You may be just graduating high school, returning from active duty or making a career change. If you are considering joining the construction industry, you may be asking yourself what key basic skills does a contractor have and need. A short answer to that question is a lot of them.
Being the son of a self-employed contractor, I was compelled early on to learn and master some of these key basic skills in order to help my dad with his contracted work as well as projects around the house. From early on I was asked to help by holding the dumb end of the tape measure, cleanup project sites and fetch tools that were needed. As I have progressed through my career, I have come to realize how invaluable these key foundation skills have been.
Building Knowledge: Start with the Basics
Contractors possess a diverse range of skill sets that they build over their lifetime in a multitude of skilled trades. Eventually self-employed contractors and construction professionals focus on specific skill sets and trades which match their interests. Businesses develop based on the owner’s ability to master skills in certain construction trades including general construction, roofing and plumbing and deliver those services to their customer base. Diversification allows companies to deliver their products and services to their customer base as well as come together to work on more complex projects.
However, there are key skills and knowledge that are common among all contractors regardless of the niche industries and customers that they service. The mastery of these skill sets is critical to the individual’s ability to perform their job effectively and to meet the customers’ expectations. Without these key foundation skills the chances of future success are severely impaired if not made impossible.
So what are some of these key skills that you should have if you want to land a job in the construction industry?
Learning to Read a Tape Measure
A key skill that contractors and construction employees in general must possess in order to be successful is the ability to read a measuring tape. When asked to measure something by your supervisor, you need to be able to respond intelligently by saying for example “Eighty one and seven eighths inches”. Responding by saying “Eighty one and wait, ummm, yeh eight one and seven medium sized marks” is not an acceptable answer.
Being able to correctly read a tape measure is a life skill that will benefit you as member of the construction industry both professionally as well as personally. Without this key skill, the ability to perform one’s job responsibilities is greatly diminished.
Using a Broom
Yes, pushing a broom properly is a skill. And it is a skill that most never learn. Brooms are a tool just like any other type of tool. Tools are defined as a device that is used to perform or facilitate manual or mechanical work. A broom is designed to help gather dirt and debris at a central spot to ease the disposal process. It is not meant to create a dust storm, scatter dirt or lean against during break time.
By being able to use a broom, you can help keep construction sites safe as well as clean and orderly. For construction employees just entering the work force, a bit of advice. If you don’t have something to do at any certain times throughout the day either ask your boss for something to do or just start cleaning up. First rule: never stand still. Second rule: there is always something to organize and clean up on a construction site.
Know the Tools of the Trade
If you are a new member of the construction industry and you want to grow into new positions within your company or industry, learn the tools of the trade. You will find that your boss uses you as a Gofor – “Go For This, Go For That”. Your job will be to get the tools and the materials that your supervisor or boss needs in order to complete the job or task that they are working on. Knowing what your supervisor needs and understanding the language in which they talk is a great skill to develop.
Head to your local home improvement store such as Lowe’s or Home Depot. Walk through their tool department. Study what is hanging on the shelves and display cases. Speak with the tool department representative and ask them what the tools are used for. If your industry has specialty stores such as the roofing industry – ABC Supply, Quality Roofing Supply – visit those stores and look at the specialty tools that are meant for that industry.
If you want to be successful as you enter the construction industry, the responsibility to learn key skills are on you as the individual. Don’t wait for your employer or your supervisor to teach you all of the skills that you need in order to be successful. Take the opportunity to learn basic skills and the tools of the trade through resources that only cost you your time and not your money.