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Work experience in the construction industry

Like getting a start in most other industries, getting an internship or experience in the construction sector is a vital first step.
Do your research on the employer and write about why you want to do work experience at that company in particular: reasons could include their expertise in a certain area or the recent projects they’ve worked on.

Relevant experience such as an internship is key to getting a graduate scheme place in the diverse world of the construction industry. Knowing what you need, when is best to apply and how to stand out from the competition in your application can be achieved by doing your research, networking with those in the industry and talking to your careers service.

As the sector continues to grow following the recession, industryrelated work experience is getting more competitive, but if you can secure experience in the industry it will:

  • Display to employers that you have a genuine desire to join the industry
  • Show that you can carry out work similar to that of a graduate employee
  • Develop a network of industry contacts who might be able to help you in your search for jobs
  • Develop the ‘employability’ skills that you’ll need in the working world.

Types of work experience

Most work experience placements are open to students in the second year of their degree and you should apply early in the academic year – a common mistake is leaving it too late. Start researching placements in your first year, and try to get less formal experience with smaller organisations.

Work experience options include:

  • a year in industry as part of your Degree.
  • summer or vacation placements, usually aimed at penultimate-year students but also keen first years or finalists.
  • unpaid placements or workshadowing, where you follow a construction professional throughout their working day to gain an understanding of their job.
  • volunteering projects, for example house-building overseas.

Application tips

Do your research on the employer and write about why you want to do work experience at that company in particular: reasons could include their expertise in a certain area or the recent projects they’ve worked on. Employers don’t expect the same level of technical knowledge and experience as they do of graduates. But they do expect enthusiastic people who can articulate their motivation for working in construction and are aware of current industry issues.

  • Make the most of any opportunities offered by your college: go on all study trips to sites and employers.
  • Go for labouring/short-term agency work (if you want to work in building surveying
  • try a parttime job in an estate agency).
  • Speculatively apply for workshadowing (observation) or work experience opportunities. Tailor your application to the company you’re applying to.
  • Know what’s happening in the Industry, check what’s happening with professional bodies such as the Construction Industry Federation (www.cif.ie)
  • Take a year out and volunteer on a charity construction project.
  • Get a non-construction job in a construction firm – you may hear of other opportunities you can apply for
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