Unlocking Opportunities: A Guide to Entering the Construction Trades

03/19/2024

In a world where career paths seem to multiply by the day, working in construction trades remain a steadfast beacon of opportunity. No matter your educational plans or background, the construction and trade industries are excellent lifelong career choices. The world is especially in need of skilled tradespeople with a passion for creativity and an eye for detail.

In this article, we’ll explore the myriad opportunities available in the construction trades and provide a roadmap for young individuals eager to kickstart their careers in this thriving sector.

The Growing Demand for Skilled Labor in the Construction Industry:

The construction industry serves as the backbone of economic development, shaping skylines and infrastructures across nations. Yet, behind every towering skyscraper and bustling highway lies an urgent need for skilled trade workers. Retiring baby boomers and insufficient numbers of young people entering the trades has resulted in the industry faces a critical shortage of talent. From residential construction to commercial projects, the demand for skilled tradespeople continues to outpace the supply, creating abundant opportunities for those willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

The number of unfilled labor jobs in the construction industry alone totaled between 300,000 and 400,000 in the spring of 2022. Those numbers have only grown in the last two years; especially with the increased demand for domestic manufacturing of products like semiconductors and electronic vehicle batteries. To accommodate the facilities and equipment needed to produce these products, skilled trade workers must be brought on to properly retrofit, install, and maintain them.

Those with an interest in technology and electrical engineering can actually find more stable, lasting, and higher-paying entry-level jobs than as employees for them. Apprenticeships and certifications offer a quicker, less expensive way to enter these cutting-edge industries while allowing professional flexibility and career growth. Residential, health care, education, manufacturing, food and beverage, and tech often have overlapping needs and requirements. You may start out as a residential roofer only to find yourself pursuing a career as a dedicated brewing and distilling electrician. That’s the untapped beauty of the trade industry: opportunity.

Benefits of Joining a Trade or Union

The construction trades offer a multitude of benefits for aspiring professionals. Trade unions, in particular, serve as guardians of workers’ rights, advocating for fair wages, safe working conditions, and comprehensive benefits packages. Through union membership, individuals gain access to extensive training programs, equipping them with the skills and knowledge needed to excel in their chosen trade. Additionally, unionized workers often enjoy higher wages, better healthcare coverage, and retirement security, providing a sense of stability and peace of mind for themselves and their families.

Unlike some sectors that may be susceptible to economic downturns, the demand for skilled trades generally remains resilient. Whether it’s building new infrastructure, renovating existing structures, or maintaining essential systems, the need for skilled tradespeople persists regardless of economic fluctuations. Moreover, skilled trades often have the advantage of multiple income streams. Beyond their primary role, many tradespeople offer specialized services or side projects, further diversifying their income and bolstering their financial security.

Getting Started in the Construction Trades

Embarking on a career in the trade industry requires determination, diligence, and a willingness to learn. Fortunately, there are various pathways available for individuals looking to enter the field:

Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships offer a time-honored method of learning a trade through a combination of hands-on experience and classroom instruction. Many trade unions and organizations administer apprenticeship programs, providing apprentices with the opportunity to earn a wage while honing their skills under the guidance of experienced mentors.

Vocational Training

Vocational schools and community colleges offer specialized training programs tailored to the needs of the trade industry. These programs provide students with practical, industry-relevant skills, preparing them for entry-level positions in their chosen trade. High schools have also started bringing back vocational classes for students; giving them the opportunity to specialize sooner.

Entry-Level Positions

For those eager to jumpstart their careers, entry-level positions offer a foot in the door to the trade industry. Many trade companies hire individuals with little to no experience and provide on-the-job training, allowing newcomers to gain valuable hands-on experience while earning a paycheck.

Encouraging Diversity

Despite its historical male dominance, the construction and trade industry are increasingly recognizing the importance of diversity and inclusion. Women bring unique perspectives, skills, and talents to the workforce, contributing to innovation and driving success. However, women remain significantly underrepresented, facing barriers such as stereotypes and limited access to opportunities.

To address this imbalance, concerted efforts are underway:

  • Educational support programs encourage girls to pursue STEM education and provide hands-on experiences to cultivate their interest in trades from an early age.
  • Targeted recruitment and apprenticeship programs aim to attract and support women entering the trade industry, providing mentorship and guidance throughout their career journey.
  • Creating inclusive work environments involves implementing policies to combat discrimination and bias, fostering an atmosphere where women feel valued and supported.
  • Organizations like Women in Construction and Tradeswomen, Inc. offer resources, support networks, and advocacy to empower women in trades.

By embracing diversity and actively supporting the inclusion of women in trades, the industry can tap into a broader talent pool, drive innovation, and pave the way for a more dynamic and prosperous future. Read about how Perlo specifically supports women in the trades from Perlo’s Director of Human Resources, Meghan Looney, here.

Salaries in Skilled Construction Trades

Salaries in the construction trades vary depending on factors such as experience, location, and specialization. While entry-level positions may start with modest wages, skilled tradespeople often enjoy competitive salaries and opportunities for advancement. However, the average construction salary far exceeds the U.S. median wage. Notably, plumbers, electricians and HVAC technicians all make above the U.S. median wage and are in high demand on jobsites.

Here’s a breakdown of common salaries for some skilled trade jobs (please note these are estimates and may change based on location, time, experience, or market sector):

Electrician: Electricians play a crucial role in ensuring the safe and efficient operation of electrical systems. With median salaries ranging from $55,000 to $90,000 per year, electricians enjoy lucrative career prospects and ample opportunities for growth.

Carpenter: From framing houses to crafting custom furniture, carpenters bring precision and craftsmanship to their work. Median salaries for carpenters typically range from $40,000 to $70,000 per year, with experienced professionals commanding higher wages.

Plumber: Plumbers are essential for maintaining and repairing plumbing systems, ensuring the efficient flow of water and waste. Median salaries for plumbers typically range from $50,000 to $80,000 per year, with opportunities for specialization and career advancement.

Welder: Welders possess the skills to join metals together, fabricating structures and machinery with precision and strength. Median salaries for welders typically range from $40,000 to $70,000 per year, with experienced welders commanding higher wages for specialized work.

Joining the construction industry isn’t just about finding a job; it’s about building a career that can withstand the test of time. So, whether you’re drawn to the intricacies of electrical work, the craftsmanship of carpentry, or the problem-solving nature of plumbing, know that the industry welcomes you with endless possibilities. With dedication, determination, and a passion for your craft, the sky’s the limit in the world of skilled trades.

Final Thoughts

The construction trade industry offers a wealth of opportunities for young individuals seeking rewarding careers. Beyond just jobs, trade professions offer fulfilling careers with ample opportunities for advancement and upward mobility. By considering the pathways outlined in this blog and tapping into the resources available, young people can embark on a journey towards a prosperous and fulfilling career in the trade industry. For more information on opportunities with Perlo, visit our Careers page.