Five things they don’t tell you about Working in Construction
It’s common to see the HR-friendly job tasks and responsibilities listed in a job posting, but rarely does that job posting description give you the whole picture. Unless you know someone in the company, or know someone with a similar position in the same city/province, diving into the company and industry’s real persona could be its own full-time job. If you’re a newcomer to British Columbia and you are looking to enter the construction industry, getting some insider perspective will be helpful.
Here are five things they don’t tell you about the construction industry:
- It can be creative and open to innovation. If you were to visit Victoria’s Camosun College and walk into the welding shop, you’d be greeted by a variety of welded metal signage crafted by past and present students. In fact, one sign would actually be a welcome sign – proving skilled tasks go beyond the inner workings of a ship or the steel walls of an industrial LNG plant. Whether it’s a crafty hobby for the house or industrial project with timelines and more hours on the tools, creativity and innovation are part of the trades!
It’s an interesting time for the BC construction industry as companies look to embrace opportunities for innovation. We’re all working towards a culture of innovation with some key projects taking the spotlight, one being wood design in the province.
“We’re good at innovative wood buildings. We could be world leaders. We could hold our heads up high against Austrians and Scandinavians,” says Goodland. “We’re strong in concrete high-rises and perhaps faster than anyone building them from ground up. We have strong development in cold climate building in the north,” says Helen Goodland, Principle of Brantwood Consulting.
To learn more about the BCCA and Homeowners Protection Office funded Innovation Project click here.
- The first day matters. A lot. You’ve likely heard it before: First impressions are important. When you’re coming on to the work site, remember the employer and your coworkers will be looking to understand and gauge your work ethic and knowledge. You want to make a good impression.
Research your position prior to your first day, and work to understand the expectations. Bring the proper equipment, clothing, and other key items. We have a post to help you prepare for this: Five Work Site Essentials.
- Speed & efficiency are highly valued, but never before safety. Safety is the number one priority for a work site. Everyone goes home in one piece.
“People tend to think the schedule is the most important and they’re afraid to stop and take a minute for fear of falling behind. This is when leadership is key to safety. The foreman needs to believe in safety. It is an employer’s responsibility in BC to ensure a safe workplace,” says Stephanie Morand, Project Safety Coordinator with EllisDon Kinetic.
There are many factors in place to ensure the industry holds the highest standards of work safety. You can learn more about BC safety expectations from WorkSafe BC, BC Construction Safety Alliance and BC Common Ground Alliance here.
It’s an industry so it’s true that time is money, but an injury always costs more than doing the job safely.
- Education will help you; hard work will get you far. It’s less about who you are and more about what you can do — that’s how the construction industry works.
“For the first little while, employers will pay you for your sweat … but the sky is the limit when working in this industry. The best project managers, estimators, designers, architects, owners, supervisors, etc. are the ones who have spent time on a construction site in the trades. They really understand from every angle how a project comes together,” says Faith Dempster, BCCA’s STEP Regional Manager.
Schooling gives you the knowledge to excel at your job, but once you’re on that work site, hard work is the real test for your success. As one construction worker with a 10-year construction work history worded it: “Hard work will get you places. Most of my employers were willing to train and help as long as they see you’re wanting it and serious about it.”
Ask questions. Employers are open to communication. For your safety and future with the company, ask when you’re unsure or ask when you’re curious and looking to expand your own knowledge. That’s a form of education too! This way, you can grow in the position and climb the wage ladder. Your hard work could open you to more opportunities as an employer learns to trust your judgement, skill and work ethic. Education is the foundation but how far you’ll climb is up to you and your determination!
- It is okay to ask questions. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t assume — that’s when people get hurt,” says Morand.
We just said it once, but let’s be clear: It’s okay to ask questions on the site or in the interview or after the interview.
This is your opportunity to learn about Canadian expectations and differences while you’re exploring a trade here. Take the time to reach out and learn more about safety, expectations, and general information. This is about building your future in BC!