A general construction operative, also called a labourer or ground worker, helps skilled craft workers in various jobs on building sites. See also Plant Operator job profile.
You could be:
marking out the area for the site, using string lines wound between stakes
digging shallow holes and trenches by hand, although you would use an earth-moving machine for the main excavation
putting up site huts, ladders, barriers and safety signs
laying pipes, manhole covers and inspection chambers
mixing and pouring concrete to make foundations, beams or floors
using hand machinery: drills, pumps and compressors
cleaning and maintaining tools and other equipment
specialising in helping a particular skilled worker, for example a bricklayer, a glazier or a plasterer
driving forklift trucks, dump trucks or other site machines.
The figures below are only a guide. Pay rates vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of your company
the demand for the job.
The starting salary is often based on the National Minimum Wage (NMW).
As of 1 April 2019 the National Minimum Wage is £4.35 an hour for workers aged 16 to 17, £6.15 an hour for workers aged 18 to 20 and £7.70 an hour for workers aged 21 to 24. The National Living Wage is £8.21 for workers aged 25 and over. Recent vacancies have ranged from NMW to £11.50 an hour.
You work outdoors on rough muddy ground in all weathers. You might have to work at heights.
You have to wear protective clothing: safety helmet, boots, overalls and high visibility jacket.
Jobs are often temporary for a few weeks or months at a time.
You have to travel to different sites.
The working day starts early and may depend on the hours of daylight. You may work long hours in summer and shorter hours in winter.
You often work overtime, including evenings and weekends to minimise the disruption to traffic.
A good general education is useful. You need basic reading and numeracy skills.
You might enter through a Modern Apprenticeship leading to a Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) at SCQF Level 5. You can check the Scottish Building Apprenticeship and Training Council (SBATC) website for details.
You must hold a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card or equivalent to work on a site. You must pass a health and safety test to qualify for this scheme.
You may have to take an aptitude test before entry.
A driving licence can be useful.
There is no age restriction for entry, but if you have to operate machinery you must be over 18.
You should be physically fit and not allergic to dust.
There are jobs with building contractors and with local authorities. Some large contractors now sub-contract the work to smaller firms.
Training during an apprenticeship is mainly on the job with off the job training at college. You would work towards Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQ) in Construction and Civil Engineering Operations (Construction) at SCQF Level 5 and NPA Construction Operations.
You may do some specialist training, such as asbestos awareness or fork lift truck driving.
With experience, you can move on to a supervisory post.
You might be able to move into site management.
For a supervisory or management post you would need to study for a Higher National Certificate (HNC), Higher National Diploma (HND) or degree course in construction or built environment.
Many experienced operatives become self-employed.
You may want to move into a specialised role such as bricklayer or carpenter.
CITB is the Sector Skills Council which covers a wide range of sectors in the development and maintenance of the built environment. Its careers website (bconstructive.co.uk) provides a wide range of information on jobs in the construction industry.