Jess is a Quantity Surveyor who is helping to inspire others to consider a career in Construction. In today’s Focus On Careers article, Jess tells us what it’s really like. Read on…

When you are considering your career options, you think “what am I good at?” and that’s often a difficult question to answer, especially the first time you think about it. Then someone suggests a career in Construction and you think, “I don’t want to get dirty, I’m not very strong, I’m not good at Maths and I think it’ll be boring”. But the reality is things aren’t always as they seem.

I have been working in Engineering and Construction for over 8 years now and I would say that I rarely get dirty, I’m not stronger than the average, I’m alright at Maths – and Construction is anything but boring! Construction is a fantastic industry, with some really great projects coming up nationally as well as in the Bristol and Bath region and there are a lot of different roles – so if you are interested in literally leaving your mark on the world this really could be the career for you.

What is a QS?

A Quantity Surveyor is a commercial role within the Built Environment (Construction and Engineering) and is a pretty varied job. Day to day, my role can involve estimating and tendering – which is where we calculate the cost of our company building a specific project, in the case of my job its buildings but it can be railways, roads, bridges, houses etc we then add on some extra money to cover overheads (things like my wages) and profit before submitting to the client.

I also carry out supplier selection and procurement (buying), which involves dealing with our suppliers, getting quotes and choosing the most suitable ones to carry out the work. Once selected I will issue contracts to them. I also carry out valuations to submit to our clients and make subcontractor payments monthly. In addition to this, I do some forecasting and other reports so that the management team can see how my projects are progressing and whether they are making sufficient profits.

It is a varied job and I work with several teams in the business such as commercial (who deal with finances, contracts etc), operations (who make the projects happen – Project Managers, Construction managers) and finance. I also work with our supply chain and with our clients. I am based on site so I travel quite a lot and days can be long but I like this as it means my week is varied and there is never a dull moment!

What do I like about working in Construction?

I like Construction because I like to see the whole process and usually, as the QS, you get to be involved in the entire process – depending on the size of the project. From estimating the cost to settling the final account and everything in between, but mostly it is that you can be part of some very exciting and impressive projects that you can show people.

Personally I have worked on projects that include the new Blackfriars Station, a new telecoms network on the entire UK rail network, new operating theatre buildings in Kings College Hospital, new theatres and intensive care units at Countess of Chester Hospital, a brand new hospital in Morocco, Dubai and Saudi Arabia, and new Data Centres in the South of England.

You also get the opportunity to do things other people do not get to, for example I went up to the top of the Shard in London when it was being built before the general public were allowed anywhere near it!

Was I phased by it being an overly male industry?

In a word, no. But I can see why that might be the case. Whilst there are still not a lot of women in the Construction industry as a whole, it really does depend on where you work. At Network Rail I worked with a lot of women, at the next company I worked for there were a lot of women, and working for the contractor I work for currently, I have such a great team whether they are men or women is not important.

What’s the worst thing about my job?

The worst thing about my job is that it can cold and wet in the winter when you are on site. However, this isn’t awful, and it’s not likely you will be outside all day if you are based on site. There is also a bit of travel involved in my job as we work all over the country, in the main this is ok but it can mean long days sometimes. The way I look at it is that all the hard work and effort is worth it when you see the finished building and can say “I was part of that!”.

How would I recommend getting started?

If you are unsure what different jobs are available within the industry I would personally recommend going to the Construction Youth Trust website or follow them on twitter @constructionYT. There are also graduate websites such as www.prospects.ac.uk that allow you to search the different types of career options. And local opportunities in this region regularly appear on the noticeboards on Careersnearhere.com.

Work experience is also a really great way to experience Construction and see if it is for you. This also allows you to make contacts so that if you decide you do want to work in the industry you can see if there are more permanent roles available. As I said before, there are a lot of routes into the industry and there are manual trades as well as professional roles based in offices.

The path Jess took to get into the Construction industry is so inspiring, we’ve decided to cover it in a separate Friday Motivation article very soon. In the meantime, here’s more about local opportunities for you…

Construction is a key local industry in this region:

The West of England Local Enterprise Partnership has stated: There are a number of nationally significant infrastructure projects set to start in the West of England and neighbouring areas over the next decade. This region is home to some of the country’s leading designers and architects, has seen a 71% growth in productivity since 2000, The Construction and Property Research Centre (CPRC), based at UWE, is one of the largest UK skills centres and major projects such as Hinkley Point and Oldbury nuclear station sites will require thousands of skilled workers.

So where can you meet and talk directly with local employers and Unis?

On 23rd February, there is a free careers event being held which is open to KS4 and KS5 students from across the Bristol and Bath region. It is called ‘Focus On Engineering’ and includes talks and opportunities to find out more about relevant careers in the Built Environment. Details: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/focus-on-engineering-tickets-30320841453?aff=es2

Thank you Jess – Twitter: @jesstabibi

Careersnearhere.com: It’s Your Future – Let’s Get It Started.

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