Built environment careers: top trends driving the construction sector during uncertain times

Posted on: 16 August, 2023

With the right training, a career in the built environment not only gives you the opportunity to transform the world around you, but it could also help you to thrive during periods of economic uncertainty. While our industry isn’t immune to recession, a wide range of skilled roles are in high demand, even when times get tough.

Just like any other industry, the construction sector can be susceptible to fluctuations in the economy. Data from previous UK recessions shows that the construction industry slows down ahead of most other sectors, but that’s only half the story.

It also bounces back sooner and stronger, acting as a driving force to aid wider economic recovery. Plus, built environment professionals operate across five stages of the development lifecycle, namely:

  • Planning
  • Design
  • Construction
  • Use and occupation
  • Maintenance and repair
  • Building and site repurposing

That means there are opportunities for skilled professionals with the right qualifications, regardless of whether the economy is on the up, heading for a downturn or in the middle of a recession. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at construction and the recession-resistant opportunities within the sector.

1: Enrolling during a recession earns you more

Whether you’re already working in the built environment sector, or just preparing to embark, research shows that students who study for a university qualification when the economy is struggling secure higher levels of pay when they graduate. Compared with students who enrol during prosperous times, you’re likely, on average, to earn an extra £1,200 every working year.

2: Accelerated infrastructure investment

Infrastructure investment continues to trend upwards, achieving record breaking levels of spend in 2022. The construction industry has benefitted from multi-billion-pound projects such as HS2, the Thames Tideway Tunnel, the New Hospitals Programme, and Hinkley Point C. These, and many more, all add to sector momentum and create a platform for sustained growth in the future.

3: Planned investment and workforce expansion

The government’s National Infrastructure and Construction framework sets out positive plans for investment and workforce expansion through to 2030. It supports the construction industry in making informed decisions, which are linked to short-term business planning, but also allows for the implementation of strategic plans that have a sustained effect over the longer term.

The proposed near-term projects outlined in the framework are 38% funded by the public sector, 49% funded by the private sector, and 13% funded from a mix of private and public. This balance will provide the construction industry with greater stability and a robust outlook.

4: Energy-efficient retrofits

The UK has the oldest housing stock in Europe. One in five homes were built over a century ago, and around 38% date back to before 1946. This presents an opportunity for making them healthy, safe and energy efficient.

Private housing repair, maintenance and improvement (RM&I) can benefit from energy-efficient retrofits during a recession, as homeowner concerns over energy prices, affordability and climate change motivate them to seek out insulation solutions, improved glazing and solar panel installations.

Green shoots of opportunity

As we mentioned earlier, the construction industry recovers ahead of most other sectors, and we’re seeing signs of that already. According to a recent report by specialist insights company, Glenigan, construction is on track to return to growth in 2024. The firm predicts 12% growth next year, followed by 3% growth in 2025.

The best chance of success

All this planned activity helps to provide a secure future for anyone considering a career in the built environment. However, to make the most of the opportunity, you need to equip yourself with the skills and qualifications that give you the best chance of success.

Learn more: Forging successful careers in construction – a family story

Whether you’re a school leaver, recent graduate, or a current professional looking to grow your career within the industry, a qualification can help you advance your expertise and strengthen your credentials.

Courses that go beyond the boundaries

At UCEM, our modular, flexible courses are designed to work for every individual at every stage of their career, but we don’t deliver them in isolation. As well as focusing on technological advancements, innovation and best practices, we also incorporate soft skills.

Learn more: The flexibility of online courses – balancing work and education with UCEM

This helps our students to round out their learning and deliver the extra layer of competencies which employers are looking for. And as advocates of critical thinking, we make sure we’re not just spoon-feeding you with information. Everything we do is built upon a framework that develops understanding and promotes constructive discussion. This helps you to operate with the highest levels of intelligent judgement, becoming a valuable asset for the company you work for.

Studying for a qualification with UCEM also gives you access to our mentoring scheme. This matches students with individuals who can help them visualise and achieve their professional goals, allowing them to shape a successful career pathway, even during a recession.

Sustainability and progression

With sustainability rising up the built environment agenda, we take our environmental responsibilities very seriously. Urbanisation is one of the most significant trends around the world, and by 2050 the UN predicts 2.5 billion more people will be living in cities. As urban areas expand, our sector’s depletion of natural resources has a massive impact on the environment.

That’s why one of our goals is to provide you with the knowledge to evaluate and integrate sustainability measures in ways that safeguard the built environment as you progress through your career. This can involve the use of alternative materials, fuels and technologies to reduce the impact of building projects, streamlining processes and reducing waste with lean construction techniques, and considering the five stages of the built environment lifecycle when making strategic decisions that reshape our buildings and cityscapes.

Learn more: Making a business case for sustainability: why now is the time to act

With our help, you will develop a critical thinking framework that can reduce the environmental impact of our profession for generations to come, adding to your employer appeal and allowing you to progress faster and further.

For all these reasons, and more, perhaps it’s time for you to discover what an online study course can do to help you achieve your career aspirations. It can even save you money as you study. Make your next move count, and start planning your future career route today.

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