Job Guides - Concreter

The Job and What's Involved

Concreters may be general site operatives working for a building contractor or they may work for a firm of specialist subcontractors. They generally work in gangs when engaged in major concreting work. Concrete is used for a variety of tasks, including in the construction of:

- Foundations
- Ground floor slabs
- Pathways and short drives
- Columns and beams

Concreters, or their employers, begin by providing the client with a quotation for the work to be done. The concrete gang is then given a work sheet detailing the required work and the timescale for doing it. On site, the gang would then:

  • Prepare the appropriate areas for concreting by levelling and compacting the ground. This can include setting up the formwork, a temporary structure used to hold the concrete in place while it sets.
  • Take delivery of the concrete. Deliveries are often made early in the morning, especially for concrete slabs, as techniques such as floating and troweling (to give the slabs a level finish), can only be done once the concrete has started to harden in the sun.
  • After placing the concrete, compact it so that it is strong and durable. This involves removing air trapped in the concrete and is achieved through a process of vibration. Slabs are vibrated by surface (or beam) vibrators and thicker items are vibrated using poker vibrators.

Once the concrete is in place, compacted and finished, it has to be cured by wrapping or covering it in polythene sheeting. This prevents the concrete from drying out too quickly and creates a stronger overall structure.

Occasionally, when the formwork is taken off, air bubbles or other small imperfections are seen on the surface of the concrete. A specialist within the concrete gang would be trained to rectify these faults, generally by the application of small amounts of mortar.

Concreters use:

  • Traditional hand tools such as picks, shovels, trowels and straight edges.
  • Machinery such as drills, cement mixers, vibrators and rollers.
  • Mechanical power floats which they use for good surface compression.

Nearly all concrete is supplied to sites ready-mixed but occasionally the concrete gang has to produce its own concrete from cement, stone and water.

Working hours depend upon the job and vary considerably. Concreters usually work about 37 hours a week. This can include some early starts and late finishes. Overtime may be paid to employed workers.

The work may be on busy, large scale building sites or motorways, or on driveways of private houses. Some concreters may work inside, laying floors in large buildings. Conditions can be dusty and dirty and concreters work in all weathers.

Some bending, kneeling or crouching is involved in this job. Protective clothing and footwear may be provided by an employer. Self-employed concreters have to provide their own clothing for the building site, including items which are required by law, such as high visibility jackets, safety helmets and protective footwear.

Concreters, like other employees on construction sites, must be aware of health and safety requirements. The cement in the concrete can cause burning or inflammation so contact with the skin should be avoided.

Most concrete gangs travel to and from work in minibuses.

Starting salaries are usually around £12,500 a year. There may also be bonuses, overtime pay and expenses for travelling and accommodation.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Concreters work on all types of building and civil engineering projects. Employers include building and engineering contractors, local authorities and public organisations. Jobs are available throughout the UK.

Self-employment is common and concreters may also work on a labour-only basis for a contractor, with all tools and materials supplied.

Many concreters work for contractors who provide services to the construction industry. They are usually small, family businesses, but there are some larger firms employing greater numbers of staff. There are also opportunities with concrete suppliers.

Vacancies are usually advertised in the local press, Connexions centres and in Jobcentre Plus offices.

Education and Training

It is possible to find work as a trainee concreter straight from school and train on the job.

Young people can also apply to become apprentices. GCSE's/S grades (A-E/1-5) in maths, design and technology and English are useful.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

NVQ's/SVQ's are also available and can be studied on the job. For those who find it difficult to get the workplace experience they need for an NVQ/SVQ, it is possible to study for a Foundation Construction Award. These are available at colleges in conjunction with an Apprenticeship programme.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Most training is provided on the job by more experienced colleagues. Apprenticeships offer a structured training programme leading to NVQ's/SVQ's. There are also opportunities to go to college or a training centre to gain qualifications. NVQ's/SVQ's Levels 1 and 2 are available in:

- Trowel Occupations
- Erection of Precast Concrete (Construction)
- Specialist Concrete Occupations
- Concrete Repair
- Sprayed Concrete

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Ambulance Technician

As an ambulance technician you would respond to accident and emergency calls, as well as a range of planned and unplanned non-emergency cases. You would usually work in a team, providing support to a paramedic during the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of patients at the scene of an incident and during hospital transfers.

You may use life saving skills as part of your day-to-day work.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Concreters need:

  • Good hand skills for laying and finishing concrete.
  • A careful, methodical and accurate approach.
  • An aptitude for maths - important for measuring and calculating quantities of materials.
  • An awareness of health and safety requirements.
  • To be able to work well as part of a team.
  • Tact, flexibility and a pleasant manner.
  • Physical fitness for lifting and carrying.

Your Long Term Prospects

Concreters can move into more specialised areas of work such as concrete spraying or concrete repair. They can progress to supervisory or management positions.

With experience it is possible to become self-employed.

There may also be opportunities to work abroad.

Get Further Information

Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB),
Englemere, Kings Ride, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7TB
Tel: 01344 630700
Website: www.ciob.org.uk

CITB-ConstructionSkills, Bircham Newton Training Centre,
Bircham Newton, Kings Lynn, Norfolk PE31 6RH
Tel: 01485 577577
Websites: www.citb.co.uk/careers (for careers advisers, teachers and adults) and www.bconstructive.co.uk (for young people)

The Concrete Centre, Riverside House, 4 Meadows Business Park,
Station Approach, Blackwater, Camberley, Surrey GU17 9AB
Tel: 0700 482 2822
Website: www.concretecentre.com

Construction Apprenticeship Scheme Helpline
Tel: 01485 577877.

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