- Do you like working outdoors?
- Are you strong and physically fit?
- Are you safety conscious?
- Are you looking for on-the-job variety?
- Could you work with hand and power tools?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then a career as a Trades Helper/Labourer could be right for you.
Trades helpers and labourers assist skilled tradespersons and perform labouring activities at construction sites such as preparing and cleaning up construction sites, moving materials and equipment, and performing demolition and excavation activities.
Trades helpers and labourers work on municipal sewer and water mains, roads, dams, bridges, tunnels, railways and other construction projects. They are employed by a variety of contractors and road builders in the construction industry.
As a Trades Helper/Labourer, your duties may include:
- Loading and unloading construction materials, and moving them to work areas
- Installing and removing concrete forms, scaffolding, ramps, catwalks and barricades at construction sites
- Mixing, pouring and spreading materials such as concrete and asphalt
- Assisting heavy equipment operators to secure attachments to equipment
- Signalling heavy equipment operators to guide them in moving equipment
- Assisting in aligning pipes and performing related activities during oil and gas pipeline construction
- Assisting in drilling and blasting rock at construction sites
- Levelling earth to fine grade specifications using rakes and shovels
- Assisting in demolishing buildings
- Removing rubble and other debris at construction sites using rakes, shovels, wheelbarrows and other equipment
- Operating pneumatic hammers, vibrators and tampers
- Tending or feeding equipment used in construction, such as mixers, compressors and pumps
- Cleaning up chemical spills or other contaminants, and removing asbestos or other materials
- Oiling and greasing hoists and similar equipment
- Directing traffic at or near construction sites
The standard work week for trades helpers and labourers is 40 hours (8 hours a day, 5 days a week). As with many careers in construction, there are peak periods that will require you to work overtime. The number of additional hours you work each week depends on the construction sector and region you work in, and will vary from one job to the next.
As a Trades Helper/Labourer, you will generally work outdoors on construction sites in close contact with other construction professionals. Your work will vary from one project to the next. Most jobs will be physically demanding. You may have to lift heavy equipment and materials or work with power tools.
As with all careers in the construction industry, safety is the top priority. Trades helpers and labourers are trained to work safely and wear personal protective equipment such as hard hats, gloves and steel-toed boots.
Training and Certification
Apprenticeship involves both classroom studies and on-the-job training under the supervision of a certified construction professional, called a journeyperson.
As an apprentice, you earn while you learn and are paid by the hour while working on the job site. Wages start at about 50 per cent of a journeyperson’s hourly rate and increase during your apprenticeship until you reach the full rate.
Entering an apprenticeship program
Requirements for Trades Helper and Labourer apprenticeship programs vary across Canada. In most provinces and territories, you must be at least 16 years old and have a Grade 9 education or equivalent to enter the program.
Some provinces and territories offer secondary school apprenticeship programs that allow high school students to work towards a career as a Trades Helper/Labourer.
Trades helper and labourer apprenticeship programs vary across Canada, but generally involve at least one 12-month period, including a minimum of 2,000 hours of on-the-job training, several weeks of technical training and a final certificate exam.
Related on-the-job experience may reduce the time required to complete your apprenticeship.
Certification is available but voluntary in Alberta and Ontario. Where certification is not available, it may be possible to study as an apprentice through your local labour organization. Check out our Related links to find out who to contact. Even where certification is voluntary, it is still recommended as it tells employers and other workers that you are a skilled professional, and it also helps you get jobs.
To be certified as a Trades Helper/Labourer, you usually need to complete an apprenticeship program. Once you successfully complete the required on-the-job training, technical training and exams, you are awarded a journeyperson certificate.
You may be eligible for certification if you have on-the-job experience and some high school, college or industry courses in construction trades.
As a certified Trades Helper/Labourer, you may attempt the Interprovincial Exam to qualify for the Interprovincial Standards’ Red Seal. (Under the Red Seal program, this group is classified as “Construction Craft Worker.”) With a Red Seal, you can work as a Trades Helper/Labourer anywhere in Canada.
To keep their skills current, Trades Helpers and Labourers must keep up with new technologies by reading and speaking with others in their field.
Anticipated In-Demand Regions
- British Columbia