Intensive construction courses

In this series of 'business owner insight' posts we'll be harnessing the knowledge of our community of SME owners and landlords. A series of customer experts will contribute a guest post on a topic that they have specialist knowledge in. In our first post, plasterer and decorator Rob Moon weighs up the pros and cons of taking an accelerated construction course.

Andy the labourer nursed his red-raw hawk-bearing shoulder. Meanwhile, Tim stared out of his office window, feeling decidedly lethargic. Both, like so many others were considering undertaking an intensive construction skills course. Is it a wise move? What are the pros and cons?

My advice to anyone considering this path would be split into two main categories: skill attained, and financial concerns.

Skill attained

Pros: Spending 2-8 weeks focused entirely on one goal has its benefits. For one, you are not turning up to your course already tired after a long day’s work, with diminished ability to concentrate. Mistakes you make one day can be swiftly corrected and learned from the very next day.

Due to the fact that all on the course have paid good money to be there, you will generally find the learning environment to be extremely focused and driven. The course tutors should appreciate the sacrifices you are making to attend.

Cons: There is no substitute for real-life experience. The course will prepare you but the world of construction can and will throw a hundred new obstacles and challenges at you that initially you may be ill-prepared to deal with. Finding experienced tradesmen to work alongside can be nearly impossible as they naturally try to protect their own flow of work.

Financial concerns

Pros: There is no denying it, construction can be a lucrative business. Skill matters. An inexperienced tradesmen will usually earn a better day-rate than the best of labourers. Many of the plumbers and electricians I have worked with are earning £40/hour+, sometimes much higher.

Cons: Earning this kind of money will not happen overnight. For a start, as an inexperienced tradesman you will make plenty of mistakes, leading to lost income. If you do find work with a more experienced tradesman, he will likely keep your wages low for months or even years until you are up to speed. Not to be overlooked are the additional costs of tools, insurance, a suitable vehicle, advertising etc.

My advice

My advice to Andy, Tim and others: proceed but proceed with caution. No matter what the course booklet claims, you will not emerge after several weeks as a fully competent, experienced tradesman.

Have a long-term plan. If possible, try to work with someone more experienced than you. If this is not possible, keep the jobs you take on small. Build a network of tradesmen you can call on for advice when things go wrong.

Either have money behind you when you start your course or have a job to go back to if things go wrong. Decent earnings will not happen instantly.

The world of construction can be varied, flexible and fulfilling. With a bit of forethought, intensive construction courses can be the way in.

Rob is a plasterer and decorator working in Berkshire on domestic projects. He specialises in repairs and re-skims and in his spare time enjoys reading classic fiction. You can find out more on Rob's website. If you'd like to write a 'business owner insight' guest post on a topic close to your business heart, email Jade on creative@simplybusiness.co.uk.