Clerk of Works/Site Manager

The Job and What's Involved

Clerks of works, also known as site inspectors, site supervisors or site managers, monitor the work of companies that carry out construction contracts for their employer or client. Examples of such contracts include erecting buildings, constructing roads, installing pipelines and maintaining estates.

Their main responsibility is to make sure that work is carried out to the client's standards, specification and schedule. In most cases, the specifications are prepared by architects or engineers employed by the client. Clerks of works make sure that the correct materials and procedures are used and that the client is given quality work and value for money.

Clerks of works are either on site all the time or make regular visits. They need to be vigilant in their inspections of a large range of technical aspects of the work. This involves:

  • Becoming familiar with all the relevant drawings and written instructions, checking them, and using them as a reference when inspecting the work.
  • Making visual inspections.
  • Taking measurements and samples on site to make sure that the work and the materials meet the specifications and quality standards.
  • Being familiar with legal requirements and checking that the work complies with them.

Clerks of works are not only inspectors but also superintendents. This means that they can advise the contractor about certain aspects of the work, particularly if something has gone wrong. They can also agree to minor changes. They cannot, though, give advice that could be interpreted as an instruction, particularly if this would lead to additional expense.

They have to keep detailed records of various aspects of the work, which they put together in regular reports for the architect or planner and the client. Records include details of:

- Progress and any delays
- The number and type of workers employed
- Weather conditions
- Visitors to the site
- Drawings received
- Deliveries
- Instructions
- Details of any significant events

Clerks of works liaise closely with the contractor's staff. They must, however, maintain their independence, as they are responsible for working in the best interests of their employer or client.

If the work involves maintenance, alterations or additions to buildings by directly employed workers, clerks of works may be responsible for supervising them.

Some clerks of works specialise in particular areas such as building, civil engineering or mechanical and electrical installations.

Clerks of works normally work 35 to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Weekend and evening work is common, particularly when deadlines for completion of construction are imminent. Part-time work and flexible hours are possible.

They are based in site offices, normally in temporary structures, but spend most of their time outdoors in all weather conditions. Inspection work usually involves climbing ladders and scaffolding. For certain projects, such as tunnel construction, it can involve going underground.

Clerks of works often have to spend considerable time travelling to building sites and may be away from home for short periods of time.

Starting salaries are around £25,000 a year. A Senior Clerk of Works could well earn £60,000 plus.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 5,000 clerks of works throughout the UK. Employers include: - Architectural practices
- Consultancy firms
- Government departments
- Health authorities
- Large industrial and retail companies
- Local authorities

Self-employment is common.

The number of clerks of works has been stable but there is currently a shortage. Vacancies are advertised in Site Recorder published by the Institute of Clerks of Works (ICW), local and national newspapers, Jobcentre Plus offices and, increasingly, on the internet.

Education and Training

There are no set qualifications needed for entry to this work, but it is essential to have relevant experience. Clerks of works usually enter the profession after some years' experience at craft or technician level in construction or civil engineering. For this reason, it is not a profession that is open to school leavers.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Entrants may work towards NVQ's/SVQ's in Site Inspection at Levels 3 and 4. They may also work towards different levels of membership of the ICW - Student, Licentiate and Member. This is not essential, but is increasingly required by employers.

Student membership is open to those studying one of the following:

NVQ/SVQ Site Inspection Level 3 or similar
A relevant BTEC/SQA national award.
A relevant City & Guilds certificate or advanced certificate.
A qualification at this level with an associated professional institute recognised for exempting qualifications.

Licentiate membership is open to those who have successfully completed one of the above.

Member status is open to those who have achieved one of the following:

NVQ/SVQ Site Inspection Level 4 or similar
A relevant BTEC/SQA higher national award.
A relevant first or higher degree.
Corporate membership by examination of one of the associated professional institutes recognised for exempting qualifications.

Entry to each level requires not only a relevant qualification but also a detailed report of the candidate's professional history, a professional practice interview and a materials identification test.

All clerks of works are expected to engage in Continuing Professional Development. This is to make sure that they keep abreast of developments in areas such as new materials, practices, law and regulations, and health and safety issues.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A clerk of works should:

  • Have a wide understanding of the building industry, including knowledge of materials, trades, methods and legal requirements.
  • Be physically fit.
  • Have a good head for heights.
  • Be attentive to detail when checking work and materials.
  • Be technically competent.
  • Have good spoken and written communication skills.
  • Be honest and vigilant to make sure that the work and materials meet the required standard.
  • Be able to establish an appropriate working relationship with the contractor's staff.
  • Be persuasive and diplomatic while remaining independent.
  • Have good judgement, because they have to decide when to insist on corrections, when to persuade or negotiate, and when to compromise.

Your Long Term Prospects

Experienced clerks of works may progress to site management or other management roles in the construction industry.

They may become self-employed. It can be possible to work abroad, particularly in Europe and developing countries.

Get Further Information

CITB-ConstructionSkills, Bircham Newton,
King's Lynn, Norfolk PE31 6RH
Tel: 01485 577577
Websites: www.citb-constructionskills.co.uk and www.bconstructive.co.uk

The Institute of Clerks of Works (ICW), Equinox,
28 Commerce Road, Lynch Wood, Peterborough PE2 6LR
Tel: 01733 405160
Website: www.icwgb.org

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