How To Become A Site Engineer
The traditional route of becoming a site engineer
The traditional route of becoming a site engineer or a civil engineer is to go to college or university and enrol in a civil engineering degree, this will cover the majority of topics you will need to know to be comfortable and self sufficient on a construction site as a site engineer.
There are advantages of becoming a site engineer via the traditional route, such as, the vast volume of subjects covered would mean you will be relatively comfortable with the theory side of site engineering with regards to calculations and materials, but you may find that you will only ever use a small portion of this knowledge throughout your career.
I didn’t take this route, my route was non-traditional.
The non-traditional route of becoming a site engineer
I took the non-traditional route. I managed to get a job as a “chain boy” (engineers labourer) for a huge construction company, I was helping the agency engineers carry out the surveys and drag their equipment around. This allowed me to learn what they were doing and eventually after showing a lot of interest, the company paid for me to do various survey training courses which allowed me to move up the career ladder.
The CSCS card is required on most, if not all main contractor construction site these days and is relatively straight forward to obtain. You will be required to answer a number of questions to ensure you have the knowledge to carry out your job. The questions are based mainly on Health & Safety for the basic card and extend to construction rules and regulations for the more senior cards like the managers CSCS card.
SMSTS Qualification (Site Manager Safety Training Scheme)
Most engineers are expected to partake in some form of management on main contractor construction sites, which means you will need to know about the law and how it affects you, the SMSTS covers this and a handful of other things that will help you learn more about management and the responsibilities involved.
You will need to do an NVQ to obtain the appropriate CSCS cards. To complete the NVQ, the assessor will collect copies of your paperwork, such as site diaries, construction programmes, material requisitions etc, they will use these to prove you are capable of doing your job, you will then answer a handful of questions and have photos taken of you doing your job on site. The collated information will then be sent to the NVQ office to be approved. I completed my level 3 in three months after 3 visits from the assessor.
First Aid Certification
This is not imperative, but can help you get work as all senior managers prefer to leave first aid up to the “on site” team since most incidents tend to happen on site. Most jobs advertised recently require first aid certification as a minimum requirement.
Site experience is a very important part of becoming a site engineer. The more time you are able to spend with trained engineers, the more snippets of information you will gather to help you become an engineer and ultimately increase your knowledge and site experience. If you have a trade background, you will be more familiar with busy construction sites and the methods used to complete tasks, this will speed up your learning curve. For example, if you know how a brick wall is built, you will be familiar with the methods used to build the wall and what information the bricklayers will need from you to build the wall in the right location, to the right heights and to the right specification.
Most importantly, site experience will also ensure you are safe on site. When you are working as a site engineer, you will have machinery working around you, therefore you will need experience working with plant as you will need to concentrate on setting out whilst making sure you are not in a position to be hurt by the machine. It takes a long time to train as an engineer, but it only takes one mistake to undo all of your hard work if you can’t work ever again because you were hit by heavy machinery.