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Construction Trades, General

Program Description

Just the Facts

Construction Trades, General. A program that generally prepares individuals to apply technical knowledge and skills in the building, inspecting, and maintaining of structures and related properties. May include instruction in masonry, carpentry, electrical and power transmission installation, building/construction finishing, management, inspection and other construction-related applications.

This program is available in these options:

  • Certificate / Diploma
  • Associate degree
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Graduate Certificate

High School Courses

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this career cluster:

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this pathway:

Related Programs

Often similar programs have different names. Be sure to explore all your options.

Additional Information

The construction industry employs 7.7 million people in the U.S. As more of these workers retire, the need to replace them is growing. If you are thinking of a career in the trades, now is a good time to construct a plan.

There are more than 40 separate careers under the construction umbrella. The training for construction jobs varies depending upon the skills required. There are several general options. You can find an employer to train you. You can enter an apprenticeship program. Or, you can get a college diploma in a trade.

Usually the minimum age is 16 and preference is given to those who have completed high school. The availability may depend on where you live.

The length of a college program will depend upon which trade you study. It's usually 40 weeks for a program and about four years for an apprenticeship. Programs vary between schools, but all of them are designed to prepare students for immediate employment after they finish.

Finding an employer, without going the apprenticeship route, can be difficult and it is not always allowed. Licensing is mandatory for certain trades.

"In fact, in some states, and within some trades, plumbing, electrical, and carpentry for example, it may be impossible because of the requirement that an apprenticeship is mandated by law," says Patrick E. La Haye. He is the apprenticeship coordinator at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

Some employers in construction prefer to hire workers with little experience. Justin Bourne is the president of a contracting company. He prefers to train his own workers to make sure they do the job to his standards.

"Most of the guys I've hired start off from scratch," says Bourne. "They do clean up, basic cutting, and they work up from there." Bourne is looking for workers who are motivated, hard-working and in good shape to handle physical labor.Workers need to learn fast and show that they are capable. In return, they gain valuable, paid experience working side-by-side with a professional.

"I will not leave an inexperienced guy alone with a saw that could take off his arm in a second," says Bourne. He stresses that safety is the key on the jobsite.

Bourne recommends getting a summer job to gain hands-on experience in construction. You can try a few different trades to see what suits you best.

Some states offer Youth Apprenticeship programs. These programs can help you to explore various trades.

"Some school districts grant high school credit for completing such a program. The actual hands-on training within Youth Apprenticeship is limited but it does serve as a good way to find out what the trade is all about," says La Haye.

Allan Hackman is the strategic advisor for an apprenticeship commission. He recommends getting a job first and supplementing it with training later. "If you can find an employer willing to help you start off in the trade, it's the best," says Hackman. "People still think that you go to school first, then get a job. But the guilds have existed for centuries and that model of on-the-job training has been proven to work!"

Apprenticeships have many advantages. For example, a contract says that you must get quality, supervised, on-the-job training and related classroom instruction. The term of most apprenticeships is three years or more. You will get progressive wage increases. You will have steady employment and a valid, recognized credential when you finish.

"Adult apprenticeship, in my opinion, is the very best way to enter a trade," says La Haye.

To be selected as an apprentice, apprenticeship committees and sponsoring employers are looking for young people who are success-oriented. You can show this by getting good grades and taking part in extracurricular activities, says La Haye.

In high school, focus on math, science, physics, communication, and computer science classes. Trades classes are great but not necessary.

"Definitely the maths and almost any natural science will help you," says Hackman. "And English language arts -- you have to be able to communicate, no matter how you look at it."

You may need to have a valid driver's license. Hand tools can run from a few to several hundred dollars depending on the trade.

Texts books will also vary depending on the trade.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Construction Laborers

For more information related to this field of study, see: Material Moving Machine Operators

For more information related to this field of study, see: Construction Managers

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National Institute for Women in Trades, Technology & Science
An organization dedicated to integrating women into non-traditional careers