Frequently Asked Questions

You can find answers to frequently asked questions about the construction industry on this page.

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The construction industry

What is construction?

Construction work is defined in the WHS Regulation as any work carried out in connection with the construction, alteration, conversion, fitting-out, commissioning, renovation, repair, maintenance, and refurbishment, demolition, decommissioning or dismantling of a structure. Structures can include residential houses and apartment blocks, commercial offices, social buildings such as hospitals and schools, entertainment facilities such as stadiums, zoos, and museums, and transport infrastructure such as roads, bridges, tunnels, and airports. The work spans designing and planning, demolition and building, connecting to services, and testing.

The industry is typically divided into three main sectors:  

  1. Residential, including the construction of houses, apartments, townhouses etc.  
  2. Commercial, including the construction of offices, factories, hospitals, schools, shops, entertainment facilities, etc. 
  3. Civil, including the construction of roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, telecommunications and other infrastructure. 

Construction work can be commercial, civil or residential construction and includes the following:  

  • any installation or testing carried out in connection with an activity referred to in the above definition  
  • the removal from the workplace of any product or waste resulting from demolition 
  • the prefabrication or testing of elements for use in construction work, or the disassembly of prefabricated elements forming part of a structure 
  • the installation, testing or maintenance of an essential service in relation to a structure 
  • any work connected with an excavation  
  • any work connected with any preparatory work or site preparation including landscaping as part of site preparation carried out in connection with an activity referred to in the above definition 

Visit Safework's website for more information.

What types of roles are available in construction?

Ongoing demand for infrastructure means the construction industry provides many employment opportunities. While there are some jobs that require formal qualifications there are many that don’t, with on-the-job training often provided at the base entry level. 

Example roles include:  

  • Construction managers 
  • Trade roles including plumbing, electricians, carpentry 
  • Architects 
  • Project director
  • Engineers including civil, mechanical, industrial, electrical 
  • Heavy vehicle operators including truck drivers, crane operators, excavator operators 
  • Surveying  
  • Traffic control   

For more detail on specific occupations, career paths and qualification requirements for roles, head to the Careers NSW website or the Women Building Australia website.

Is working in construction good for the environment?

The NSW Government has adopted a goal of Net Zero emissions across the whole NSW economy by 2050 – and a 50% cut in emissions below 2005 levels by 2030. 

Embodied emissions of construction materials are estimated to be approximately 5% to 10% of Australia’s total emissions. 
The NSW Government is partnering with the construction sector to decarbonise infrastructure delivery, by requiring reporting on projects' emissions and consideration of emissions in Government decision making.

Do I have to do a trade to work in construction? 

No. There are many jobs available that do not require a full qualification.

However, everyone needs at least a construction white card to work on site. Find out more about construction cards on the Service NSW website.

What roles are available to women working in construction?

All jobs in construction are open to women. Construction covers many kinds of roles and skills from cabinet making and plumbing to building and machine operations and electrical services. Typical jobs include electrician, carpenter, civil construction plant operator, welder, builder, plumber, painter and road traffic management.

What skills do I need to work in construction?

Skills vary depending on roles and projects. The majority of learning comes from on-the-job experience, traineeships, apprenticeships and VET courses so you don’t need to worry if you don’t have the requisite skills now. What’s more important is that you’re passionate to learn and want to pursue a career in construction.

Find a range of fee-free courses on the TAFE NSW website.

What types of projects can I work on? 

A career in construction will give you the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects, from residential dwellings, skyscraper office blocks, and social infrastructure projects like hospitals, roads and schools. You may be required to travel for your job, letting you see parts of the country and possibly the world you haven’t seen before. 

Are there networks of women working in construction I can join? 

Yes, there are networks of passionate women working in construction you can join! Joining a community is a good way to network and learn more about the industry. Below are links to networks you can join today.

Working conditions

Do I need to work weekends? Is there flexibility?

In building and construction, the hours and days of work will vary. 

An employee’s ordinary hours of work will depend on their type of employment, with different ordinary hours for full-time, casual, and part-time employees. An employee’s ordinary hours will usually be stated in the ‘hours of work’ clause of their industrial instrument. 

Except for shift workers, the ordinary hours of work for the most building and construction workers will specify: 

  • total hours per week (e.g. 38 or 36 hours per week) 
  • days worked each week (e.g. Monday to Friday inclusive) 
  • times worked in each day (e.g. between 7am and 3pm). 
  • For instance, a worker employed under an award may be required to work 38 hours per week, Monday to Friday, from 7.00am to 3.00pm. 

Sometimes the ordinary hours of work may be changed: 

  • where early starts are required 
  • for part-time workers 
  • where employees are working in challenging environments such as underground. 

Employees working more than 38 ordinary hours per week may be entitled to a rostered day off (RDO). 

In the Australian construction industry, the practice of working on Saturday at higher pay rates, known as overtime, is deeply rooted and remains in place even though workers are now able to earn the same overtime rate after hours Monday to Friday. 

A number of NSW Government projects are now trialling a 5 day work week as well as other measures to improve working conditions on construction sites under the draft Construction Industry Culture Standard. 

Is working in construction safe? 

Everyone involved in construction work has health and safety duties when carrying out the work. The Principal Contractor has the primary duty under the WHS Act to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, workers and other persons are not exposed to health and safety risks arising from the business or undertaking.  

The SafeWork NSW Construction Code provides guidance on how to manage the risks associated with construction work in the workplace using the following systematic process:  

  • Identify hazards—find out what could cause harm.  
  • Assess risks, if necessary—understand the nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard, how serious the harm could be and the likelihood of it happening. This step may not be necessary if you are dealing with a known risk with known controls.  
  • Control risks—implement the most effective control measures that are reasonably practicable in the circumstances in accordance with the hierarchy of control measures, and ensure they remain effective over time.  
  • Review control measures to ensure they are working as planned.


What is a white card?

A white card is evidence that you have completed a General Construction Induction course/white card course. This course is mandatory for anyone who works, or wants to work, in the construction industry.

Find out more about white cards and how to obtain one on the Safework website.

Can I work in construction without a white card? 

No. A white card is required for anyone who wants to carry out construction work. These include site managers, supervisors, surveyors, labourers and tradespeople.

Find out more about white cards and how to obtain one on the Safework website.

What additional qualifications do I need to work in the construction industry? 

Safety is the highest priority and every person working in the construction industry must obtain a white card.  You can find out how to obtain a white card on the Safework website.

Depending on the trade you are interested in, you may be required to have additional tickets. Find out more about what tickets you need on the Advanced Group Services website.

What are the physical requirements of working in construction? 

The physicality varies and depends on the role and the projects you work on. The belief that construction is too physically demanding for women is outdated and acts as a deterrent for women to consider a career in construction.  

Looking across various industries, there has been a large uptake of women in traditionally male dominated jobs, from the armed forces, police and fire fighters. Furthermore, there are tools and assistive technologies commonly used across construction that mean women are just as capable of undertaking roles as men.

Refer to the Women’s Stories page to learn more about the physical requirements of the job.  

Apprenticeships and traineeships

What is difference between apprenticeship and traineeship?

Apprenticeships and traineeships both combine formal study with on-the-job training where you get paid while you learn. An apprenticeship leads to a nationally recognised qualification in a trade vocation while a Traineeship leads to a non-trade qualification.

Find out more information about apprenticeships and traineeships.

Do I have to complete an apprenticeship to start a trade? 

Yes. You will need to complete your training as an apprentice to graduate as a qualified tradesperson. There’s never been a better time to start an apprenticeship in NSW. The Commonwealth government is currently offering fee free apprenticeships.

Find out more on the NSW Department of Education website.

I’m in high school. Are there school programs available to me to start training for my career in construction? 

Yes. There are school delivered vocational education and training (VET) courses for year 9-12 students. Find out how you can get a head start on your apprenticeship before you leave school with a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship! Find more information about school based apprenticeships and traineeships.

The NSW government also offers Year 12 students the opportunity to develop their professional skills in the infrastructure industry.

Find out more on the NSW Department of Education website.

What experience do I need for an apprentice or a traineeship? 

No prior experience is required. We are after people who have finished school and are keen to start a career. 

Do I need to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects to work in construction? 

No, you don’t need to have studied STEM subjects at school or TAFE to have a career in construction. STEM subjects can be beneficial, but they are not mandatory.  

Infrastructure Traineeships

How does an Infrastructure Traineeship work? 

The NSW Government Infrastructure Traineeships are office-based. If you are successful, you will spend time at a NSW Government agency and private sector industry employers, rotating every 8 months. TAFE NSW classes will be a combination of Classroom Based and Connected Learning, and you will be given 1-2 days during the week to study to complete a Cert IV courses and/or attend classes. 

How does the Infrastructure Traineeship include women?

The Infrastructure Traineeship far exceeds existing diversity levels within the sector and provides great opportunities for women. Across all roles in the construction industry, including office-based roles, women comprise only of 10.3% of the workforce.  The Traineeship is working towards a target for inclusion of 50% women, which supports other NSW Government objectives including the Ten point commitment to the construction sector and priorities of the NSW Women's Strategy related to economic opportunity and advancement of women. 

Do I attend classes to study while participating in an Infrastructure Traineeship? 

You will be given 1-2 days during the week to study and complete your online TAFE course to complete your Cert IV courses. You will do this during the week, within the workplace you are placed. 

What traineeships are on offer as part of the Infrastructure Traineeship? 
  • Cert IV in Business (BSB40120)
  • Cert IV in Project Management Practice (BSB40920)
  • Cert IV in Procurement and Contracting (PSP40616)

Alice's Story

Alice works as a Graduate Site Engineer at the Randwick Campus Redevelopment. She started her career in the construction industry by studying Civil Engineering and Commerce at the University of New South Wales. We asked Alice questions about her pathway into the construction industry and experiences working on site.

Jessica's Story

Jessica works as a Project Engineer at the Randwick Campus Redevelopment. She started her career in the construction industry by studying Civil Engineering with Honours at the University of Wollongong. We asked Jessica questions about her pathway into the construction industry and experiences working on site.


Choosing a career in construction opens you up to a world of opportunity.

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