Do you enjoy:

  • Working outside?
  • Doing physical work?
  • Being a member of a team?
  • Helping to maintain and improve your local area?

If so, being a roadworker could be the job for you. Roadworkers help to build new roads; carry out improvements on existing roads, such as road widening and repair potholes and cracks in road surfaces. They also carry out work on footpaths and parking areas. Roadworkers may also be known as highway operatives.

Work Environment
Roadworkers work outside in all types of weather. The work is very physical and requires a lot of walking, bending, lifting and carrying. The site is usually dirty and dusty, and there may be strong vapours from hot materials such as tarmac.  Protective clothing includes overalls, hard hats, ear defenders, fluorescent jackets, boots, gloves and goggles, depending on the job. Working on highways involves a constant awareness of danger from traffic.  The work involves travel around the local area to work on different projects.

Daily Activities
Roadworkers tend to work in gangs of two or more, under the instruction of a foreman or site agent. The work varies from project to project but includes:

  • loading any materials that are required from depot storage;
  • placing warning signs and barriers at the place of work;
  • controlling traffic of pedestrians and vehicles close to the site;
  • excavating a carriageway down to the required level, using mechanical diggers and hand tools, such as shovels and picks;
  • laying drains - digging trenches, setting sections of pipe into place and sealing them together;
  • building manholes;
  • laying kerbstones in line and fixing them into place;
  • making pavements by cutting slabs to size, then laying them on a sand and cement mix;
  • preparing materials such as concrete and tarmac;
  • building up the carriageway with layers of materials and using vibrating and rolling machines to level and smooth them;
  • building and repairing retaining walls;
  • digging up roads to repair broken pipes;
  • erecting road signs and street lamps;
  • marking roads with white and yellow lines;
  • spreading grit on roads in winter and clearing snow;
  • using all types of mechanical plant, including JCBs, lorries, rollers, drills, diggers;
  • general work to keep the site tidy and safe e.g. sweeping up loose material.

Skills & Interests
Roadworkers need:

  • practical ability;
  • physical fitness and stamina;
  • to work well as part of a team;
  • to be able to work without constant supervision;
  • good people skills - as they are often working in close proximity to the public and other workers.

A valid driving licence or HGV licence may be required for some jobs.

Entry Requirements
There are no set entry requirements. A positive attitude, good people skills and physical stamina are usually considered more important than academic qualifications.  Some local authorities offer an induction course for trainees. This enables people without experience to learn some skills on the job, receive some formal training and become roadworkers.  Training is usually on the job under the supervision of experienced workers. In addition, local authorities generally support workers who want to further their skills by attending college on day release.  NVQs/SVQs in Roadbuilding are available at levels 1 and 2. City and Guilds and BTEC/SQA qualifications in construction may also be available.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
There are opportunities for roadworkers throughout the country.  As they learn more skills and undergo further training, roadworkers can progress to become higher graded roadworkers or specialise, as masons or paviors, for example. They can then go on to become a team leader, a foreman or a supervisor. 

Further Information & Services
Construction Skills
Highways Term Maintenance Association
Road Workers' Safety Forum

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales ( or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

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