Construction Operative Careers

How to become Construction Operative

What does a Construction Operative do?

Construction operatives, also known as building operatives, groundworkers or labourers, work on all types of construction projects, including housing, factories, offices, roads, bridges, airports and many others. They prepare the building site, marking out and digging shallow holes and trenches for foundations and drains, and erect hoardings, safety signs, barriers and site huts. They also set up and dismantle ladders and scaffolding; prepare building materials such as cement and plaster; transport, stack and remove materials; and lay drains, pipes, manhole covers and inspection chambers.

Common tasks include:

  • formworking - erecting and dismantling temporary wooden or metal structures used in moulding liquid concrete
  • steel fixing and bar bending - bending and fixing bars used to reinforce concrete structures
  • concreting - layering and smoothing concrete for foundations, floors and beams
  • steel piling - moving, inserting and removing interlocking steel sheets which form temporary retaining walls for excavation work
  • drain laying - guiding large sections of pipe into place as they are lowered by crane
  • roadworks - concreting, laying kerbs, paving and surfacing.
Operatives use a variety of hand and power tools including mechanical mixers. They may also use plant equipment, particularly for the movement of loads. Construction operatives work closely with other tradespeople, for instance, bricklayers, as part of a team or 'gang'.

What's the working environment like working as a Construction Operative?

Construction operatives work a basic 39-hour week, often starting early in the morning. Overtime at weekends and evenings is required when deadlines need to be met. Seasonal work is quite common and working away from home for short and long periods may be necessary.

Construction operatives work on site, inside and outside in all weathers and often at heights. Protective clothing such as safety helmets, ear defenders, goggles and boots are worn for most jobs. The work is physically demanding, and involves using a range of tools and carrying heavy or awkward materials.

What does it take to become a Construction Operative?

To be a construction operative you should:

  • be physically fit
  • be familiar with construction or civil engineering terms, methods and materials
  • have good practical skills
  • be able to follow written and verbal instructions
  • be comfortable working at heights
  • be able to work as part of a team
  • have an awareness of health and safety issues.

Construction Operative Career Opportunities

Construction operatives work for building or engineering contractors, local authorities and other public organisations. Although the main construction shortages are in the skilled trades, opportunities are still good due to the increasing expansion of the sector. There may also be opportunities for overseas contract work. Relocation may be necessary for some projects, for example, the 2012 Olympic Games site facilities.

It is possible for operatives to progress to technician level or to become site supervisors, and to move into specialised areas of work.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Construction Operative that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Bircham Newton
King's Lynn
PE31 6RH
Tel: 01485 577577

Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS)
Tel: 0870 417 8777

Equal Opportunities Commission

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