Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Coming to work in the UK....why not?

Despite current global economic challenges, the UK construction market continues to experience a skills shortage for roles within the industry.

This trend is likely to continue with the demand for skilled workers boosted by construction projects such as those associated with the 2012 Olympic Games, Crossrail and the Thames Gateway developments.

Your skills

With shortages existing for architects, town and traffic planners, and civil engineers, a degree in one of these subject areas will stand you in good stead. It is also likely that UK employers will wish to see evidence of relevant work experience on your CV. Demand for site engineers, contracts managers and skilled tradesmen, among others, is also high and a relevant trade qualification will be essential.

Be aware that not all academic and professional qualifications are recognised internationally and UK employers may not immediately understand the level or scope of the qualifications you possess, so be prepared to outline exactly what you can do.

Opportunities in the UK construction industry will increase dramatically in the run up to the 2012 Olympics and the Construction Industry Training Board is preparing a system to assess workers from overseas, particularly those in skilled trades. This will include a health and safety test and a skills assessment to identify and convert foreign formal qualifications.

Most contractors and clients now demand proof of competence, before allowing workers onto their sites, which is provided by a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card. This is the industry's largest scheme and covers around 220 occupations including trades, technical, supervisory and management.

Not having a CSCS card may affect your ability to work on certain UK sites. For more information visit ConstructionSkills.

UK employers

The private sector offers the greatest number of employment opportunities, although many jobs exist with local authorities and other public bodies. The main employers operate in the following fields:
Civil engineering (search civil engineering jobs)
Construction and building services (search building services jobs)
Architecture and surveying (search architecture, building surveying or quantity surveying jobs)
Engineering construction (search mechanical, structural, electrical, site or civil engineering jobs)

Your opportunities

Leading UK employers are keen to recruit the best people in the marketplace so don't be put off by red tape. Many say they will treat candidates on merit and if you are the best person for the job they may apply for a work permit on your behalf. Some employers recruit only from overseas for specific jobs. For example, Balfour Beatty will take applications for its graduate programme from people outside the UK who need a work permit if they have a degree in quantity surveying, civil engineering or construction management.

A useful starting point for jobseekers not based in the UK is the European Employment Services (EURES) network — a partnership between all the public employment services in the European Economic Area. If you are an EEA citizen, your country's employment service will have details of UK vacancies supplied to it by the EURES website.
Search UK jobs
Find UK recruitment consultancies
Find UK direct employers
Applying for jobs

Make sure you tailor your job applications to the UK market and understand just what information employers expect to see in your Curriculum Vitae and application letters.

See our advice pages on writing CVs and cover letters.

If you are successful at making it to the interview stage make sure you are thoroughly prepared to answer the questions you may be asked and to deal with the skills and personality tests that organisations may ask applicants to sit.

See our advice pages on approaching interviews and tests.

Will I be allowed to work in the UK?

Be aware though that the UK government and employers are often only interested in recruiting non-UK graduates if they are unable to satisfy recruitment needs from their own nationals. It is generally very difficult for nationals of non-European Union countries to get employment in the UK if there are British people who can do the job.

Your right to work in the UK depends on a number of factors, including your nationality and the terms of your permission to enter the UK.

There are different rules for three main groups:
Citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA)
Other foreign nationals outside the UK
Other foreign nationals who are already in the UK

Each year, tens of thousands of work permit holders and dependents come to work in the UK in professions where there are skills shortages.

The government-run site Working in the UK provides clear information about the various routes open to foreign nationals who want to come and work here.

A visa (also know as 'entry clearance') is required for various foreign nationals before entering the country. Check with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to see what kind of visa you need.

In the case of work permits, you will need to have secured a job before you arrive in the UK. It is employers who apply for work permits; not employees or recruitment agencies. Your employer has to prove you are the right person for the job. However, you must continue working for that employer to stay in the UK.

Under the UK Ancestry scheme, Commonwealth citizens with a grandparent born in the UK can enter the country and work for up to five years. No separate work permit is required and the scheme allows candidates who have worked continuously for five years to apply for permanent residency.

The Science and Engineering Graduates Scheme (SEGS), launched in 2004, enables certain non-EEA students who have successfully completed and obtained a degree (with second class honours or above), a Master's degree or a PhD, to work in the UK for up to 12 months upon completion of their studies.

For the full range of visas and permits, applications and leaflets, visit your local British Embassy or the UK Visas website.
What else do I need to consider?

Most employees will pay tax through the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system, which means money is deducted from your pay by your employer.

In addition to tax, every worker between 16 and retirement age must pay national insurance (NI) contributions that will again be automatically deducted from your pay. Applying for an NI number can be a lengthy process, requiring an interview with identification such as passport, proof of address, a letter confirming you have work and, if available, pay slips. You will be given an account number, which is to be used when dealing with HM Revenue & Customs.

Getting a bank account in the UK can be an arduous task if you have just arrived here. Try to get your current bank to set up an account with an affiliated bank in the UK, as this is much easier. Banks require proof of address and a referral letter from your home bank or British employer. You may have to be resident in the country for six months or more before you can apply for a credit card or overdraft.

Good quality housing is not in shortage in the UK, but it can come at a price. The best way to start is to run an Internet search on one of the many property websites to assess the typical price for the area in which you're looking. A short-term flat share is probably the best option until you're settled.

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