Job Seekers’ Frequently Asked QuestionsJob Seekers’ Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is construction work more than just manual labour?

A: Far more. Construction needs highly-skilled professionals. The high level of skills can be surprising. Did you know that a carpenter uses math on a daily basis, that a heavy equipment operator needs computer skills, or that a welder has to understand both chemistry and metallurgy?

Construction uses high-tech equipment and needs resourceful, adaptable people to work on a huge variety of projects. As a skilled construction worker you could be involved in building homes, schools, shopping centres or industrial plants. You could also work on civil engineering projects such as building highways, dams and bridges or installing water, sewer and communications systems.

The construction industry needs intelligent, creative and, above all, well-trained people in every trade and occupation. It also needs experienced and well-trained foremen, managers and project superintendents. And there are lots of opportunities for people who want to start their own businesses.

Q: Is all construction done outdoors?

A: Most construction involves some outdoor work, but some tradespeople, such as interior finishers, plasterers and drywallers, work mostly indoors. If you prefer to work indoors, you can also specialize. Some plumbers work only indoors and some carpenters work only in shops.

Q: Do I have to travel to work in construction?

A: You can choose a construction career that suits you. If you enjoy travel, being outdoors and working flexible hours, a career in industrial construction might be just the ticket. Heavy industrial construction projects are often located in remote areas where mines, pipelines or petroleum plants are being developed. Workers on these projects might start in their home location while the local project is in the construction phase. When the construction phase is completed, the workers might shift to jobs involved in ongoing maintenance and upgrading, or change jobs to work for other companies, or decide to work on a new construction project in a different location. Workers on large projects often travel to and live in new parts of the country and are sometimes away from home for long periods of time. As one manager puts it, “Mobility can be a barrier to recruiting Aboriginal people to some construction projects. The nature of our trade means people have to follow the work, and if someone cannot or does not want to move, then we don't have any more work for them to do.”

If you’re looking forward to settling down and raising a family, there are plenty of career choices that will let you stay in one location and work regular hours. If you choose a career in home building and renovation or in commercial construction, you will probably be able to find secure, long-term employment with a company in almost any Canadian city.

If you have many different skills or enjoy working for small companies, you will be able to find regular work in rural locations, too.

Q: Will my skills be in demand if I enter the construction industry?

A: Construction activity and the demand for skilled construction workers have been increasing steadily for more than a decade, even during periods when Canada’s economy took a dip. The demand for skilled construction workers is strong and likely to increase. According to the Construction Sector Council, the average construction worker is in his or her early 40s. A large number of baby boomers will be reaching retirement age in the next decade, and job opportunities for new construction professionals are expected to grow in every region of the country. From 2011 to 2019, the construction industry will have to attract close to 300,000 additional workers.

Q: As a woman, will I fit into the construction industry?

A: Most women in construction say it’s an empowering and rewarding career. They also say you should be prepared for a challenge: women are still in a minority on most construction worksites. The number of women is increasing, however, and workplaces are changing as a result. Women are also more prepared for construction careers than in the past, thanks to organizations that provide appropriate training.

Q: How much can I earn as a construction worker?

A: There are dozens of trades and occupations in the construction industry, and each has its own hourly rate or annual salary. Income depends on the region where you work and the nature of your contract. In general, you can expect to earn as much as, or more than, someone with a university degree over the duration of your career. It also costs less to learn construction skills than to earn a university degree and, if you enter an apprenticeship program, you can start earning while you’re learning.

Q: Will I receive work-related benefits?

A: Yes. Many construction workers receive statutory holiday and vacation pay. Depending on your contract, you may also receive benefits such as group insurance for health, dental and vision care, retirement packages and training benefits worth up to 30% of your annual salary or hourly rate.

If you are self-employed, you may have to pay for your own benefits

Q: Do I need to finish high school to enter the construction industry?

A: That depends on how you get started in the industry.

If you start out working as a general labourer without a high school diploma, you may be able to learn on the job and advance to more senior positions through experience and additional training.

If you enrol in a college or university program, you will need a high school diploma or equivalent.

Each province and territory has its own requirements for entering an apprenticeship program, so you may be able to register as an apprentice without a high school diploma depending on where you live and which trade you choose.

In general, apprenticeship programs require that you complete Grade 12 or equivalent, pass an entrance exam, or take part in a Secondary School Apprentice Program (SSAP) while you’re still in high school. In most provinces and territories, you have to be at least 16 years old and have completed Grade 10 to enter an SSAP. In many of these programs, you can work part-time and earn credit toward both your construction certification and your high school diploma.

Q: How do I get started?

A: First, you need to decide on a construction career that interests you and suits your skills.

The Pick a Career section of the Aboriginal Construction Careers website ( has information on more than 50 trades and occupations to help you find the best match. It may be useful to find out which companies in your area work in fields you’re interested in. Call them and see if you can tour their workplace or a job site. It pays to meet people in the industry and learn what the work is like.

Once you know what career you’d like to pursue, there are many ways to get started in the construction industry:

  • You can register as an apprentice and combine on-the-job training with in-class learning. In some provinces and territories, you can start earning credits toward your apprenticeship while you’re still in high school. To find out more, check out the Apprenticeship section of the same website
  • You can enrol at a university, community college or technical institute, trade centre and study for the construction career of your choice.
  • Or, you can find a job as a construction labourer and learn the skills you need on the job.

Q: Do construction workers only work during the summer months?

A: No. Look around – every kind of construction goes on throughout the year. Some trades and occupations, such as those in home finishing, involve only indoor work. Some construction projects in the north, for example, are more active when the ground is frozen. With today’s technology, even primarily outdoor projects, such as the large-scale heavy industrial projects in Alberta’s oil sands, slow down or stop temporarily only during the very worst weather.



Adapted from