Career Center

Careers in Construction

The construction industry needs sharp, talented, and competent young people. It needs them now and will need them next year and five years thereafter.

About 250,000 new construction craft workers a year are needed. This is why it is important to let young people know what a construction career offers: good pay, the chance to create something that lasts and is useful, the chance to work on a team, and the unlimited opportunity to advance their career.

What kind of industry is it that is so interested in bringing young men and women on board? Construction is one of the largest industries in the world. Construction teams built the water delivery system that provided us with the water to brush our teeth this morning. Construction firms built the power plants and transmission lines that bring electricity to our homes. Construction workers built the roads you travel to school and the building you are in now. Wherever you go, as you look around you will see what the construction industry has built that is part of where you and your family live, work, shop, worship, and have fun.

More than five million people already work in construction. This is more than twice the number in the insurance industry...or the auto industry...more than seven times the number working in the textile industry. Our nation is growing and building so much that it must have more people choosing construction as a career.

Most people remember being fascinated at their first sight of large machines moving around on a construction site and steel rising out of the ground or a bridge being built somewhere. They might have thought, gee, what an exciting place to be!

Well, a construction site is an exciting place to be. It is just as important and essential to our society as laboratories, operating rooms, courtrooms, or the New York Stock Exchange. Here are some of the careers available, the requirements, and how to get more information.

Skilled workers: These are the equipment operators, bricklayers, stonemasons, laborers, carpenters, mechanics, electricians, plumbers, roofers, welders, sheet metal workers, ironworkers, and others who together physically create a product that stands for years and years. Skilled workers tackle the project as part of a team, under the direction of a supervising quarterback.

Construction craft workers comprise over 75 percent of the industries workforce, and compared to other industries, such as agriculture and the retail trades, skilled construction workers enjoy a substantially higher wage.

All jobs in the construction industry are open to men and women alike. If a young man or woman enjoys physical work, variety, the outdoors, and a sense of accomplishment, then a construction career should appeal to them. However, they also need to have a good background in basic education such as math, science, and reading. In the construction industry workers need to understand weights, measures, schedules, drawings, written manuals, and directions. Construction workers must also be willing to learn skills beyond what has been taught in high school.

After entering the industry as a craft worker, training is the key to advancement. The better the skills of the individual, the more rapid will be advancements in salary and responsibility. From an entry level (trainee or apprentice) position, a craft worker can progress to journeyman or construction craftsman, and then to a foreman who is in charge of a crew of workers. A successful foreman can progress to the superintendent level, and from there to other mid to upper level management occupations.

Skill training can be acquired through a number of ways, but it is generally agreed that the more formalized or structured training programs provide the most comprehensive skills training.

Vocational high schools are a great place to start basic skill training for a construction career, but they are not always available in many parts of the country. Fortunately, there are several other alternatives. A young man or woman can begin acquiring the skills necessary to become a craft worker through:

  • Attending a vocational-technical school after graduation from high school.
  • Going to work for a construction firm which sponsors an on-the-job training program.
  • Becoming an apprentice in one of the building trades and participating in a state or federally registered labor-management training programs.

Regardless of the path, it bears repeating that the best training programs adhere to nationally accepted standards of competency such as those established by the Associated General Contractors of America. AGC of California can supply you with information about training programs in your area. You may contact them at (916) 371-2422.

The construction industry is the Nation's largest single industry employing more people and contributing more to Americans gross national product than any other single industry. Yet, it is frequently overlooked as an employer of first resort -- as a primary career option for young men and women.

Our society will always need new and renovated roads, airports, hospitals, schools, housing, water treatment and supply facilities, power generation plants, commercial and industrial buildings of all kinds. Permanent, well-paying career opportunities exist at virtually all levels of all industry - from office and field support positions, to craft workers, to supervision, to management and executive careers.

Visit the AGC Education Foundation