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UK Construction Jobs: Where are the Best Opportunities?



Construction as an industry is typically between six and nine percent of the gross domestic product of developed countries. Construction employment in the UK is split between contracting with over 2 million jobs, professional services with over 550,000, and products and materials with over 300,000 jobs.

UK construction spending typically ranges between £60 and £80 billion per year segmented into:

  1. Public and Private New Housing
  2. Public Non-Housing (schools, hospitals, defence, prisons, etc)
  3. Commercial (offices, leisure, retail)
  4. Industrial
  5. Infrastructure 

An additional £40 to £50 billion is spent on Repair & Maintenance.

This blog post will look at the Infrastructure sector which accounts for between £9 and £15 billion annually. The most recent UK National Infrastructure Plan issued in 2014 includes projects and programmes with a capital value of £50 million and over. The plan identifies a pipeline of over £460 billion detailing both

  • publicly funded investment in roads, rail, local transport and flood defences and
  • investment privately funded in energy, water, waste, communications, aviation and ports.

The most significant segments are Energy with an investment of £275 billion, Transport at £142 billion and Water with £31 billion. 

  • Transport: A £38 billion Network Rail delivery programme includes electrification of key lines, projects such as Crossrail which is due to complete in 2018, and HS2, phase 1 which is due to start construction in 2017. In aviation the Airports Commission Report  proposes a new runway at Heathrow Airport delivering new capacity by 2030 at a cost in the order of £20 billion.
  • Water: Since their privatisation in 1989 water companies have invested more than £111 billion and over the last 5 year period £22bn in water and waste water assets. OFWAT the water regulator has approved expenditure of £44bn over the next 5 year Asset Management Plan period.
  • Other sectors of note include a £2.3 billion programme of flood investment and roll-out of superfast broadband at £1.7 billion.



Based on planned investment the Energy sector offers the most significant employment opportunity representing over 60% of the UK’s Infrastructure pipeline. There are three key sub-sectors:

  1. Oil and Gas production
  2. Electricity generation
  3. Electricity transmission and distribution

The UK Oil & Gas sector represents £53 billion of the investment pipeline and is estimated to support over 400,000 jobs of which 32,000 are directly employed. While the industry has seen record annual investment of over £14 billion recently, the sector is generally regarded as being in a period of long-term decline, with 5,000 jobs lost in the first half of 2015 and uncertainty created by volatility in oil prices.

Gas is seen as having a key role in the UK energy mix, assisting the transition away from coal and being used as a back-up for intermittent renewable energy sources. There are some positive developments such as the £3bn Culzean field project, the largest gasfield discovered in the UK North Sea for a decade (sufficient to meet 5 per cent of UK demand), and employment created by British companies overseas investments.

The Government support for fracking will also create new employment opportunities with the potential for £33bn investment over 15 years to bring up to 4,000 wells into production and create 64,000 jobs at peak, 6,100 of which are direct roles.

The Oil and Gas sector has been widely regarded as offering the highest compensation, however, it is not for everyone as many roles involve working off-shore on shift patterns or travelling to remote parts of the world.

The Electricity Transmission and Distribution sector is forecasting the largest investments since World War 2, with recent annual investments of £30 billion. The investment is needed to:

  1. connect new generation, such as renewables located in remote areas,
  2. upgrade networks to connect power from large scale generation such as the proposed nuclear installations,
  3. provide interconnectors nationally and internationally to mainland Europe,
  4. allow for new demand such as provision for electric vehicles,
  5. facilitate the role out of smart meter technology
  6. maintain the existing assets to ensure continued reliability.

The biggest growth in investment is in the Electricity Generation sector driven by the need to replace the UK’s ageing energy infrastructure with a more diverse low-carbon energy mix. This investment is primarily planned and delivered by the private sector.

The largest investment will be in Nuclear with £45bn planned up to the mid 2020’s. The next most significant investment is in offshore wind with £10bn, onshore wind has up to £4.5bn allocated, large scale solar £3bn, and Gas generation up to £2.3bn.

Additional schemes include biomass conversion for coal fired plants, such as the recent conversion of the Drax power station, the development of Carbon Capture and Storage, and there is significant tidal lagoon potential in the UK the first of which is the £1 billion Swansea Tidal Lagoon forecast for connection to the National Grid in 2019.



It is estimated that every £1 billion of infrastructure investment supports 5,000 construction jobs, and many more indirectly in design, engineering and planning. The Construction Industry Training Board, in their Blueprint for Construction, estimates an additional 224,000 jobs will be created between 2015 and 2019.

The energy generation sector will see one of the largest investment growth rates and will need a substantial increase in skilled professionals to design, plan, manufacture, construct and operate the projects across the UK.

The nuclear new build programme has 5 identified projects with the potential for 3 more. As no nuclear plant has been built for over 20 years, the sector will need to attract a new generation of construction professionals. Each project is spread over 7 to 10 years and up to 25,000 individual job opportunities over the construction period with a peak of over 4,000 workers will be required on each nuclear new build site.



Construction is steadily recovering from the economic downturn with forecasts of skill shortages in many roles.

The energy industry is likely to provide some of the best career opportunities for construction professionals in the coming decade. Within the energy industry, nuclear will offer the prospect of working on some of Europe’s largest construction projects, with Hinkley Point C in Somerset, expected to become the first project to commence late in 2015.


To learn more about the energy and nuclear sectors visit the resources page on our website and register at the bottom of any page to receive our newsletter or join our social media sites which will keep you up to date on the latest industry developments. 

You can submit your CV if you are interested in exploring employment opportunities in the Nuclear, Energy, Water or Construction sectors.

We are happy to offer a referral scheme that can help good causes or earn a reward for the referrer, if you have a colleague or friend who would be interested in nuclear job opportunities refer your friend on our website.

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