How to become a construction labourer: a step-by-step guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 10 December 2022

Published 30 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you like the idea of working with your hands in a physical job, a career in construction could be for you. Many senior construction managers start off by working as construction labourers, which is a simple way to gain experience working on a construction site while developing important skills. Understanding the responsibilities of a construction labourer and the skills they use can help you prepare for a career on construction sites. In this article, we explore what a construction labourer is and the steps to take to become one.

What is a construction labourer?

A construction labourer is someone who helps to build and repair structures, such as buildings, roads, bridges and other infrastructure. They may work on a construction site, helping to move materials and equipment around, or they may work in a workshop preparing components for construction. Some of the typical duties of a construction labourer include:

  • fetching materials and equipment

  • groundwork, which includes marking out and digging trenches

  • moving and positioning heavy materials

  • helping to erect scaffolding

  • mixing and pouring concrete

  • cleaning up the site

Construction labourers usually have little formal training, but they do require some basic skills. It's important that they're aware of the health and safety risks associated with construction work and can demonstrate an understanding of safe construction practices. It's also important that they can work effectively as part of a team and be physically fit and have good stamina. By starting work as a construction labourer, you can gain the skills and experience necessary to work your way up to more experienced roles within a construction setting.

Related: How to become a construction manager: a step-by-step guide

How to become a construction labourer

If you want to know how to become a construction labourer, it's important to understand what qualifications and experience your employers might require. Following the steps below can help you to become a construction labourer, regardless of your background and academic experience:

1. Apply for a CSCS card

Getting a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card is the first step towards working as a construction labourer or gaining experience on a construction site. The entry-level green version of this card qualifies you to work on construction sites as a labourer. You can obtain a CSCS card by completing a course and passing a test that demonstrates your knowledge of health and safety protocols on construction sites. Providers across the country offer courses for CSCS card candidates, and it's usually possible to complete the course and pass the test in a single day.

2. Study for construction NVQs

Once you've acquired your CSCS card, you might undertake additional studies to gain the skills required for the construction roles you want to apply for. Some construction labourers only carry out manual, unskilled tasks, such as fetching and carrying. But, if you have skills in trades such as plastering, bricklaying and joinery, you can demonstrate more value to potential employers and typically speed up your career progression at the same time.

3. Gain work experience

The best way to boost your CV for construction roles is to gain real-world experience of working on construction sites. This demonstrates your commitment to a career in construction to your employers and shows that you understand what working on a construction site is really like. If finding a role is a challenge, consider undertaking a short period of voluntary shadowing work or asking around for temporary work at nearby construction firms. Even a few hours of experience can help you to secure your first permanent role.

Related: How to get a job with no experience in 5 helpful steps

4. Apply for roles

Once you have a CSCS card and the relevant skills to succeed on a construction site, you can start applying for construction labourer roles at local construction firms. Take a look at job boards like Indeed for construction labourer jobs in your area. You can also contact local firms directly to ask if they're looking for any extra labourers at the moment or to ask them to keep your CV on file for the future.

Related: How to write a labourer CV (with tips)

What skills do construction labourers have?

If you're planning a career in construction, it's important to develop the skills you might use on a construction site during your career. Typically, construction labourers don't require specialist skills because they often carry out simple manual tasks, such as fetching materials, laying groundwork and sorting through equipment. Nevertheless, it's still a challenging role that can benefit from the following skills and qualities:

Physical fitness

To work as a construction labourer, it's important to be physically fit and have the stamina to work long hours in challenging conditions. Construction labourers often move heavy objects, work in all weather conditions and are on their feet for most of the day. This can be tiring and challenging for your body, which is why it's important that you're physically fit and in good general health.

Teamwork

Construction labourers often work as part of a team on a construction site. It's important that they communicate effectively with their team members, take instructions and work together to achieve common goals. This requires good verbal communication skills and a strong sense of teamwork to ensure that work continues productively and efficiently no matter who you're working with.

Related: 7 teamwork interview questions and how to answer them

Organisation

It's important that construction labourers can organise themselves and keep track of what they're doing on the job. This includes being aware of the tasks they're to do that day and planning their workload effectively. You may also be working to tight deadlines, which means that it's important to work quickly and prioritise the tasks you're completing to ensure that the project can continue without delays.

Safety awareness

It's important that all employees on a construction site are aware of the risks associated with working on a building project. As a construction labourer, it's your responsibility to be aware of these risks and take all necessary precautions to stay safe while you're working. This includes following safety instructions, wearing the correct personal protective equipment and being aware of your surroundings at all times. Employers are likely to ask you about construction site health and safety during your interview, and your CSCS card can help you to demonstrate awareness of this.

Technical skills

Construction labouring is an entry-level role, so employers typically don't expect labourers to have extensive technical knowledge or skills. Nevertheless, competency with machinery and mechanical equipment and an ability to learn how to use, repair and maintain these tools quickly can help you in this role. It's important that construction labourers are comfortable working with machinery and have a basic understanding of how construction equipment works.

What is it like to work as a construction labourer?

Working as a construction labourer is a challenging yet rewarding career path. You spend most of your time working outdoors in all weather conditions, may work long hours and you may also wear protective clothing while at work. Some construction labourers work on projects indoors, such as when undertaking home renovations or preparing components and materials in a workshop. Other construction labourers may work in elevated areas, so it's important that you're comfortable with heights if you want to work in this industry.

Typically, construction labourers work an average week of around 40 hours, although it's often possible to increase or decrease these hours based on demand and your preferences. Construction labourers who want to earn more can often choose to take on more hours. Your employer might also ask you to work later when a deadline is coming up and a project requires finishing, although as most construction labourers earn an hourly wage, you would also earn more money for working overtime. Construction labourers usually work weekdays, but this role may involve occasional evening and weekend work.

How much do construction labourers earn?

The national average salary of a construction labourer is £22,450 per year. This figure can rise with experience and may also depend on where in the country you work. Typically, construction labourers earn the highest pay in large cities, such as Birmingham, Bristol and London. You can also increase your salary by working longer hours or choosing to take on less popular labouring jobs in areas where demand is high.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

Related:

  • What does shadowing for a job involve? (Including benefits)


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