The construction industry
The construction industry has high employment projections and is expected to see substantial growth over the next few years — double the growth rate of the overall economy. Forecasts for job opportunities range from 500,000 to 700,000 new jobs in the industry by 2024. With double-digit growth expected in residential and institutional construction projects in particular.
However, the lack of skilled professionals in the industry is a problem and is one point of concern for future growth. During 2016, an Associated General Contractors survey showed at least two-thirds of its members had trouble filling one craft position. And half struggled to find supervisors and project managers.
Want to learn more? 95% of contractors have trouble finding skilled workers
With high growth in the construction industry and the difficulty in filling positions, the time is ripe for setting yourself up in a career in construction.
Employers in the industry
The construction industry has a wealth of jobs across a broad spectrum of disciplines. And many employers are looking to fill them. Employers are broadly categorized as:
- Consultants, who plan and design the construction work. Consultants understand the design brief and transform it into a workable plan. Plans are detailed and include accurate quantities, costs and methods needed to complete the project. Consultants include architects, surveyors and engineers.
- Contractors, who physically build the design to the plan specifications. These are the people on the construction site, reading and interpreting the plan, along with transforming what they see on paper into the final and finished construction. These roles include a range of disciplines from brick masons to machinery operators.
- Subcontractors, who are people employed by contractors to do specialized work. They might be specialists in foundations, steel or electricity, and are needed to complete highly skilled tasks that require specific training or experience.
Armed with the above, here is our take on the fastest growing careers in the construction industry.
1. Construction or project manager
Construction managers oversee the overall construction project. They act as an interface between the owners or architects and the construction workers. They take responsibility for the day-to-day work and report back on progress, costs and issues. They do the hiring and carry out the detailed construction plan ensuring everything is done in the right order and to budget.
Electricians are responsible for the design and safe installation of the electrical components of a building. These include the provision of electricity to the structure and the maintenance of any parts that run on the power, such as electric motors, lighting and air conditioners.
The role requires a minimum of four years as an apprentice. It’s inherently dangerous when dealing with electricity, and so electricians need to be experienced. Electricians often work alongside electrical engineers, who take more of a planning, design and testing role.
Plumbers deal with water pipes and water appliances. They plan how the pipes should run throughout a building and make sure they interface correctly with hot- and cold-water supplies and wastewater.
Their responsibilities include the maintenance and installation of appliances that use water, like bathtubs, sinks, toilets, dishwashers and water heaters. Depending on the size of the project, they might work individually or in teams with apprentices and pipefitters. The work is physical and often requires problem-solving.
Masons build the walls and structures of buildings out of concrete or bricks. The best take responsibility for the aesthetics of a finished wall, either completing it in decorative plaster, detailed brickwork or a range of other materials, including synthetics and glass.
On larger projects, there is less of a distinction between block and detailed brickwork. However, masons can specialize, becoming master craftsmen or brick masons, focusing on intricate and ornate finishes for buildings and walls.
Read also: The 7 Samurais of Construction
5. Elevator installers and repairers
As the name suggests, this work involves the installation, maintenance and repairs of elevators, escalators and moving walkways. It is specialized, requiring interpretation of blueprints, testing of installed equipment to ensure it meets specifications, and compliance with safety regulations and building codes. Service records of all maintenance and repair tasks need safe keeping, making sure everything is kept securely.
Glaziers deal with the glass installation in a building. The work requires the cutting and placing of glass into all types of structures, from residential homes to offices and skyscrapers. The job is physical, often lifting heavy pieces of glass outside while exposed to the elements. Although a degree of skill is involved, employers mostly require a high school diploma for qualification.
7. Solar photovoltaic installer
This role is unusually high growth as it taps into the demand for new and green solar technology. The position focuses on the installation and maintenance of solar panels for the generation of electricity and hot water. And it covers residential homes, offices or other buildings.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects this profession to grow by 24 percent over the next 5 to 8 years. This growth is creating demand for another 1,500 photovoltaic installers in the industry.
8. Insulation contractor
Insulation contractors understand, maintain and implement the insulation requirements of a building. Work includes weather, as well as sound, heat and other types of insulation. The work is physical and is often in tight and confined spaces.
9. Architects and surveyors
Architect services include architects and architectural technologists who design buildings and ensure the technical aspects of the design works. Quantity surveyors analyze the plan, and work out what the design will cost, monitoring actual vs. budgeted costs. Surveyors include building surveyors who typically report and inspect on buildings, understanding maintenance and repair requirements.
Engineers cover a range of disciplines from electrical to civil, structural and even geotechnical. Their roles typically involve ensuring plans work, both before and during implementation.
For instance, structural engineers will calculate load capacities for walls, understanding points of strength and weakness, and how this might affect construction. Geotechnical engineers focus on the foundations, making sure they are adequately designed and implemented for the building size.
Careers for problem solvers
A career in construction is likely to be fast-paced, given the anticipated growth in the industry and the shortage of skilled workers. Prospective employees have many different roles to choose. Some require academic qualifications, like architects and engineers, while others need a suitable apprenticeship.
Whatever the role, they all require problem-solving skills and the ability to work with a range of tools and materials, from large construction machines to construction glue. Employees can fine-tune some of these skills for specialist roles, or remain a generalist working in the field. The choice is yours!