The construction industry makes up a major part of the economy. Most people think of construction jobs when they see workers on a job site, but those are only a small part of the industry. Construction and construction-related industries employ many unskilled workers, highly skilled tradesmen and white-collar support workers. Some jobs require graduate education, while others can be performed effectively by an unskilled person. Pay varies greatly as well.
Tradespeople perform all of the manual labor involved in construction. Tradespeople include carpenters, carpet layers, drywall hangers, drywall finishers, electricians, HVAC technician, heavy equipment operators, insulation workers, ironworkers, masons, painters, plumbers, roofers, tilemen and welders. Some tradespeople, such as carpenters and roofers, work primarily on residential jobs, while welders and heavy-equipment operators work almost exclusively on commercial projects. Electricians, plumbers, HVAC technicians and drywall workers work on both residential and commercial projects. Many construction workers begin as apprentices, graduate to journeymen and finally become masters, who then take on their own apprentices. Trade and technical schools also teach trades. Electricians, plumbers and HVAC techs must pass state certification courses to become licensed. Most other trades do not require a license. Many tradesmen are self-employed.
White-collar workers involved in construction include accountants, drafters, engineers, estimators, inspectors, loan officers, managers and administrative support personnel and salesmen. Most white-collar workers work for larger construction companies and ancillary businesses such as banks, city building departments and engineering firms. Education requirements range from high school for administrative personnel to master's degrees for architects.
Unskilled laborers carry materials, handle low-skill tasks and keep the job site clean and organized. Most are young people hoping to acquire a trade or skilled tradesmen hoping to catch on with a company. Unskilled workers are the lowest-paid workers in the construction industry.
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