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Career Options in Property, Architecture & Construction : School Leaver

What is the industry about?

People who work in the property and architecture sector are visionaries, creative types who see the potential of space and objects. Whether you’re assessing property, land, buildings or public spaces, you’ll be able to see what they can be in the future. Almost like a time machine, but looking forward, not back. For example, think about the Olympic Stadium in London. Architects, property developers and builders had to consider what the facilities could be used for after the Olympic Games were over, not just what it was used for when Usain Bolt was sprinting quite quickly down the 100m track.

Architects and property designers have to consider the environment too. It’s simply unsustainable if they design a property that doesn’t get the best out of modern technology. Put basically, if you want to build a house, and the area you want to build it in gets really hot and sunny (doesn’t sound like anywhere in the UK!) then it would be really silly not to put solar panels on the roof of the newly build house.

After architects have designed a development, the construction workers build it. It’s a lot of physical work but has a clear goal and strict deadlines. Property managers, landlords and estate agents then look after the property or construction after the project has been completed.

Each area has separate functions, but one cannot exist without the other. What’s the point in being a property manager if there are no architectures or construction workers to design and build?

What opportunities are available to me?

There’s no doubting it, this is an industry that can be accessed from any level after finishing your GCSEs. It’s also an industry that is usually in high demand. New houses have to replace aging ones, unsafe bridges or roads have to be modified, new parks have to be designed… the list is quite endless as to the variety of jobs you can find yourself working on.

Depending on which sector you want to specialise in, there are numerous opportunities for school leavers wishing to enter the property, construction and architecture industry:

- Bricklayer

- Plumber

- Electrician

- Plasterer

- Other construction work (ironmaker, welder)

- Estate agent

- Property/land surveyor

- Architect.

Fancy yourself as a bricklayer, plumber or electrician? An Intermediate or Advanced Apprenticeship is definitely the route you should be taking. Undertaking one of these will help you learn your trade but if you believe in the stereotype that all construction workers aren’t the brightest bulb in the chandelier, think again. People who work in construction need very good communication skills (you’ll need them on a building site, right?), organisation and analytical skills. They also need to be able to work as part of a team – you might have been able to build Lego on your own, but a whole new housing estate is slightly different.

You could become an estate agent after leaving school too. You will need excellent communication and people skills to work for an estate agent, with the ability to negotiate and sell.

If you want to be an architect or work in property as a surveyor or manager, however, then further and higher education is a route you should consider. Being an architect requires a lot of technical knowledge and precision, and you’ll need to have a keen interest in maths. Creativity is important too.

Setting the school leaver record straight

It’s likely that the first thing that comes to mind when Apprenticeships are mentioned is construction work. There’s no point in lying, an Intermediate or Advanced Apprenticeship is the best way to break into the construction industry. The record that should be set straight, however, is that construction work isn’t just for the boys. Plenty of women work in construction too (about 200,000).

You can also get Apprenticeships in architecture too, though these are far less common. The property field is also accessible for school leavers, with work as an estate agent or trainee surveyor available.

Formal education: should I stay or should I go?

It really depends on which part of the industry you want to specialise in. If construction is your cup of tea then an Intermediate or Advanced Apprenticeship is the best way forward. If you fancy yourself as a top architecture and property surveyor, you’ll need to go on to further and higher education and develop your mathematical and technical skills. This route is better if you’re more skilled in planning things than actually making them.

If you stay in education until you’re 18, getting some A-Levels, Scottish Highers or the equivalent under your belt, you could also apply for Higher Apprenticeships, school leaver programmes and Sponsored Degrees. Undertaking one of these schemes could see you training to become an architecture or property surveyor without the cost of tuition fees.