Persons may enter most jobs in the construction industry without any formal classroom training after high school. Most skilled craft jobs require proficiency in reading and mathematics. Safety training is required for most jobs. Some laborers can learn their job in a few days, but the skills required for many jobs are substantial; they can be learned through apprenticeships or other employer-provided training programs. Skilled workers such as carpenters, bricklayers, plumbers, and other construction trade specialists need either several years of informal on-the-job experience or apprenticeship training. Workers pick up skills by working with more experienced workers and through instruction provided by their employers. As they demonstrate their ability to perform tasks they are assigned, they move to progressively more challenging work. As they broaden their skills, they are allowed to work more independently, and responsibilities and earnings increase. They may qualify for jobs in related, more highly skilled, occupations. For example, after several years of experience, painters’ helpers may become skilled painters.
Apprenticeships administered by local employers, trade associations, and trade unions provide the most thorough training. Apprenticeships usually last between 3 and 5 years and consist of on-the-job training and 144 hours or more of related classroom instruction each year. However, a number of apprenticeship programs are now using competency standards in place of time requirements, making it possible to complete a program in a shorter time. Those who enroll in apprenticeship programs usually are least 18 years old and in good physical condition.
Persons can enter the construction industry with a variety of educational backgrounds. Those entering construction right out of high school start as laborers, helpers, or apprentices. Those who enter construction from technical or vocational schools also may go through apprenticeship training; however, they progress at a somewhat faster pace because they already have had courses such as mathematics, mechanical drawing, and woodworking. Skilled craftworkers may advance to supervisor or superintendent positions, or may transfer to jobs such as construction building inspector, purchasing agent, sales representative for building supply companies, contractor, or technical or vocational school instructor. In order to advance to a management position, additional education and training is recommended.
Managerial personnel usually have a college degree or considerable experience in their specialty. Individuals who enter construction with college degrees usually start as management trainees or construction managers’ assistants. Those who receive degrees in construction science often start as field engineers, schedulers, or cost estimators. College graduates may advance to positions such as assistant manager, construction manager, general superintendent, cost estimator, construction building inspector, general manager or top executive, contractor, or consultant. Although a college education is not always required, administrative jobs usually are filled by people with degrees in business administration, finance, accounting, or similar fields.
Opportunities for workers to form their own firms are better in construction than in many other industries. Construction workers need only a moderate financial investment to become contractors and they can run their businesses from their homes, hiring additional construction workers only as needed for specific projects. The contract construction field, however, is very competitive, and the rate of business failure is high. Taking courses in business helps to improve the likelihood of success.