A List of the Best Construction Jobs to Fill the Skilled Labor Shortage
America’s skilled labor shortage is at a critical high with over 6.7 million job openings, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The New York Building Council has forecasted over $70 billion in construction spend between 2018 and 2022. As employers look to fill open positions, we’ll see more incentives to retain and attract talent.
“Because there’s a high demand for skilled workers, the majority of the workforce is actively working on a site, however, this creates an opportunity for a company like PCL in partnership with its subcontractors to create career pathways for new apprentices who have previously either not worked in construction or have not belonged to a labor union.”
Priscilla Chavez | PCL Construction Enterprises, Inc.
7 Best Construction Jobs for the Future
Today’s shortage of skilled workers provides opportunity for those who are just entering the work force or looking to change career paths. Ready to learn how to become a construction worker? Here’s our list of top construction jobs with advice from iHireConstruction, PCL Construction and Williamson College of the Trades.
Are you already interested in a particular trade? Use the links below to explore the career of your choice.
Construction Manager | Millwright | Electrician
Plumber | HVAC Mechanic | Carpenter | Welder
1. Keep the Project on Track as a Construction Manager
Construction project managers must have great communication and planning skills to ensure each job runs efficiently. Day-to-day tasks include developing schedules, maintaining safety procedures and overseeing the work of subcontractors.
- Average Salary: $74,530*
- Career Outlook: The outlook for construction managers is expected to grow by 11 percent from 2016 to 2026.**
- Education and License Requirements: Requires previous experience as a construction worker or a few years of experience within the field. Some construction manager jobs require a bachelor’s degree in construction management or a related field.
- Necessary Skills: Leadership, budgeting and strong interpersonal skills are important traits of a construction manager.
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2. Become a Millwright and Maintain Machinery
Millwrights install and maintain machinery, analyze and interpret layout plans and ensure that equipment is safe and operable.
- Average Salary: $61,054*
- Career Outlook: The number of millwright jobs is expected to increase by 32,100 by 2026.**
- Education and License Requirements: Some positions may require formal study and an apprenticeship, while others may only require “journeyman” status, which can be obtained with experience.
- Necessary Skills: Basic mathematical skills and the ability to read blueprints are required to properly install equipment. Millwrights need to complete tasks independently and perform physical labor like carrying heavy items, working in confined areas and operating power tools.
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3. Light Up Your Electrician Career
From maintaining and troubleshooting power generation and distribution equipment to daily inspections and insulation tests, electricians can work on a wide variety of electrical systems.
- Average Salary: $56,650*
- Career Outlook: Over 11,000 new electrician jobs were added to their database in July 2018, according to Natalie Winzer of iHireConstruction.
- Education and License Requirements: To obtain a license, you’ll typically need to complete four years of apprentice work
- Necessary Skills: Close attention to detail, good judgement and a journeyman electrician’s license. Electricians must be willing to work at unpredictable times in various locations.
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4. Work the Pipes as a Plumber
From water and drainage to sanitation and sewage systems, plumbers install and maintain piping systems within buildings. The work can be either indoors or outdoors depending on the particular project.
- Average Salary: $50,149*
- Career Outlook: This field is expected to grow by nine percent from 2016 to 2026.**
- Education and License Requirements: Expertise in water systems is required to identify and repair problems in existing systems or install new plumbing.
- Necessary Skills: Plumbing skills include measuring, cutting, bending pipe material and assembling valves, tubes, fittings and appliances like sinks, toilets and showers. You will typically work full-time hours as a plumber and may be on-call for emergency repairs.
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5. Keep it Cool, Become an HVAC Mechanic
HVAC mechanics install and maintain heating systems, air condition systems and refrigeration units. Daily tasks include maintenance on heating, cooling and vent systems and at-home repair visits. You must be able to calibrate thermostats to maintain appropriate temperatures, keep all HVAC and mechanical rooms clean and repair and rebuild commercial and/or residential HVAC systems.
- Average Salary: $48,392*
- Career Outlook: Employment of HVAC mechanics is projected to grow by 15 percent from 2016 to 2026.**
- Education and License Requirements: HVAC employers typically require one to three years of experience and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certification to handle refrigerants.
- Necessary Skills: This position requires a flexible schedule along with the ability to stand, band or kneel for extended periods of time.
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6. Build it Up in Carpentry
Carpenters construct products used to create structures in furniture, foundations, door frames, panels, shelving and more. Strong attention to detail, math skills and the ability to read blueprints, sketches and drawings are all necessary.
- Average Salary: $44,482*
- Career Outlook: Employment of carpenters is expected to grow by eight percent from 2016 to 2026 as new-home construction increases.**
- Education and License Requirements: To become a carpenter, you’ll typically need a minimum of a high school diploma along with an apprenticeship.
- Necessary Skills: You must be comfortable working in a shop environment, which can involve high temperatures and loud machinery. Physical strength to carry heavy items, manual dexterity with hand and power tools and the ability to walk and stand for long periods of time are required.
Pro-Tip: The top 5 skills listed in iHireConstruction member profiles are shop drawings, blueprints, hand tools, installation, and construction management.
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7. Heat it Up in Welding
Welders join metals together to create or repair mechanisms. Welding is a physically strenuous task and the environment can be loud and hot. Most of the work is completed independently, making welding a great career for self-starters.
- Average Salary: $43,903*
- Career Outlook: This field will grow six percent from 2016 to 2026.**
- Education and License Requirements: A high school diploma or a program of schooling related to welding is required, along with the ability to follow blueprints, safely set up and operate welding machines.
- Necessary Skills: Using a variety of equipment requires physical strength. You may specialize in various types of welding techniques like shielded metal arc or gas metal arc.
**Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
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How to Become a Construction Worker and Kick-Start Your Career
The best way to enter the construction field is to enroll in a reputable trade school.
How to Enter a Skilled Labor Field:
- While apprenticeship programs typically consist of four years of paid, on-site training, certificate programs can be completed in a few months.
- If there is an associate’s degree required, that takes up to two years of full-time schooling.
- To qualify for trade school, prospective students must be at least 16 years old and hold a high school diploma or a GED. Scholarships are often available and you can find more information with the financial aid office at the school of your choice.
“We’re certainly finding that there’s no shortage of work. Power plant technology and carpentry are probably our most popular courses, while horticulture is a field we see evolving, largely because of the green movement in the industry. Looking at architecture in terms of sustainable landscaping is becoming more of a push, so that is a career path that is certainly growing in terms of our curriculum.”
Todd Zachary, Ed.D. | Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff, Williamson College of the Trades
Follow these tips from Priscilla Chavez of PCL Construction when working to enter the industry:
- Stay committed. It’s challenging work and incredibly rewarding.
- Be open to suggestions. Constructive criticism leads to education.
- Be on time. You are part of a team and they rely on you.
- Communicate. If you don’t understand an instruction, ask and practice active listening.
- Work safe. No shortcut is worth the risk of being injured.
Looking for more inside tips and construction advice? Check out the Trades and Construction section of our blog.