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Construction and building services
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First years: how to get your engineering, construction or surveying career started

Are you on a construction and project management, quantity surveying, building surveying, or civil engineering degree? There are things you can do right from your first year to boost your chances of getting a job when you graduate.
The more you do outside your studies, the better.

Aim for sponsorship… right now

Many construction employers offer sponsorship to promising university students. Getting sponsorship really can make your life at university easier, as you receive:

  • bursaries that cover your university fees and/or living expenses
  • internships/work placements during the holidays and your year in industry (if you take one)
  • a job after graduation
  • the chance to get help on your coursework from industry professionals (either formally or informally)

Sponsorship is most commonly available to second- or penultimate-year students, but some employers offer it to first years. Laing O’Rourke and Sir Robert McAlpine are among the employers that traditionally do this, but you will need to double check that they are doing so this year. Civil engineering students should also check out the ICE’s QUEST scheme.

Find out whether other organisations offer sponsorship to first years. Ask your course leader and faculty careers adviser whether your university has connections with employers offering sponsorship. Some employers only offer sponsorship opportunities at certain universities, so it is worth checking if it is available at yours.

Look at the websites of large employers to see whether they offer sponsorship. You can browse many graduate recruiters at a glance by checking out the organisation profiles on TARGETjobs, which link you to their recruitment websites.

Seek work experience (but it doesn’t have to be in the industry)

Industry-related work experience always boosts your CV. Most formal placements and internships in the construction industry are aimed at second and.or penultimate years – but you might be able to get some work shadowing or more informal work experience with smaller, local employers. You might have to apply speculatively to companies: here’s how to do this.

But don’t get too hung up on getting industry work experience at this stage. Any part-time job or temp work will give you the chance to build up the non-technical skills construction graduate recruiters like to see in a candidate. Whether you are sitting behind a checkout or waiting tables, make sure you include it on your CV.

Get involved with uni life

All employers prefer rounded candidates with interests outside of the classroom. It may be that your built environment course has classes from nine to five, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still take part in extra-curricular activities. Following your interests at university will help you to develop your organisational and time management skills.

Try to become actively involved with at least one society; it will help you gain a whole range of new skills such as teamworking, leadership and budgeting. The more you’ve done outside your studies the more you’ll have to draw on when writing application forms and going to interviews. Employers always want you to tell them about non-technical skills and it is advantageous if not all of your answers come from your course.

Don’t forget to use the careers services on offer at your university. Your careers advisers can give you some great advice on getting ready to hunt for placements and preparing a CV. Check out our round-up of what your careers service can do for you.

Start getting involved with the construction industry

Find time to regularly read up on the construction industry, as calling upon your knowledge in your applications and at interviews and networking events will impress recruiters. Reading industry magazines such as Building (online or in print) would be a good place to start. Make a note of stories, trends and employers that interest you.

You should join your professional body if you haven't already. Bear in mind that you won’t get much out of your membership unless you actively take advantage of it – make sure you go to networking events, read up on their news and enter student competitions. All of this can get you noticed in the industry.

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