Civ Eng & Construction Outlook

OK, if I could really forecast what was going to happen in any employment sector, I’d be faxing this in from my yacht. However, even from my slightly less choppy berth in Crawford House, I’m prepared to make a few common sense predictions, suggest some strategies to help you suss out how the future may unfold for postgraduate recruitment, and alert you to one of the few Careers Fairs still to come.

Major construction projects are specified well in advance of delivery, so where these projects can’t be easily stopped or cut back, they will still need people to work on them.

This does mean that some of those who are involved in the early stages of construction projects are experiencing “a tightening of the market” (whenever you hear a cliche like that, it’s the sound of careers advisers hedging, not wanting to instil all out panic in our students – but wanting them to get their act together asap). For example, already, architects seem to be finding fewer opportunities for placements and first positions.

However most of the major construction and civ eng companies are looking at their order books and are still actively recruiting engineering and project management graduates. Like many other sectors, strategic recruitment does seem to be holding up better than expected – at the moment. They recognise that if they pull out of graduate recruitment completely, even for one year, they not only have a gap in 2 or 3 years time with no potential managers coming through, but they also do immense damage to their reputation with good students in the future (it’s even worse if they offer jobs and then withdraw them, though sometimes it does come to that.)

I suspect, though, that it’s the discretionary recruitment which will be hardest hit – the odd vacancies which can occur throughout the year to cover replacement of staff or unexpected expansion. These are the vacancies which many postgrads rely on, having ignored the “graduate training” schemes in the Autumn, either because they feel they are too early to bother about, or because they don’t want to be thought of as “just graduates”. My view is that not only will there be fewer of these alternative discretionary vacancies, but employers will have a much wider pool of experienced candidates to choose from, as others in the sector are made redundant – and a new postgrad with little work experience won’t look so tempting.

So yes, it is based on a hunch or my gut feel, but this is my plea – if you’re thinking of getting into this (or frankly, any other) sector any time in the next 12 months, apply for those graduate training schemes which are still open, because we can’t predict what will be available later on, once we’re in the thick of the recession.

Luckily, for those interested in civil engineering or construction, the University’s Civil & Construction Society is once again holding their excellent Careers Fair, with over 20 employers in attendance who can give you their view of the outlook in their organisations, and talk about the graduate jobs they have on offer. It’s on Thursday 27th November, from 10am to 3pm, on C floor of the Renold Building – go and hear from the horse’s mouth what these major employers think you should do to guarantee yourself a job after your postgraduate degree.