How to become a Groundworker


How to become a … Groundworker

Jessica Tabinor Groundworker

How to become a Groundworker

There are ample opportunities in the UK construction industry for groundworkers to get involved in projects of all shapes and sizes.

Read on to find out more about the skills you’ll need and discover whether groundworker jobs are the right fit for you.

£15-29 dependent on experience

Hinkley Point C / HS2

NVQ, City & Guilds, CPCS

What do groundworker jobs involve?

Groundworkers play a vital role in any construction project, preparing the site prior to the actual building work commencing. You’ll usually be the first and last person on site. Before work can begin you’ll help with clearing the site, digging trenches for foundation and any necessary drainage and other pipework. You’ll also be involved in creating roads, driveways and paths using tarmac or concrete slabs.

You can find yourself working on any number of different projects, from housing and hotels to government buildings, power stations and railway lines.

What is a groundworker’s salary?

A groundworker’s salary can vary, depending on the location, project and employer you’re working for. You can expect a starting salary of around £15,000 per year, rising to between £16,000 and £21,000 as you gain more experience.

The most experienced groundworkers can often make up to £29,000 per year, while self-employed workers have the opportunity to set their own rates.

These figures are intended as a guideline only. 

What skills do I need?

You’ll need decent maths and arithmetic skills to work out measurements, angles and quantities and to minimise wasted materials. You’ll need to have good self-awareness of the environment around you and the potential dangers and be confident and decisive in your work.

Groundworker jobs are physically demanding, so having a high level of physical fitness is important. You’ll also need to have good communication skills and the ability to work equally efficiently on your own or as part of a larger team.

What qualifications do I need?

There are a number of different routes you can take if you’re interested in a career as a groundworker. Some people choose to prove their experience through time served with existing contractors and construction companies, or by completing an apprenticeship.

Alternatively, you can complete a college course in groundwork, such as an NVQ (level 1 or 2) or City and Guilds 6709.

You’ll need a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card if you’re going to be working on a building site.

In addition to this, you may need a Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) card if you’re going to be involved in plant operations. Operator cards document recognised skills, competence and qualifications, with different codes covering different classes of machinery. Some of the most common classifications are listed below:

  • Crawler crane CPCS Code A02
  • Tower crane CPCS Code A04
  • Ride on Road Roller CPCS Code A36
  • Excavator 360 degree tracked CPCS Code A59
  • Crane supervisor CPCS Code A62
  • Ride on Road Roller CPCS Code A31
  • Plant and Vehicle Marshaller CPCS Code A73

What are the hours and conditions?

You’ll usually work a 39-hour week, Monday to Friday. As with most on-site work, your day will often start at dawn. You’ll sometimes be required to work overtime at evenings and weekends to meet deadlines, as and when the project requires it. These additional hours and overtime pay give you the opportunity to boost your salary.

Groundworkers often operate in hot, noisy and dusty conditions, with some exposure to hazardous fumes. The majority of your work will take place outdoors, so be prepared to face all varieties of weather conditions.

The work can be potentially hazardous, so strict adherence to safety procedures and regulations is essential. You’ll also require safety equipment such as overalls, safety goggles, hard hats, ear protection, safety boots and hi-vis clothing.

Career progression

As you gain more experience, there are opportunities for progression in your career. Some people will opt to specialise in a specific construction trade, while others will look to move into site supervision, estimating or construction management roles.

Areas of specialism 

With the right training and experience, groundworkers can go on to specialise in a number of different areas. You could look to become a civil engineering technician or highways maintenance operative. Or if you have a knack for heavy machinery, you could look to move into plant operations.

To search for opportunities across the sector click here. Or, browse our dedicated HS2 and Hinkley Point C pages for more information.