Plasterer

The Job and What's Involved

Plasterers mix and spread plaster onto a surface to create a smooth face ready for decoration. There are two main types of plastering:

Solid Plastering involves applying wet plaster to walls and ceilings to form a flat, smooth surface. The background that requires plastering is usually brick/block work or concrete and plasterboard. In some cases there may be existing plaster to remove, either mechanically or by hand. A base coat of plaster is then applied to the background to provide a flat surface, before a finishing coat is smoothed on with a steel trowel as the initial coat starts to set.

Fibrous Plastering is a specialist job that involves making or repairing decorative plaster mouldings, such as cornices or ceiling roses, using plaster reinforced with fibre. Plasterers may follow drawings and use moulds or casts. Much of the work is carried out in workshops before the plaster mouldings are fitted on site.

Plasterers work on new buildings and existing buildings undergoing refurbishment. They may also apply render or render systems to outside walls, either as a finish or before pebble-dash or stone cladding is used. Other tasks include laying screed (sand and cement) on floors.

Some plasterers also carry out aspects of dry lining on site, such as fixing plasterboards and metal wall linings to walls. This work is mainly carried out by dry liners, who also erect metal stud partitions and fix plasterboards.

The usual working week is 39 hours, Monday to Friday. Overtime is often available at the weekends or in the evenings.

Solid plasterers mainly work indoors. Conditions on building sites can be cold and draughty. Some of the work takes place in occupied buildings. Fibrous plasterers are usually based in workshops, but may also make site visits.

The work involves a lot of standing, bending and kneeling, as well as climbing of ladders and mobile access towers. Plasterers sometimes need to wear safety helmets and protective clothing.

Plasterers travel from site to site, moving from one project to the next. They may also work away from home for short or long periods of time. A driving licence may be useful.

Newly-qualified plasterers may earn around £16,000 a year. Self-employed plasterers negotiate their own rates. Wages can be increased through overtime and incentive schemes.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 40,000 plasterers in the UK. This number is expected to decline in the future as many plasterers move into the related area of dry lining, which is expanding rapidly.

The main employers are specialist contractors and general building contractors. Many plasterers are self-employed. In some areas of the country there are opportunities for employment with local councils and other public sector organisations.

There is some work in the cultural heritage sector, conserving and restoring historic buildings.

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

Education and Training

There are no set entry requirements to train as a plasterer, although GCSE's (A-C) in English, maths and technology subjects are useful. Most plasterers train through a Construction Apprenticeship Scheme (CAS).

Vocational qualifications in construction are available in some schools and colleges. These provide an introduction to the industry and a foundation for further training. They include:

A Young Apprenticeship, which is a new two-year programme supported by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). It is aimed at 14 to 16 year olds who would like to experience what it is like to work in the construction industry in a supported way. The programme is aimed at pupils who are expected to achieve GCSE grades A* to C.

In England and Wales, a college course leading to a Construction Award. Construction Awards are at three levels - foundation, intermediate and advanced. They are based wholly on college work rather than practical, on-site work. Combined with work experience they can lead to an NVQ.

In Scotland, there is a four-year Scottish Building Apprenticeship Scheme run by the Scottish Building Apprenticeship and Training Council (SBATC). Trainees must be employed by a company and complete on-site as well as college training.

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.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training is usually a combination of learning on the job and attendance at a college or training centre.

Apprenticeships in England and Wales lead to key skills qualifications, technical certificates and NVQ's in Plastering at Levels 1, 2 and 3.

Plasterers working on construction sites need to have a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card. These are used in the construction industry to demonstrate that the card holder has been trained in health and safety, and is competent in a particular occupation or is working towards becoming competent.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Plasterers need:

  • To be physically fit and strong.
  • To be able to work quickly and carefully.
  • Good hand-to-eye co-ordination.
  • Numeracy skills, for measuring and calculating.
  • Artistic ability (for fibrous plastering and other decorative work).
  • To work well in a team.
  • To be polite and courteous when working in people's homes.

Your Long Term Prospects

Plasterers may be able to progress to supervisory positions, or move into site management or technician-level jobs.

Many plasterers become self-employed and work as subcontractors. Some set up their own firms, employing other plasterers.

It may be possible to find contract work abroad.

Get Further Information

ConstructionSkills, Bircham Newton,
King's Lynn, Norfolk PE31 6RH
Tel: 01485 577577
Websites: www.cskills.org/workinconstr/
and www.bconstructive.co.uk

Federation of Plastering and Drywall Contractors (FPDC),
1st Floor, 8/9 Ludgate Square,
London EC4M 7AS
Tel: 020 7634 9480
Website: www.fpdc.org.uk

Scottish Building Apprenticeship & Training Council,
Carron Grange, Carrongrange Avenue,
Stenhousemuir FK5 3BQ
Tel: 01324 555550
Website: www.sbatc.co.uk

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