- Is construction work more than just manual labour?
- Is all construction done outdoors?
- Do I have to travel to work in construction?
- Will my skills be in demand if I enter the construction industry?
- As a woman, will I fit into the construction industry?
- How much can I earn as a construction worker?
- Will I receive work-related benefits?
- Do I need to finish high school to enter the construction industry?
- How do I get started?
- What is an apprenticeship?
- How much can I earn as an apprentice?
- How long do I have to apprentice before I can be certified as a journeyperson?
- What do apprenticeship programs cost?
- Do construction workers only work during the summer months?
1. Is construction work more than just manual labour?
Far more. Construction needs highly-skilled professionals. The high level of skills can be surprising. Did you know that a carpenter uses math on a daily basis, that a heavy equipment operator needs computer skills, or that a welder has to understand both chemistry and metallurgy?
Construction uses high-tech equipment and needs resourceful, adaptable people to work on a huge variety of projects. As a skilled construction worker you could be involved in building homes, schools, shopping centres or industrial plants. You could also work on civil engineering projects such as building highways, dams and bridges or installing water, sewer and communications systems.
The construction industry needs intelligent, creative and, above all, well-trained people in every trade and occupation. It also needs experienced and well-trained foremen, managers and project superintendents. And there are lots of opportunities for people who want to start their own businesses.
2. Is all construction done outdoors?
Most construction involves some outdoor work, but some tradespeople, such as interior finishers, plasterers and drywallers, work mostly indoors. If you prefer to work indoors, you can also specialize. Some plumbers work only indoors and some carpenters work only in shops.
3. Do I have to travel to work in construction?
You can choose a construction career that suits you. If you enjoy travel, being outdoors and working flexible hours, a career in industrial construction might be just the ticket. Heavy industrial construction projects are often located in remote areas where mines, pipelines or petroleum plants are being developed. Workers on these projects travel to and live in new parts of the country and are sometimes away from home for long periods of time.
If you’re looking forward to settling down and raising a family, there are plenty of career choices that will let you stay in one location and work regular hours. If you choose a career in home building and renovation or in commercial construction, you will probably be able to find secure, long-term employment with a large company in almost any Canadian city.
4. Will my skills be in demand if I enter the construction industry?
Construction activity and the demand for skilled construction workers have been increasing steadily for more than a decade, even during periods when Canada’s economy took a dip. The demand for skilled construction workers is strong and likely to increase. According to the Construction Sector Council, the average construction worker is in their early 40s. A large number of baby boomers will be reaching retirement age in the next decade and job opportunities for new construction professionals are expected to grow in every region of the country.
5. As a woman, will I fit into the construction industry?
Most women in construction say it’s an empowering and rewarding career. They also say you should be prepared for a challenge: the majority of construction workers are still men. The number of women is increasing, however, and workplaces are changing as a result. Women are also more prepared for construction careers than in the past thanks to organizations that provide appropriate training.
6. How much can I earn as a construction worker?
There are dozens of trades and occupations in the construction industry and each has its own hourly rate or annual salary. Income depends on the region where you work and the nature of your contract. In general, you can expect to earn as much as, or more than, someone with a university degree. It also costs less to learn construction skills than to earn a university degree and, if you enter an apprenticeship program, you can start earning while you’re learning.
7. Will I receive work-related benefits?
Yes. Many construction workers receive statutory holiday and vacation pay. Depending on your contract, you may also receive benefits such as group insurance for health, dental and vision care, retirement packages and training benefits worth up to 30% of your annual salary or hourly rate.
If you are self-employed, you may have to take care of your own benefits.
If you start out working as a general labourer without a high school diploma, you may be able to learn on the job and advance to more senior positions through experience and additional training.
If you enrol in a college or university program, you will need a high school diploma or equivalent.
Each province and territory has its own requirements for entering an apprenticeship program, so you may be able to register as an apprentice without a high school diploma depending on where you live and which trade you choose.
In general, apprenticeship programs require that you complete Grade 12 or equivalent, pass an entrance exam, or take part in a Secondary School Apprentice Program (SSAP) while you’re still in high school. In most provinces and territories, you have to be at least 16 years old and have completed Grade 10 to enter an SSAP. In many of these programs, you can work part-time and earn credit towards both your construction certification and your high school diploma.
9. How do I get started?
First, you need to decide on a construction career that interests you. The Pick a career section of this website has information on more than 35 trades and occupations to help you find the best match. It may be useful to find out what companies in your area work in fields you’re interested in. Call them up and see if you can tour their workplace or a job site. It pays to meet people in the industry and learn what the work is like.
Once you know what career you’d like to pursue, there are many ways to get started in the construction industry:
- You can register as an apprentice and combine on-the-job training with in-class learning. In some provinces and territories, you can start earning credits toward your apprenticeship while you’re still in high school! To find out more, check out the Apprenticeship section.
- You can enrol at a university, community college or technical institute and study for the construction career of your choice.
- Or, you can find a job as a construction labourer and learn the skills you need on the job.
10. What is an apprenticeship?
Apprenticeship is a way to learn skills while you work and earn money. The apprenticeship system is supported by the construction industry. It combines on-the-job training and work experience with technical training in a school or shop setting. For more information, check out the Apprenticeship section on this site or visit the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum section.
11. How much can I earn as an apprentice?
Wages depend on the trade you’re learning and where you’re employed. In most apprenticeship programs you’ll earn a percentage of what a fully qualified journeyperson would earn and your earnings will increase each year until you’re certified. Wages, terms and conditions are usually determined by provincial or territorial regulations, labour organization agreements or a combination of both.
12. How long do I have to apprentice before I can be certified as a journeyperson?
Each province/territory and trade has its own apprenticeship program and regulations. Depending on where you apprentice and the career you’re training for, it can take from one to five years to complete your program and become a certified journeyperson. You’ll spend most of that time learning on-the-job. Each year you’ll also spend several weeks studying in a classroom or shop setting.
13. What do apprenticeship programs cost?
Apprenticeship costs very little compared to college or university studies and, because you earn while you learn, you will likely have a lower debt load when you enter the workforce than someone who graduates from university.
There are tuition fees for the in-school part of apprenticeship programs and you will have to cover all or part of them. Generally, tuition costs from $100 to $800 per session, depending on the trade and the province or territory. You will also be responsible for travel and living expenses, and other expenses such as books, service fees and sometimes tools.
14. Do construction workers only work during the summer months?
No. Look around – every kind of construction goes on throughout the year. Some trades and occupations, such as those in home finishing, involve only indoor work. With today’s technology, even primarily outdoor projects, such as the large-scale heavy industrial projects in Alberta’s oil sands, only slow down or stop temporarily during the very worst winter weather.