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How to embark on a career as a rail construction manager
Construction managers are responsible for overseeing the development of residential, public and commercial building projects, playing a hugely important part in the overall construction process. With ambitious projects, such as HS2 (High Speed Two), gaining momentum in the UK, and several other large infrastructure projects around the world such as the Kuala Lumpur–Singapore High-Speed Rail project (HSR), skilled construction managers are in high demand.
But how can you get into this profession and what career path can you expect? Tom Smith, Rail Recruitment Specialist at Matchtech, shares his insight.
What educational background do you need to be a construction manager?
Qualifications are dependent on discipline, as any construction manager would need to have at least a basic understanding of the work they are overseeing. For example, in the UK, a Mechanical and Electrical (M&E) construction manager should have a mechanical or electrical background in the form of a City & Guilds qualification for electrical or mechanical installation.
What is the most common career path for a construction manager?
There are two main routes that people usually take to become a construction manager. The first is to earn a construction management degree and find a job as a construction manager on a small-scale project. This will give you the opportunity to build up your site experience. The second route involves progressing up the career ladder from a chosen discipline. For instance, an electrician may work their way up to become a supervisor, then take on the role of site manager before working up to a construction manager position.
From that point, construction managers have the opportunity to become a senior construction manager or a project manager.
Can you transfer from another industry?
Definitely. Construction managers come from a range of different industry backgrounds. In order to make a transfer, however, you need to ensure that you are up to date on rail industry and health & safety procedures. You may also be required to acquire tickets that are unique to certain industries; for instance, if you’re hoping to work on a station project, it’s likely that you’ll need a certification in PTS (Personal Track Safety).
When HS2 is fully underway, we’ll be actively seeking construction managers from other sectors, such as building services, oil & gas, nuclear, and highways, in order to meet the demand for the project in this candidate-short market. This will be a great opportunity for someone in another sector to begin a career in rail.
What skills and traits do employers expect construction managers to have?
The most important trait for a construction manager to have is great organisational skills; their role involves being in full control of their site, so they need to ensure that everything is going according to plan, and, if not, quickly come up with a viable solution. Therefore, the best construction managers also have exceptional communication and leadership skills so they can easily work with their team to produce the best results.
During the interview stage, employers look for a self-motivated individual who has strong knowledge of the industry and, ideally, experience working in a rail environment.
What other advice would you give to people looking to embark on a successful construction management career?
For students and school-leavers, I would recommend getting a degree in construction management and finding a position within a reputable company where you’ll have the opportunity to work on small projects and build up valuable experience in a managerial position.
For those who already work on-site, I would suggest getting an SSSTS (Site Supervisors Safety Training Scheme) ticket, which will allow you to move into a supervisory position. You’ll then be able to obtain an SMSTS (Site Management Safety Training Scheme) ticket and become a Site Manager. From there, you’ll have direct contact with the construction manager and be able to learn from them.
If you’re working for the right companies; gaining experience, learning from the right people, and applying what you’ve learnt, the progression opportunities are sure to come your way.
If you’re ready for your next career move, view our rail jobs here.
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