Construction Supervisor/Manager

The Job and What's Involved

Construction supervisors/managers supervise and direct people to make sure a building project is completed safely, on time and within budget. This may be the construction of a new building or the maintenance of an existing one. The cost of a building project may range from several thousand pounds to hundreds of millions.

Examples of large infrastructure projects in the UK are Wembley Stadium, the new Eurostar Terminal at St Pancras, and the Olympics.

The responsibilities of a construction supervisor/manager include:

  • Developing a programme of work for the project.
  • Supervising the building work.
  • Making sure the site is safe and there are good industrial relations between workers.
  • Reporting on progress to the client who is paying for the work.

Construction supervisors/managers also supervise the preparation of the site and communicate with a wide range of people, including the public and professionals such as architects, engineers, estimators and surveyors. They have daily contact with the site workforce and have frequent meetings with subcontractors.

The construction supervisor/manager is responsible for making sure that safety on site is considered of paramount importance.

In more senior jobs they may be overseeing several projects at once, and may take on the role of project manager.

The standard working week is around 38 hours, Monday to Friday, but evening and weekend work may be needed to complete some jobs.

Construction supervisors/managers have to travel to sites and occasionally stay away from home overnight. Some construction supervisors/managers move from location to location as one project is completed and a new one starts. This may mean staying near the site and coming home at weekends.

A large part of the work is done outdoors on site, in all kinds of weather. The work involves sitting, standing, and climbing ladders and scaffolding.

Starting salaries may be around £16,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are over 20,000 people working in the UK as construction supervisors/managers, or in related professions. Work is usually with a construction company or a specialist subcontractor. There are also opportunities with local building contractors, central and local government, utility companies and large organisations such as major retailers.

The industry is affected by changes in the national economy, but there has been a steady demand in recent years.

Education and Training

Construction supervisors/managers normally need a degree or equivalent qualification.

There is a broad selection of degrees available, in subjects such as construction management, building studies, construction engineering management, building technology or building.

Many employers offer sponsorships which provide financial support. This may include the full payment of fees at university and a grant for living expenses. Most students who are sponsored are offered a job at the end of the course.

It is also important to have work experience in the building industry and applicants should have some knowledge of the range of activities on a building site.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Available routes into the industry are:

  • A three-year full-time degree course at university or college.
  • A four-year full-time sandwich degree course (which includes a year's work placement with an employer in the construction industry)
  • A two-year full-time HND or foundation degree (a mixture of vocational and academic learning).
  • A part-time degree, or an HNC.

For degree courses, applicants normally need at least two A levels/three H grades and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications. Maths and science will often be required.

Another route is to enter as a technician and then progress by taking a degree course. Relevant courses include the BTEC/SQA Higher National Diploma and Higher National Certificate in Construction.

People who start as technicians can study for their degree either part time or full time, and some employers provide time off for study during training.

The CIOB offers qualifications in Construction Site Supervision and Site Management. These are offered nationally in CIOB-Approved Centres, and are registered with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority under the National Qualifications Framework. They can provide the underpinning knowledge to support the attainment of an NVQ/SVQ at Level 3 Site Supervision, and Site Management Levels 3 or 4.

Level 5 in Construction Project Management is aimed at people already working as project managers. The CIOB can provide a list of organisations running these courses.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A construction supervisor/manager should:

  • Have excellent interpersonal skills.
  • Be diplomatic when dealing with staff and subcontractors.
  • Be good at logistics, planning and problem-solving.
  • Be well organised and prepared to take on responsibility.
  • Have good numerical skills.
  • Be committed, self-disciplined and flexible.
  • Have an in-depth knowledge of all aspects of the construction industry.

Your Long Term Prospects

Experienced construction supervisors/managers can become contract managers or directors of companies. It is possible to become self-employed, particularly in specialist areas.

The professional qualification, Chartered Builder, is increasingly important for career progression. Details are available on the Chartered Institute of Building website.

There are also opportunities in teaching and research and support services such as health and safety.

There may be opportunities to work abroad, often gained through internal promotion after experience with a large contractor in the UK.

Get Further Information

Bircham Newton, King's Lynn, Norfolk PE31 6RH
Tel: 01485 577577
Websites: (for careers advisers, teachers and adults) and (for young people).

Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB),
Englemere, Kings Ride, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7TB
Tel: 01344 630700

The Institute of Clerks of Works (ICW), Equinox,
28 Commerce Road, Lynchwood, Peterborough PE2 6LR
Tel: 01733 405160

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS),
Contact Centre, Surveyor Court, Westwood Way, Coventry CV4 8JE
Tel: 0870 333 1600

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