While construction work may seem straightforward, it is a physically and mentally challenging career. There are plenty of skills and traits construction workers need to possess in order to be successful in their work.
Construction jobs come with a wide range of tasks and working conditions, from navigating tight spaces and hazardous heights to operating heavy equipment in inclement weather. However, the rewards and pacing of this career can be rewarding for many professionals.
Despite declining interest in the trades, those who work in the industry for many years can go on to manage entire construction teams and complete impressive projects that shape the livelihoods of other human beings. Construction jobs are expected to grow as much as 10 percent by 2024, placing it fourth in job growth among major industries like health and business.
The modern construction worker needs a mix of technical knowledge, physical endurance, and effective communication skills. Here’s our list of the most essential construction traits that workers and contractors need to acquire to succeed in the industry.
1. Physical Strength and Endurance
It should come as no surprise that construction is a physically demanding job. Considerable strength and stamina are essential for carrying out many tasks on a job site. Almost 50 percent of construction jobs will require heavy lifting work and physical strength.
Workers will need to possess proper posture and form to effectively and safely conduct manual labor, both indoors and outdoors.
2. Dexterity and Hand-Eye Coordination
Along with physical strength, construction workers must have hand-eye coordination and dexterity. Construction jobs require sitting, lying, and standing for long hours. Limb coordination is needed to move both arms and legs quickly and accurately in any environment.
Construction work also requires excellent eyesight. Skilled workers must be able to read documents, examine details at close and far range, and see gauges and dials to operate equipment properly.
3. Building and Engineering Knowledge
Technical knowledge is just as important as physical competence. About 36 percent of contractors fail due to a lack of adequate training and inexperience with particular types of work. Familiarity with the materials and tools needed to fill a wide range of construction services is invaluable to a worker’s skill set. Some skills you should possess include:
- Building and repair of structures, highways, and bridges
- Knowledge of and experience with building materials
- Power tools
It’s also important to know and distinguish the different types of heavy equipment needed for various tasks. For example, there are several bulldozer types that are better at handling materials than others.
4. Strong Reading and Math Skills
Construction work involves more than just manual labor. Workers will need a working knowledge of math, algebra, and geometry to calculate building materials, keep track of measurements, and determine necessary adjustments. Reading is also an important skill, as construction work requires plenty of documentation and interpretation of blueprints.
Those who need to be reminded repeatedly how to do tasks won’t go very far in the industry. Construction companies seek employees who can work independently and self-sufficiently.
Since construction work requires precision and accuracy, excellent memory is a necessary trait in order to recall important details, processes, and procedures.
Communication is one of the most crucial construction skills. Forty-eight percent of construction reworks occur due to poor communication. On the job site, construction workers will need to be able to communicate questions, directions, and decisions to their team as well as craft emails, reports, and documents. Communication skills include:
- Ability to listen to and follow directions
- Written communication
- Verbal communication
7. Experience with Technology
Technology continues to be one of the most significant construction trends that will impact the industry in the years to come. According to construction tech firm JBKnowledge, 54 percent of construction companies have research and development departments for new technology. To be competitive in the market, today’s workers are expected to adapt to new advancements in construction technology such as:
- Augmented reality
- Virtual reality
- BIM (building information modeling)
- Mobile apps
- Construction management software
8. Willingness to Learn
Construction workers should also have a willingness to learn. The construction industry continues to evolve with new methods, tools, and techniques that make the job easier and more cost-efficient. Those who are proactive in learning new trends will be able to teach the rest of their team, which is a key skill to have for more senior positions.
9. Problem-Solving and Decision-Making Skills
Problems are always present on job sites. Whether it has to do with inaccurate measurements or project delays, issues need to be addressed immediately to ensure a project stays on track, especially when the safety of workers are involved.
Every construction worker has to be able to make quick decisions and think on their feet to provide solutions.
10. Project Organization
Since construction has many moving parts, project organization is a highly sought-after skill. According to PlanGrid, construction professionals spend 35 percent of their time on non-optimal activities, like looking for project information or dealing with mistakes. An organized employee will be able to make effective use of their schedule to get the job done and avoid any unnecessary or time-consuming tasks.
Construction work is very much a team effort, requiring constant collaboration with peers. On the job site, there is no time to waste on disagreements and uncertainties. Workers who are able to work and communicate well with their co-workers will be able to motivate their team and make sure the project gets completed on schedule.
Along with teamwork, construction workers also need to possess emotional intelligence. Studies show that the most successful project managers invest 60 to 80 percent of their time on the human skills of project management.
12. Customer Service
No matter how great your builds are, you can be a liability to your company if you lack customer service skills. Like other customer service jobs, construction workers need to have patience, empathy, expert knowledge, and the ability to handle surprises in order to manage client questions, concerns, and complaints.
While not all workers need to be managers, having managerial skills will give you an edge in the field. Leadership abilities will help you complete tasks that will advance your career. Some of these leadership and management skills include:
- Managing work sites
- Performing quality control
- Developing estimates
- Negotiating prices
- Directing teams
- Reaching out to prospective clients
14. Knowledge of Building Codes
As a construction worker, you are expected to operate according to building codes, safety codes, labor agreements, green building codes, and environmental regulations. Training will go more smoothly if you are familiar with these rules, allowing you to become a valuable asset to the team.
What Training Does a Construction Worker Need?
There are usually no specific educational requirements for entry-level construction workers. Workers often start as unskilled laborers to learn the basics of the job before going on to refine a specific skill. According to AGC of America, 63 percent of firms are planning to increase budgets for in-house training and development this year – up 52 percent from last year.
Those interested in learning construction skills before starting their career can enroll in a trade school or complete a paid apprenticeship. Trade school, a vocational program that is usually spread over one or two years, offers courses in the basics of the trades. Paid apprenticeships can be taken on after vocational training to develop more specialized skills.
Experienced workers can then further their training by obtaining a degree in construction or engineering. A college education can provide instruction in advanced math and science concepts, which workers can apply to their own building processes and use to advance their careers toward management level.
Workers who possess these essential construction skills will be able to take on any job and become successful, well-rounded builders in the industry.