I recently had an opportunity to speak to an Indigenous youth audience about opportunities in the building trades. In order to prepare for the presentation, I did some reflecting and reminiscing about my own career journey and where it took me. So today, I will tell a little of my story and I share some of the conclusions that I came to and presented to the youth.
In my case, I was on job sites with my father since I was about 10 years old. I would be invited to go with him when he worked a Saturday and would even help with some small tasks like sweeping or picking up scrap wood. (OH&S legislation regarding minimum age of workers was a little different then!)
I started in the trades officially when I was 16 and worked every summer through high school and University as a Carpenter’s Helper/Apprentice Carpenter. I learned a lot of great things that helped me in my later transition to Occupational Health and Safety. Without that background, I would never have made a move to construction safety and would likely be doing something else entirely now.
Considering a Career in the Trades?
So, considering a career in the construction trades? I am very glad to hear that. I think you are making an excellent choice. There are a lot of potential advantages and benefits!
- Earn as you learn. It is typical to work for 10 months and then go to school for a few months. After four years in the trade you will have your Journeyman status and a full bank account as compared to a degree and a large student loan debt.
- There is a huge variety of trades to choose from! If you are detail oriented, perhaps being a millwright is for you. Enjoy woodwork? Maybe carpentry? If you are not construction inclined, there are other trades like cooking and baking!
- There is opportunity to travel and see new and interesting projects. My own career has taken me to projects in different cities, small towns and remote wild places. I have not done any overseas work, but a lot of construction workers have and do. If you have the travel bug, this might be for you.
- There is room for advancement. From Journeyman, there is a natural progression to Foreman, General Forman and Superintendent. If you are willing to go back and do a bit of schooling, you can also move into other positions such as Safety, Quality Assurance or Project Management. A lot of tradesmen start their own businesses. If you are entrepreneurial, the trades may be a place for you!
I save the conversation about wages for last. Construction jobs often pay quite well and it is not abnormal for journeymen to be making a six figure salary on jobs that are remote and/or have regular overtime associated with them.
So, what does this mean? It means far more than having a large house, vacations or a boat… not that there is anything wrong with these things if you want them. Having a solid income and the stability and confidence that comes with it can set you up to change the world for the people around you!