The Clerk of Works job role – a good example of a ‘proper job’?

Posted by Steve Thomas Construction Recruitment Director, UK & Canada on Monday, May 24, 2021


Back in September 2020, I wrote a philosophical blog about the practical value and point of different job roles.  Some job roles came off pretty badly as bull**** jobs (see the article!), but I would say that few construction jobs would come off better than the construction Clerk of Works job role as being a ‘proper job’.  While you could argue that the Clerk of Works doesn’t actually build anything, they do take on the following vital construction responsibilities:

1.  A Clerk of Works spots problems at an early stage

A key part of the Clerk of Works job is to perform regular inspections of work undertaken on site, so time and money isn’t wasted making lengthy mistakes.  By checking what construction plans and specifications say compared to what is being built, lengthy delays, remediation work and even construction claims and disputes can be avoided.

2. A Clerk of Works is a problem solver – and a problem avoider

So you have a disagreement about something; the Clerk of Works is there to problem solve the issue so that everyone involved from subcontractor to client can get finished, be paid and have the project completed.  Isn’t the Clerk of Works a facilitator who is the friend of everybody who is committed to doing what they agreed to do properly?

3. A Clerk of Works helps enforce safety standards

While the Clerk of works (or COW) isn’t the appointed HSEQ or H&S or health and safety manger in charge, they will be eyes and ears to keep people safe.

4. A Clerk of Works can spot efficiency improvements across sites

Often a Clerk of Works will be responsible for multiple construction sites, perhaps for a range of social housing new build or refurbishment projects for a single client or contractor.  They will be able to spot efficiency improvements and to help roll out lessons learned from construction processes on site to the later projects undertaken.  Often good IT skills with further help with this so that reports or photos or logging of information can immediately be shared with other sites or stakeholders in the process.

5. Being a Clerk of Works offers career progression for those with experience of ‘doing’ construction

I have been told that some of the best Clerk of Works, have previously worked on site themselves and have a good knowledge of materials, trades, methods and legal requirements.  What better way to put this breadth of acquired experience to best use than to help manage the construction process?

6. The best Clerk of Works jobs and employers offer professional recognition and a path to gain it

The Clerk of Works jobs that Maxim usually have available almost always offer a route to become a Licentiate Member of the Institute of Clerk of Works and Construction Inspectorate of GB – or ICWCI for short.  This accreditation is respected and valued by employers both across the UK and internationally (other accreditation bodies also exist such as the CITB and the CSCS).  What a great way to progress your career – to have your employer support you and pay for you to gain this qualification and/or for them to pay for you to gain it!

I think the Clerk of Works is a traditional construction job, rather like the quantity surveyor, that deserves to be valued even more highly than it is currently, for the value it brings to both the construction process and the rewards it brings to those undertaking the Clerk of Works job role.

If you are interested in becoming a Clerk of Works for the first time, take a look at websites such as UCAS or the ICWCI which are really useful.

If you are ready to undertake the job of Clerk of Works, hopefully to the benefit of your career and the wider construction industry, please review and apply to our latest Clerk of Works jobs. 

Steve Thomas
Construction Recruitment Director, UK & Canada