Placements/internship opportunities in construction
What work experience opportunities are there in the construction industry?
Students who are interested in pursuing a career in construction or building services engineering can take up a range of work experience vacancies. These include:
- summer internships (otherwise known as summer placements) – usually aimed at students in their second or penultimate year
- placement years (otherwise known as year placements, sandwich years or a year-in-industry) – usually open to students who are in their penultimate year and taken as a year out between the penultimate and final year
- insight weeks – these are much rarer than placements and internships and are usually aimed at first-year students
- graduate placements – typically run by organisations such as step and ScotGrad
- site tours and informal work shadowing (observation) – available to students of all years but they often need to be independently organised by students with individual companies or professionals
In which construction professions can you complete work experience?
The main construction professions in which you can gain internships and placements include:
- construction management
- project management
- facilities management
- design management
- building services engineering
- civil engineering
- quantity surveying
What degree subjects do you need to gain a construction-related internship?
In most cases, you will need to be studying a construction or engineering-related degree. Building services engineering placements, in particular, are open to students on building services, mechanical, electrical or architectural engineering degrees.
But a few employers do open their vacancies to students studying any degree discipline, as long as you can demonstrate a passion for construction, so check the vacancies carefully. It’s worth noting that facilities management internships are generally open to graduates studying a wide variety of degrees, including business and property.
When are the usual opening and closing dates for internships and placements?
This varies according to the employer, but increasingly construction employers are opening their internships and placements at the same time as they open their graduate jobs: typically, in the autumn term. They set deadlines for a month or two ahead and then re-open them if they don’t receive sufficient quality applications. It is worth starting to search for internships in the autumn term.
If you have missed the deadline for internships, there are other actions you can take to enhance your CV: browse here’s how.
How do you apply for construction and building services engineering internships?
If you apply for a formal placement advertised by a large engineering, construction or surveying employer, you will probably need to:
- fill in an application form, which can involve uploading a CV, answering some specific questions or taking part in online aptitude tests
- taking part in a phone interview or, increasingly, a video interview
- attending a short assessment centre or a second face-to-face interview
If you are applying for work experience with a smaller employer, you usually have to send a CV and covering letter via email and attend an interview.
You can also approach local construction companies to see whether they can offer you any work shadowing (observing) for a few days. This is called applying speculatively: here’s how you write a speculative application.
How can you write a great construction internship application and succeed at interview?
To write a great application and perform well at interview, it is vital that you put across:
- how interested you are in construction (expect application and interview questions on your reasons for applying and questions such as ‘What is your favourite construction project and why?)
- how the internship at that company would help you confirm your career choices or achieve your career ambitions
- why you particularly want to do an internship or placement at the company (you need to have researched the employer)
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