A site manager also sometimes has the title of construction manager, building manager or site agent. He or she will oversee operations on a day-to-day basis, and ensure that work is done safely, on time and within budget and to the right quality standards.
As a site manager, you could be responsibility for a whole site or, with larger schemes, you may be responsible for part of a project and report to a more senior manager, who may be taking care of several projects at the same time.
Before work starts, a site manager gets things ready by taking on staff, and preparing the site, carefully planning the work to be done and installing temporary offices for site staff.
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While work is taking place, the site manager will monitor progress, oversee delivery of materials and carry out safety checks and sort out any problems which could hold up work as they arise. A site manager will also keep in close contact with members of their site team at all times, and liaise with architects, engineers, surveyors and planners. He or she will also ensure that work complies with building regulations and health and safety legislation as well as other legal requirements.
A site manager will also keep the client updated regularly on progress. Finally, a site manager also acts as the first point of contact for members of the public and sub-contractors.
It is the responsibility of the site manager to make sure that the deadline for completing work is met, and as site manager you will at least share some of the responsibility if someone on your site has an accident.
Mike Elliott has many years’ experience in the industry as a site manager and now works as a freelance site engineer. He says:
“There can be a good sense of team work on most sites and it is good to see the finished product.
“Try to get some experience on a construction site before you start your studies. This will help you decide whether the construction site life is for you. A degree course which includes a year out with an employer is good choice. It may also pay to get any holiday work going on a construction site to get an overall picture of this work. It is a very competitive world, so it will be to your advantage to show some awareness of the building site workplace.
“Be prepared to travel as a company’s workload may be spread out. To progress, you may have to change jobs if a job is not giving you the chance to develop your career. Try to get a wide range of experience in the industry, and to do as many courses as are available, including those for a professional body. As a site manager, progression to a project manger or contracts manager depends on having delivered several contracts to budget and on time.”
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Professionals in the field made on average from £38,200 to £42,800 in 2008, and from £35,100 to £39,100 in 2009, according to figures from jobs posted on CareerStructure.com.
Hours and environment
While a standard 40-hour working week is the norm, you can expect some evening and weekend work on occasion to meet deadlines. Construction work tends to start and finish earlier than most office-based jobs.
Site work does mean being out in all weathers and you will have to wear protective clothing while on site. You should also expect to have to work at height sometimes, for example when inspecting roofing.
You may also need to travel between sites to meet clients and sub-contractors.
Skills and interests
A site manager needs to be able to plan work well, and to be well-organised, and prepared for responsibility and decision making. And, in common with many other construction industry jobs, you will also need to be highly numerate with good IT skills, as well as good at solving problems.
At the same time, you’ll have to be able to get your head around building and health and safety regulations, as well as other legislation.
Site managers also need particularly strong people skills, since you’ll have to be able to communicate with, manage and motivate people at all levels, from staff to sub-contractors.
Construction was one of the hardest hit by the recession, but qualified and experienced site managers will always be in demand.
Paul Fleming joined Kier 12 years ago as a handyman and is now a senior site manager, working on the £32-million Southampton Operational Command Unit for Hampshire Constabulary.
He says: “Clients are always looking for value for money, especially now, and want a good quality product, produced within budget.
“To do this, and win repeat business from their clients, employers need good, reliable staff, and who better than school or university leavers who, with direction and training have the potential to become excellent site managers?”
The most common route to getting a job as a site manager is to obtain a degree, or an HNC, HND or BTEC qualification – try and do a course which has been approved by the Chartered Institute of Building. Relevant subjects include building studies and building engineering, surveying and civil engineering, construction engineering management, building management or building technology.
Entry requirements from different universities vary, and it’s worth getting in touch with potential employers directly to find out about sponsorship opportunities. (This usually means a company will cover tuition fees and some living expenses.)
If you are working in the industry and have a degree which is not related to construction, you could acquire the knowledge you need to be a site manager through the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) Graduate Diploma Programme.
An alternative could be to have several years’ industry experience before going into construction management, especially if you have worked as a supervisor or building technician.
Training and advancement
Many site managers go on to become contracts managers or directors. Opportunities may also exist in consultancy, in teaching or in a specialist area such as health and safety inspection.
CIOB, the National House Building Council and the Association of Building Engineers have more details about different training schemes. Ongoing professional development is crucial to progress your career within the industry.
Site management opportunities exist with both building firms and specialised sub-contractors, and in local and central government. Companies hiring site managers include Amey, Atkins, Balfour Beatty, Hanson, Kier, Ringway and Skanska, among others.
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- Association of Building Engineers
- National Housebuilding Council
- Construction Skills
- Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB)