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Construction Graduate Jobs and Opportunities
The construction industry covers all aspects of the design, planning, building, repair and demolition of private and commercial buildings and public infrastructure.
What do you need to get a job in this industry?
Areas of Study in Construction
Most jobs in construction do not require a university degree. A TAFE certificate or apprenticeship is usually sufficient for physical, technical or operative jobs such as carpenter, bricklayer, electrician, joiner or machine operator.
This guide however will focus on the jobs in construction that do require university qualifications. These jobs require extremely high levels of technical expertise and knowledge, and grounding in management and business understanding. They include:
Architects design and in some cases supervise the construction of buildings and environments. An architect may also be called in to a construction site to provide advice during the building process as an architectural consultant.
- Civil/Structural Engineer
Civil and structural engineers design and create buildings, bridges, roads; and other public and corporate structures such as ships and oil rigs. They construct systems and structural components with the intent to maximise safety, comfort, useability and efficiency.
- Electrical Engineer
Electrical engineers are involved in the generation and distribution of power through electrical machinery and circuitry. In construction they may be called to connect new buildings to an electrical grid, or to design new electrical systems for buildings, mines, ships or public infrastructure such as lights.
- Construction/Site/Project Manager
Site, project or construction managers work with clients to understand their requirements; then plan, coordinate and control the entirety of the building project. The job combines human resources, time- and quality-management, mathematics, public safety and client communication.Construction managers are responsible for the translation of the client’s wishes into a financially and functionally realisable physical product.
- Building Surveyor
Building surveyors give advice on property and construction, determining the condition of existing buildings (defects, the extent of repair required); providing feasibility studies; advising on sustainable construction, energy efficiency, disability access, safety, preservation of historic sites; costing and scheduling for projects. A building surveyor (or a team) is required for every major construction project, and many repairs.
- Cost Engineer
Cost engineers are essential to the building industry, involved in the budgeting, planning and monitoring of construction projects. While financial advisors are sometimes used to fulfil this role, the cost engineer specifically applies scientific principles and techniques to the financial problems of estimation, costing, management, planning and profitability analysis. The work of a cost engineer often overlaps with that of a construction manager. They may also work under the title of quantity surveyor or construction economist.
With regards tertiary qualifications in construction, there can be a significant overlap between university and TAFE degrees for certain skills and jobs. Civil, structural and electrical engineering and architecture are offered at all major universities, while the skill-set required in construction and project managers can be provided in a university degree (as an associate degree or a specialisation within a Bachelor of Science) or learned at TAFE level. Some universities even partner with TAFEs (like Curtin University with Holmesbrook TAFE) and count TAFE courses as credit to their university degrees. Similarly, building surveying is offered by some universities (such as Victoria University) as part of a Bachelor of Technology, and at other universities (like CQ University) and TAFE institutions it is offered as an associate degree.
Professional Membership and Accreditation
Professional industry bodies and societies exist for mostjobs in construction. They are too numerous to list in full here, but some of the major ones include Engineers Australia, the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors (AIBS), The Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Australian Institute of Building (AIB). Most of these institutes offer free membership to students, and later provide accreditation programs to graduates and workers in construction.
Because much of the work revolves around the application of knowledge and skills in practical settings, industry experience is an important prerequisite for most careers in the technical and management construction jobs. Fortunately for engineers, practical work experience is built into the university degree. For architects, building surveyors and construction managers, work experience may not be part of tertiary qualification but internship and vacation positions are still available with construction companies and contractors in such roles as assistant project manager, surveyor or designer.
Construction Macroeconomic Trends and Job Prospects
Construction has consistently been one of the strongest industries in Australia, the fourth largest in contribution to GDP and employment. Over a million Australians are employed in construction (approximately 10% of the job market), and the industry is projected to generate $337billion in revenue in 2014.While graduates make up only a small percentage of construction workers, the size of the industry means that there is still a very large market for entry-level positions, in areas of high demand like mining engineers and construction management.
There are three main categories of construction jobs identified by the Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF), which follow different demand curves – residential, non-residential and engineering. Residential construction projects include all the building and repairs to housing and apartments. This category has historically been the area of highest demand in the construction sector, due to population growth and urban expansion. However, in recent years residential construction has suffered a decline, influenced by the GFC, and it has been overtaken by the mining-driven engineering sector. Fortunately for construction graduates looking to work in residential projects, this sector is forecast to make a recovery, starting with the states of NSW, Western Australia and Queensland, and is predicted to continue to grow well into 2020.
Non-residential construction can be privately funded commercial projects (such as retail centres, office buildings, cinemasand aged care facilities) or government projects, (such as hospitals and schools). The state of the economy influences corporations’ expansion plans and the level of public spending, which in turn drives the level of demand for these projects. Due to the great size of the market and the strength of the Australian economy, non-residential construction activity as a whole is relatively stable, with few increases and decreases. Non-residential projects are usually much larger, more costly and time consuming than residential projects, which means that fewer of them get approved per year and activity for the sector is less overall than residential or engineering.
Engineering construction includes all civil infrastructure (such as roads, rail and ports), energy plants and resource distribution, telecommunications, water systems and mines. Urban infrastructure is publicly funded, while mines are corporate-funded. While demand for urban infrastructure across Australia tends to be stable, the mining boom has driven extremely strong growth in engineering construction, outstripping even the traditionally strong residential sector. Although growth seems to have slowed in mining construction, ACIF asserts that the boom is far from over, but that it has reached its peak in terms of construction activity, and that the industry will remain at this peak for at least the next eight years. In terms of job prospects, within and outside the mining sector, engineering construction will continue to be a strong market for many years to come.
Construction Salary Estimates
Salaries in construction vary depending on job and location, increasing with experience gained in the field. Entry level salaries for building surveyors are around $56 300. Graduate architects earn a median salary of $62 000, with higher rates of pay in Perth and Sydney than Melbourne, Brisbane or Adelaide. Building and construction managers can expect high starting salaries, around $80 000.
The benefits packages of construction workers will depend on the employer. Mining companies (particularly those requiring fly-in fly-out engineering or construction works) will offer significant benefits packages, such as travel reimbursement and bonuses. Other construction companies like LendLease offer community service days and ongoing professional development. Some construction companies may also provide healthcare and insurance.