Career as a scaffolder

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James Underwood puts up scaffolding outside the houses for the bricklayers and roofers and inside for the painters and decorators. They couldn't work without him as the structure he puts up provides off-ground access and working platforms.

How do you build a scaffold?

I use metal tubes, connections fittings, specially made units and wooden or metal platforms for people to work from. The tubes are tapered and flattened at one end. These are inserted into gaps left in the brickwork. I then attach upright tubes with special clips.

Safety is very important while constructing the scaffolding and in making sure the finished structure is safe for other people to use or walk near. There are strict safety regulations for different types of scaffolding covering things like the minimum heights for guard rails and the distance between uprights.

I also have to make adjustments to scaffolding while it is being used and dismantle it when building work is finished.

What tools do you use?

A range of hand tools including spanners, spirit levels, plumb lines, pulleys and winches.

How did you get into this job?

I started as a labourer and worked my way up. I did some training and now have NVQ Level 3 in Scaffolding.

What are the skills and qualities needed for this work?

You need basic tool-handling skills and common sense to be able to operate safely.

James's route to his career as a scaffolder

  • Started work as a labourer.
  • Took NVQ in Scaffolding

James's scaffolding tips

  • Take care of your tools.
  • Study for relevant NVQ/SVQs.

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Scaffolder salary information

  • Starting salary is around £14,000-£16,000, rising to £18,000 with experience.
  • Salaries can be boosted by overtime and bonus payments.
  • The Building and Allied Trades Joint Industrial Council (BATJIC) agrees wage rates annually – currently around £7.50 a hour.

Career as a scaffolder

  • There is a two-year Modern Apprenticeship (Skillseekers in Scotland) for scaffolders leading to NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in Scaffolding. In Scotland, construction apprenticeships usually last four years.
  • The Construction Industry Record Scheme for scaffolders also leads to NVQs/SVQs.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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