Construction offers a great variety of career opportunities. People with many different talents and educational backgrounds-managers, clerical workers, skilled craftsworkers, semiskilled workers, and laborers-find job opportunities in the construction industry.
Most of the workers in construction are skilled craftsworkers or laborers, helpers, and apprentices who assist the more skilled workers. Most construction workers generally are classified as either structural, finishing, or mechanical workers. Structural workers include carpenters; construction equipment operators; brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons; cement masons and concrete finishers; and structural and reinforcing iron and metal workers.
Finishing workers include carpenters; drywall installers, ceiling tile installers, and tapers; plasterers and stucco masons; segmental pavers; terrazzo workers; painters and paperhangers; glaziers; roofers; carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers; and insulation workers.
Mechanical workers include pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters; electricians; sheet metal workers; and heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers. Other workers, called hazardous materials removal workers remove hazardous materials such as asbestos, lead, and radioactive and nuclear materials from buildings, facilities, and the environment to prevent further contamination of natural resources and to promote public health and safety.
The greatest numbers of construction craftsworkers are carpenters; electricians; pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters; construction equipment operators; painters and paperhangers; sheet metal workers; drywall installers, ceiling tile installers and tapers; cement masons, concrete finishers, segmental pavers, and terrazzo workers; brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons; and roofers.
The construction industry employs nearly all of the workers in some construction craft occupations-such as plasterers and stucco masons; roofers; structural and reinforcing iron and metal workers; and drywall installers, ceiling tile installers, and tapers. In other construction craft occupations-for example, electricians; painters and paperhangers; plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters; and carpet floor, and tile installers and finishers-large numbers also work in other industries. Other industries employing large numbers of construction workers include transportation equipment manufacturing; transportation, communication, and utilities; real estate; wholesale and retail trade; educational services; and State and local government.
Many persons enter the construction crafts through apprenticeship programs. These programs offer on-the-job training under the close supervision of an experienced craftworker, and formal classroom instruction. Depending on the trade, apprentices learn a variety of skills, ranging from laying brick to putting together steel beams.
Many persons advance to construction craft occupations from related, less skilled jobs as helpers or laborers. They acquire skills while they work. They are first hired as laborers or helpers, performing a variety of unskilled tasks and providing much of the routine physical labor needed in construction. They erect and dismantle scaffolding, clean up debris, help unload and carry materials and machinery, and operate simple equipment. They work with experienced craftworkers, learning the basic skills of a particular craft. After acquiring experience and skill in various phases of the craft, they may become skilled craftworkers.
To develop their skills further after training, construction craftworkers may work on many different projects, such as housing developments, office and industrial buildings, or highways, bridges, and dams. Flexibility and a willingness to adopt new techniques, as well as the ability to get along with people, are essential for advancement. Those who are skilled in all facets of the trade and who show good leadership qualities may be promoted to supervisor. As supervisors, they oversee craftworkers and helpers and ensure that work is done well. They plan the job and solve problems as they arise. Those with good organizational skills and exceptional supervisory ability may advance to superintendent. Superintendents are responsible for getting a project completed on schedule by working with the architect’s plans, making sure materials are delivered on time, assigning work, overseeing craft supervisors, and ensuring that every phase of the project is completed properly and expeditiously. They also resolve problems and see to it that work proceeds without interruptions. Superintendents may advance to large projects as general managers and top executives. Some go into business for themselves as contractors.