How it works | Types of employers | On-the-job safety |
Construction organizations

Construction sectors

As a skilled construction worker, you could help build homes, offices, schools, bridges, roads, factories or shopping malls and be part of a $168 billion industry that represents 13% of Canada’s economy.

There are four sectors in the construction industry. Each uses different equipment and needs workers with a variety of skills. Depending on the career you choose, you could work in two, three or all four of these sectors:

1. New Home Building and Renovation – building, remodelling or renovating houses and apartment buildings:

  • Develop a satisfying career creating homes for families and building your own community.
  • Work for a large company that offers long-term employment and the chance to take on specialized responsibilities, or become a manager or trainer.
  • Work as a sub-contractor or start your own company. The demand for skilled sub-contractors makes home building an ideal sector for budding entrepreneurs.

The New Home Building and Renovation sector makes up a huge part of Canada’s construction industry.

2. Heavy Industrial Construction – building industrial facilities such as cement, automotive, chemical or power plants, refineries and oil-sands installations:

  • If you like being outdoors, handling big machines and living in interesting new places, this sector could be for you.
  • It’s exciting and satisfying to work as part of a team overcoming the challenges on huge construction projects such as the Hibernia oil platform.
  • Projects in this sector often take years to complete and involve a wide range of construction careers. There are many opportunities to advance to planning, supervisory, management or teaching roles.

3. Institutional and Commercial Construction – building commercial and institutional buildings and structures such as stadiums, schools, hospitals, grain elevators and indoor swimming pools:

  • The projects tend to be large and varied, and there are many opportunities for long-term career building that will take you into supervisory, management or teaching roles.
  • You can choose to work in a variety of locations or settle in a single community.

4. Civil Engineering Construction – engineering projects such as highways, dams, water and sewer lines, power and communication lines, and bridges:

  • Take pride in helping create great public structures, such as the Confederation Bridge.
  • Work on new construction or in maintenance, where there are many opportunities to advance to supervisory, instructional or management positions.
  • Choose to work in many places or develop a career in a single town or city.

Take a virtual tour through projects in each of these construction sectors – check out Building blocks!

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How it works

As a construction worker in any sector, you can start by finding a job with a suitable employer. You can also work through a labour organization or an open shop contractors’ association. All three doors into the industry lead to challenging careers where you can do high-quality work on short- and long-term projects of every size.

Both labour and open shop organizations deal with employers on your behalf. These organizations will enter your name on their lists and contact you when jobs come up.

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Types of employers

There are more than 265,000 firms in the construction industry. Of these firms, 150,000 are private trades contractors. More than 68,000 operate in residential construction.

Though the construction industry employs more workers than almost any other industry in Canada, the size of the average construction firm is quite small. In the residential sector, nearly 90% of firms have less than five employees. In the non-residential sector, almost 70% of firms have five employees or fewer.

Construction companies fall into different categories depending on the size and kinds of jobs they work on, what they’re responsible for and whether they work on contract or on their own:

  • General contractors usually work with landowners or companies that want to build a structure. They act as prime contractors on projects that involve a range of specialized construction activities, which they often sub-contract.
  • Design-builders are similar to general contractors, but they provide architectural and engineering designs as well as construction.
  • Construction managers oversee and schedule construction for their clients.
  • Speculative builders, operative builders or merchant builders construct buildings they plan to sell. They usually build houses or apartment buildings.
  • Trade contractors deal with parts of a project such as masonry, painting or electrical work. They usually work under contract to a prime contractor. For renovation and repair jobs, they often contract directly with a property owner.

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On-the-job safety

Safety is the number one priority in construction. Each province and territory in Canada has its own set of safety standards. To find out about safety in the industry and your rights as a construction worker, contact your provincial or territorial construction safety association. Check out Related links for more information.

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Construction organizations

In Canada, there are many organizations that serve as a resource for construction workers. Click on the links below to get a list of organizations and their websites.

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