level 1 Award/Certificate in Basic Construction Skills (Bricklaying)

Level 1 Certificate in Construction Crafts (Bricklaying)

Level 1 Certificate in Construction and Building (Brickwork Skills)

Level 2 Diploma in Bricklaying.

What you could earn

A bricklaying labourer can earn up to £15,000 a year. Qualified bricklayers can earn between £16,000 and £23,000 a year with experienced bricklayers, including instructors earning up to £30,000 a year.

Overtime can be used to supplement income and of course, self-employed bricklayers set their own rates.



Clearly you’ll need a head for heights and the ability to understand building plans. You’ll also need the skills to work out roofing areas, numbers of tiles/slates needed and prices for quotes as well as being able to work flexibly as part of a team.

It is common to start out as a roofing labourer gaining training on the job; or you could take a course in roof slating and tiling or industry qualifications such as:

Level 2 Diploma in Built-up Felt Roofing

Level 2/3 Diploma in Roof Slating and Tiling

Level 2/3 (NVQ) Roofing Occupations

Level 2/3 (NVQ) Diploma in Mastic Asphalting (Construction)

Level 2/3 (NVQ) Diploma in Cladding Occupations (Construction)

Institute of Roofing (IOR) membership offers continuing professional development (CPD), which could improve your career prospects.



What you could earn

A roofing labourer can earn from £13,000 to £15,000 a year. Once qualified, this can rise to between £16,000 and £24,000. Experienced roofers can earn up to £31,000 a year. Again, overtime can be added to increase wages, while self-employed roofers set their own rates


Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS)

Many building contractors will want bricklayers and roofers to have a CSCS card before allowing them to work on their sites. The card is proof of your skills and ability to carry out the job safely. To get your card, you must pass the CITB Health, Safety and Environment test and prove your occupational competence (by holding appropriate qualifications).


If you are working without qualifications, you may be able to use the On-site Assessment Workshop or Experienced Worker Practical Assessment (EWPA) schemes to gain a qualification and qualify for a CSCS card.






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