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Common Misconceptions About Construction

Henryk Jakubiak

Henryk Jakubiak

Co-Founder, Fixed

I’ve worked in the construction industry for nearly 8 years and throughout that time have faced stigma from friends, strangers and even family members who thought I wasn’t living up to my full potential by choosing a career in construction. What a load of b*******! Here are some of the common misconceptions I’ve come across during my time in the industry set straight and why I’m proud of working in the industry.

Construction is a fall-back industry only for people who didn’t do well in school – A classic misconception that is simply not true. I chose construction because it offered me the chance to do a more tangible and physical job where I would learn a set of skills I’d never learn in an office. Construction is an extremely inclusive industry that accepts people from all walks of life. That is one of the things I love most about this industry. Whatever your background, there are opportunities for you in construction and whether or not you did well in school shouldn’t and doesn’t affect how successful you are in your career. That being said, many workers in the industry come from a background of higher education; and while some workers may not have formal education, many have received training through apprenticeships, trade schools or have learnt their skills through experience. I think everyone can agree that what you learn on the job – whatever it may be – varies greatly from what you have learnt through your education prior to the job. This is especially true for construction jobs. Experience is key!

You need to go to university to see career progression opportunities in construction – People are often surprised to learn that I am a civil engineer and yet didn’t study engineering at university. This is surprisingly common in the industry. While a university education can certainly be beneficial and may open certain career paths, there are many different ways to advance in the construction industry. Some people may choose to pursue vocational training or apprenticeships in a specific trade, such as carpentry or electrical work, and then work their way up to more advanced roles within that trade; Others may choose to gain additional certifications or training in areas such as project management or safety, which can help to open new opportunities for advancement. This industry is full of opportunities for everyone.

Construction work is easywrong! Construction can be physically demanding and requires a high level of skill and attention to detail. One of the most important aspects of construction work is good communication, being able to work as part of a team as well as the ability to build professional relationships. Due to the nature of the work, problem solving is another key skill, as well as being able to work well under pressure. Long hours and exposure to the elements (even at senior levels), makes this a demanding profession. Despite this, it can also be a very rewarding profession as well!

Anybody can do construction work – While some tasks may appear simple, construction requires a certain level of knowledge and expertise. Almost all jobs require separate and specific qualifications. This is due to the high-risk nature of certain operations and requiring competent operatives to perform them safely is a legal requirement. That being said, these ‘tickets’ can be relatively easy to obtain at the lower levels and usually require you to sit through a course for a few days followed by a pass or fail test to make sure you have the basic knowledge level to start work straightaway. This allows people working in the construction industry to progress more quickly than in traditional office based/post university graduate jobs. This means you can start earning good money very quickly, if you know what tickets to get. This is a problem I have encountered during my time in the industry. We will be producing more content to help shed light on this in the future. For example, what do I need to be a banksman? Following a cursory search, yes, I have found some information, but it is still not clear exactly what I need to do if I want to do this job. This seems to be one of the biggest factors preventing people joining the construction industry and progressing. At Fixed we aim to provide clear career roadmaps for various roles in the industry and improve personal upskilling by making it more accessible to connect you with the right qualifications for the role you are looking for.  We are also building a data set to help you understand your pay prospects and potential, as well as trying to promote more sustainable working hours across the industry.

Construction projects always run-on time and on budget – This is something that all subcontractors want to believe at the start of every project, as it directly affects their profits, but unfortunately it doesn’t always work out that way. Delay and cost overruns are common in construction due to a variety of factors such as weather, material shortages, change in material costs and unforeseen site conditions. These delays tend to cost the subcontractors and workers before costing the principal contractors – these are the parties we are trying to support at Fixed.

Construction work is not safe – While construction work can be inherently dangerous, employers are required to provide a safe work environment and workers are trained to use equipment safely and correctly. This in the UK is overseen by the HSE who strive to improve safety standards across the industry. There have been huge steps taken in the last 20 years which has seen the number of fatalities drop massively and safety standards to be enforced and maintained. Despite that, it is still on paper the most dangerous industry to work in the UK with a recorded 30 deaths (2021) out of a total of 123 deaths across all industries. However, these are only deaths recorded from workplace accidents. When I think about workplace safety, I would consider the long-lasting health effects of certain industries, which is why I don’t think in reality, construction is any less safe than many other industries. For example, take finance, which on paper is a very safe industry; however, the sedentary nature of the work, coupled with very long hours and lack of sleep will result in a terrible state of health that will have you racing towards a heart attack at the age of 45. Working in construction can also cause long term health effects; for example, we are still seeing deaths from asbestosis even though there has been a complete ban on using the material since 1999, but with stricter regulations and a greater level of education on the potential hazards, future long-term complications will be reduced to a minimum. On a brighter note the nature of construction work is usually requires you to be active and that at least does mean that you will generally be fitter and stronger than your finance counterpart.

The construction industry gives you completely inflexible working hours – The construction industry is inflexible in the sense that you more often than not cannot work from home - this new post covid phenomenon simply doesn’t work in on site construction. Regardless of your level you will need to be on site and ready to start work every day. Considering the long hours, potential for overtime and the Saturday work, this can be quite unforgiving if you are also making lots of other plans outside of work. The plus side is that as a self-employed worker you can essentially choose when you work. A lot of the guys that I have worked with have their families living overseas, so when the summer or Christmas holidays come round there are not restricted by a contact and can take a long holiday to see their families. Obviously, your employment on your return will be dependent on your previous relations with your employer and if they need you. This can be a problem for a lot of the guys as they will have to rely of their professional networks to find a job when they return. At Fixed we aim to increase the scope of work available to a person by improving the efficiency of connecting skilled workers and companies. By creating a digital footprint and showcasing your skills, you will improve your options for work and through that will have a greater choice of jobs which you can select based on factors that are important to you, e.g., pay, location, team, company, role, etc.

Construction is an archaic industry that doesn’t change – While the construction industry has been slower than other industries to adopt new technologies, it is unfair to say that the construction industry does not change and we are now at a clear inflection point. In fact, the construction industry has undergone significant changes in recent years and continues to evolve as new technologies and materials are developed. For example, the use of 3D printing and prefabricated components is becoming more common in the construction industry, which can help to reduce waste and speed up the construction process. Additionally, there is a growing emphasis on sustainability in the construction industry, with an increasing number of projects designed to be energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. These are just a few examples of the ways in which the construction industry is changing and adapting to new technologies and trends. Beyond that, almost every worker on site now owns a smartphone and uses apps like Instagram and Tiktok, making them increasingly ‘tech-native’.

The Construction industry is just for men - While it is true that the construction industry has historically been male dominated, there are many women who work in the industry and make extremely valuable contributions to the field and we would love for this number to continue to increase. In recent years, there has been a growing effort to improve diversity and inclusion in the construction industry, including the recruitment and advancement of women. In the United Kingdom, women make up 12% of the construction industry workforce (ONS). However, there are many organizations and initiatives in the UK that are working to support and promote the participation of women in the construction industry and at Fixed we are also working hard to support this initiative. For example, the Women in Construction UK network is a professional organization that provides support and resources for women in the construction industry. Additionally, there are a number of initiatives aimed at encouraging more young women to consider careers in the construction industry, such as the Women into Construction program.

There are no benefits to working in the construction industry – On the contrary, there are plenty of benefits that are unique to construction work and we at Fixed aim to change the perception of this industry. Construction jobs offer competitive pay, especially for workers with specialised skills or advanced training. There are plenty of opportunities for career advancement in the construction industry, including the possibility of starting your own company/business or becoming a manager or supervisor. If you enjoy physical work and the sense of accomplishment that comes with creating something tangible, construction work may be a good fit for you. You will also get plenty of variety, as no two construction projects are the same, so you have the opportunity to work on a variety of different projects and locations. Finding jobs through Fixed can offer you excellent job security, as the construction industry is generally stable and there is a strong demand for skilled workers that currently outstrips supply. Finally, you can train and educate yourself whilst you work, many construction employers offer training and education opportunities to help their workers advance their careers.

In summary, there are many misconceptions about construction. I have had an amazing journey through this enigmatic and unique industry. Construction changed my life for the better and I implore anyone who is not sure what path to take in the future, to consider construction as an option. If you’re interested in a career in construction, please get in touch: henryk@fixedconstruction.io

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