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Brexit and the construction graduate jobs market in 2017

Our built environment careers expert, Abi, gives you her advice on getting a graduate job in construction management, quantity surveying, and civil, structural and construction engineering, following the Brexit vote.
Graduate recruitment plans haven't materially changed for 2017 as a result of the Brexit vote.

Ever since the referendum delivered a Brexit result, the political and economic situations have been in flux. What does this mean for graduate recruitment in construction, civil engineering and quantity surveying over the next year?

Well, it is true that the construction industry is particularly sensitive to fluctuations in the economy and government policy, which means that things can change rapidly.

But I have spoken to recruiters at construction employers over the past few weeks and they have told me that their graduate recruitment plans haven’t materially changed for 2017. One or two have said that they might be hiring fewer graduates in divisions with lots of overseas exposure – but they appear to be in the minority.

Certainly, construction and engineering global giant Atkins doesn’t appear worried about any possible Brexit effect: ‘We continue to monitor the business and political landscapes closely, but, in simple terms, our recruitment plans for the year ahead haven’t changed as a result of Brexit,’ the graduate recruitment team tells us. ‘As the UK seeks to forge a new relationship with the world it’s even more important that we invest in the transport, energy, digital networks and social infrastructure of our towns and cities that underpin our way of life and our economy. The government has indicated that infrastructure remains a key priority.’

Atkins is hiring 250–300 graduates in 2017; AECOM is hiring 450; Mott MacDonald is hiring 250; Jacobs, 200+; WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, 150; CH2M and Mace, 100+ each; Laing O’Rourke, 65; and Wates, 35–40, to name but a few companies.

So there are construction, engineering and surveying graduate jobs out there. In a nutshell, how do you get them?

My three top tips for securing a graduate construction job…

1. APPLY IN THE AUTUMN TERM IF YOU CAN: A number of construction companies are setting early deadlines this year – some as soon as November. Setting early deadlines isn’t something that construction companies usually do. While they might re-open later if they have additional vacancies, don’t miss out by missing the deadline!

And even those construction companies who set ‘open’ or ‘ongoing’ deadlines and recruit all year round expect to fill most of their vacancies with those who apply before Christmas.

Search for construction, quantity surveying and civil engineering graduate jobs and schemes.

2. RE-EVALUATE WHAT ‘RELEVANT EXPERIENCE’ MEANS: As the Atkins recruitment team told us, ‘We’re always surprised by the number of candidates we speak to who don’t think that they have any relevant experience, but we then find out that they are treasurer of their university sports team society, that they volunteer with a charity at weekends, have a part-time job in retail and have acted as a team leader for a group project.’ All of those things are ‘relevant’ experience because they all involve you developing skills that are relevant for the job. So make every effort to secure a placement or some kind of work experience or work shadowing within the industry – as there is no doubt it enhances your application – but don’t dismiss your other experiences as irrelevant.

How to get construction work experience

If you haven’t got a construction internship, what to do instead

3. RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH AND TAILOR, TAILOR, TAILOR: You will not get through your initial application – let alone a telephone interview – unless the recruiters feel that you really want that particular role, in that particular division with that particular employer. The only way you can do this is to research the company, division and role thoroughly, and then use what you’ve learned. Relate what you have found out back to your own career ambitions, personal qualities and skills set: are you applying to a company because of the expertise it applies to its projects? Say how working on projects such as X would help you to achieve your ambition of Y and how it would develop your skills, for example.

There is lots more advice on TARGETjobs Construction, TARGETjobs Quantity Surveying and TARGETjobs Civil & Structural Engineering.

NB: Written October 2016.