Despite the lingering stereotypes of the construction industry, I urge young people to consider a career in this dynamic, creative and technologically advanced industry that shapes the world we live in. There is a vast array of different jobs and routes into construction from planning and bid writing to site management and quantity surveying. And with a skills shortage in the UK, there are plenty of career opportunities for young people in all of these disciplines and more.

It’s often thought that to get to the top you have to go to university – that’s not necessarily true. Many of BAM’s project managers and senior management have worked their way up from a young age as an apprentice in a particular trade. There are a number of ways to learn about construction including diplomas, NVQs and part/full time college or university courses. More emphasis is being put on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, which is helping to veer more young people towards construction careers which is a start. In fact, it’s how my career started as I studied for my A-levels in Coventry, after taking part in the Engineering Education Scheme at Bablake School. Working in a team of four, we completed an exercise to redevelop the area around Coventry train station and came up with suggestions such as building a bridge over the ring road. Then we had to build a physical 3D model of what we’d proposed and organise the programme behind the build before presenting our idea to the “client”. This sparked my interest in the industry.

I took a gap year before university and started working in civil engineering in Southampton as part of the Year in Industry Scheme, but, during my work experience, realised I’d taken the wrong track. I was more interested in the construction aspects of what I was learning rather than the civil engineering side. So I reapplied to university and changed from Civil Engineering to a Construction Management course at Salford University.
As it was a sandwich degree with two 6 month placements, I needed a sponsor. In stepped BAM, who in Coventry alone is behind the Severn Trent Water Centre and the new Science and Health Building for Coventry University. BAM made me an offer of a bursary but what really appealed to me about their approach was that they have a regional structure, which gives their people a bit more stability. Working in their Midlands region meant I could live at home and commute to work. As a student it’s all about saving those pennies!

Since then I combined working for BAM with my degree, until graduating last June. I’ve worked on BAM’s £45 million student village scheme for Aston University, the £30 million Shirley Parkgate mixed use development with a basement carpark, and I am now working on its £30 million care village for Richmond Villages and Bupa in Oxfordshire, as an assistant site manager.

An apprenticeship or a sandwich course at university is a great way to get into the industry because the first thing that most companies ask for is experience. I’d strongly encourage people to consider an apprenticeship or work experience to give them an insight into the working world before they commit to a career path. With BAM there are so many different opportunities all over the country.

It’s a very rewarding career, and I’m still learning a lot – who knows what I’ll be helping to build in ten years! I can only hope that by sharing my story other people may think twice about their choices and consider going into construction one way or another, no matter what their age or gender.

If you would like to work with BAM, find out more about our graduate and training opportunities.

Puja Bhardwaj, working on Richmond Witney Retirement Village site

About the author

Puja Bhardwaj

Assistant Site Manager

Puja is an Assistant Site Manager for BAM Construction, working in the Midlands region. She graduated in July 2014 from Salford University, having done two six month placements with BAM as part of the BSc Construction Management course.

Puja is currently part of the site team building Richmond Care Village in Witney, Oxfordshire, due for completion in Easter 2016. She previously worked for Mott Macdonald - Highways Division in Southampton during her gap year before university, designing roads and surveying highways.

Read more articles from Puja Bhardwaj