Pathway to Skills

Spain - Overview of Construction

The Construction Sector

The construction sector in Spain is defined as “the set of companies whose activity consists in directly executing complete works or parts thereof, both in building and civil or industrial engineering” (FORCEM, 2005).

The productive activities are conventionally grouped by the type of work done:

    a) Residential building: construction of housing
    b) Non-residential building: construction of buildings not devoted to housing (hospitals, theatres, stadiums, teaching centres, etc.)
    c) Refurbishing and maintenance: activities on buildings, whether residential or not.
    d) Civil works: construction and maintenance of infrastructure other than buildings (roads, dams, canals, airports, ports, railways, metro lines, etc.).

According to the official classification, the construction sector refers to a long list of economic activities of the CNAE-93 (National Economic Activity Code) in section 45, which, in turn, includes five types of activities or subsectors:

    45.1 Preparation of works 45.2 General construction of buildings and civil engineering works
    45.3 Installations of buildings and works
    45.4 Finishing of buildings and works
    45.5 Rental of construction or demolition equipment compete with operator

In the CNAE classification, the activity of refurbishing and maintenance is not considered. Nevertheless, it is a significant activity in the construction sector, currently constituting 25% of production in the sector.

Regarding vocational classification, the collective agreement of the construction sector assumes the commitment assumed by the signing parties to “provide the sector with a new vocational classification that responds to the current needs of the work”. The organisation of a vocational classification for the sector is a difficult commitment to keep given the peculiarities of the sector that includes many professions that are not only specific, but also transverse and related to other sectors. A system for training and promotion strongly associated with the experience acquired on the construction site implies a problem organising and delimiting the sector's professions and a problem recognising vocational training qualifications acquired with the experience. In this sense and given these difficulties, no agreement has yet been made about vocational classification in the construction sector. Due to this, until now, that stated on the subject in the revoked Labour Ordinance of Construction of 1970 applies, which states the following classification:

    I Executive Personnel
    II Staff with superior university degrees
    III Staff with mid-level university degrees, Chief Administrative Officer, Head of Organisational Section
    IV Head of Personnel, Construction Assistant, General Factory Manager, General Manager
    V Second Administrative Officer, Senior Draughtsman, General Site Manager, Assistant Head of Scientific Organisational Section, Head of Purchasing
    VI Senior Administrative Officer, Senior Draughtsman, Head of Workshop, Laboratory Section Manager, Stone and Marble Sculptor, Senior Surveyor, Senior Organisational Staff
    VII Junior Draughtsman, Junior Organisational Staff, Junior Surveyor, Senior Analyst, Travelling Sales Representative, Foreman, Trade Specialist
    VIII Junior Administrative Officer, Local Sales Representative, Senior Skilled Worker, Signs and Services Inspector, Junior Analyst.
    IX Administrative Assistant, Assistant Surveyor, Organisation Assistant, Sales Staff, Caretaker, Junior Skilled Worker.
    X Laboratory Assistant, Watchman, Warehouse keeper, Nurse, Collector, Security Guard, Assistant Skilled Workers, Senior Specialists
    XI Junior Specialists, Specialised Labourer
    XII Ordinary Labourer, Cleaner
    XIII Junior labourers from 16 to 18 years old
    XIV Employees in training

The vocational family “Building and Civil Works” is constituted by five professional areas:

  • Concrete
  • Bricklaying and finishing
  • Projects
  • Planning
  • Production

Based on these considerations, the Field of Building and Civil Works Qualifications has been established, defined in three Areas of Competence:

  • Project and site monitoring which includes those professional activities aimed at making the studies prior to the project, planning and coordinating its development, planning and organising the execution of the work, and the quality control.
  • Execution of works where the activities lead to materialisation of the work by means of different processes are grouped.
  • Operations with machinery, which includes the activities related to operations for executing processes that involve the operating specific machinery, linked, to a greater or lesser extent, to the field of Transport and Maintenance of Vehicles.

In addition, the construction sector shares general skills with other professional families such as:

  • Extractive Industries (surveying and excavation machinery, stone placement)
  • Administration and Management (documentation of projects)
  • Land (topography)
  • Transport and Maintenance of Vehicles (earth retrieval machinery)
  • Mechanical Manufacture (metallic structures of facades and representation of metallic profiles)
  • Timber, Furniture and Cork (timber coverings)

The National Institute of Qualifications (INCUAL) has identified, up to now, ten vocational qualifications (CPS) related to the “Building and Civil Works”:

    - Operations with concrete
    - Bricklaying
    - Auxiliary building operations of stonework and roofing
    - Auxiliary continual overlay operations in construction
    - Passive reinforcements for concrete
    - Industrial painting in construction
    - Representation of building projects
    - Representation of civil works projects
    - Control of construction projects and works
    - Surveying and redesign

The following section shows in detail the occupational map of the construction sector in Spain.

Construction Economy

The Construction Sector represents a very strong sector for the Spanish economy. Its weight has managed to contribute, in the last years, around 8% of gross domestic product (GDP), taking second place behind the services sector. In terms of demand, the total gross expenditure in construction represents 18% of GDP and up to 60% of the total domestic expenditure in investment (Fundación Laboral de la Construcción (Construction Labour Foundation), 2005). We must highlight that the construction market in Spain constitutes one of the most dynamic in Europe and is the fourth in the EU (2004). If we consider the weight of the investment in construction on the GDP, it lifts the construction sector in Spain to the second in Europe. Spanish construction companies have more and more presence in all of the exterior markets, where they have entered strongly into the execution of contracts for concessions, in the field of road, hydraulic and services infrastructures, mainly in the Latin American and European markets.

The guarantees for the future with reference to the labour market correlate with construction through:

  • The future housing plans
  • The transport infrastructure plan
  • Construction of radial roads, airports, tunnels, etc.
  • Investment in the environment
  • The need to raise awareness of issues related to risk prevention, quality and the environment.
  • Meeting the needs of professional qualifications in activities related to occupational or vocational risk prevention such as Prevention Supervisors and Prevention Experts, defining and structuring the knowledge and capabilities related to these positions.
  • The promotion of the new technologies such as communication channels (INCUAL, 2002)

The construction sector is one of the main markets for labour. The volume of employment that the construction sector generates is around 2,252,000 employees, constituting the third economic sector in number of employees, and representing 12.5% of national employment, ahead of the agriculture sector, (Fundación Laboral de la Construcción, 2005) and this has been growing progressively and to a greater degree than in other sectors. In addition, the drive of construction in the Spanish economy is such that, for every two direct employees in construction, at least one additional job is generated in other sectors.

Regarding the characteristics of employment in the sector, it is significant that construction in Spain employs staff mainly between the ages of 30 and 44 years old. Moreover, it is the sector with the greatest provision of young employees, as 30% are between 16 and 29 years of age. Female participation is a stark minority in the sector, constituting only 6% of the total of employees, although we must bear in mind, in the long-term, the tendency to increase this group. Lastly, it is appreciated that the construction sector is the one with the greatest percentage of foreign employees (15%), which has been increasing rapidly in recent years. This is a reality that must be taken into account when planning policies for employment and especially for training and social and vocational conditions.

Regarding the occupational structure, the main characteristics are the presence of few employees in upper-level, technical and administrative positions and many employees in the category of qualified and unqualified employees. The level of training is lower than for employment in Spain as a whole, although the tendency in recent years reflects a loss in the amount of employees with primary education and an increase in the amount of employees with secondary education, raising the level of education of those employed in the sector. A labour situation with a high proportion of salaried workers with temporary contracts is also significant.

According to a recent study by the Fundación Laboral de la Construcción (2005) about the changes in the occupational profiles, you can see the following tendencies to be taken into account:

  • The growing specialisation related to the emergence of new prefabricated materials, the introduction of new machinery and the change in the traditional organisational model of work, which culminates in the need to generate new skills in the professional profiles.
  • The shortage of professional trades traditional to the sector, with a general and comprehensive knowledge of the production process of their areas of competence because young people are not learning these trades, but rather very specialised parts of these.
  • The emergence of new profiles with the introduction of standards related to occupational risk prevention, quality and the environment.

Within the framework of this project on the transfer and transparency of professional qualifications in the construction sector at European level, it is important to indicate the more limited access of foreign employees in Spain to training and apprenticeship opportunities. Especially, according to a study by Comisiones Obreras (Workers' Commissions) of Castile-La Mancha (2005), it is very difficult for the immigrant employees to demonstrate their professional competences in the sector when accessing a new company as the categories and tasks are not defined and there is a great distrust in their capabilities. Among the proposed measures in this study to ensure the labour integration of immigrant employees in the sector, in second place in order of importance, the support for validation and recognition of qualifications and improvement of the situation in this area is significant. To do so, it is necessary to speed up the approval of the qualifications of immigrant employees, as many of them, above all those coming from Eastern Europe, work in the construction trade in a very vocational way due to technical training completed in their countries of origin (Fundación General Universidad de Salamanca (University of Salamanca General Foundation), 2004).