5 life lessons from Construction | Inspiring Learnings by Fred Kabalisa
Not every kid after high school wants to go to college or continue their education further. Some of them are more tempted to join the workforce right away and find a good job in something they like and would like to learn.
Regarding myself, for instance, I decided to study and work in construction, our subject for this article. See, here’s what happens when you finish high school, we all, or at least most of us, make the mistake of “following the trend” and what pays the most, disregarding what we would love to do and what each one of us, as an individual, is good at.
So, in this article, we will be focusing on the pros and cons of construction as a career, and 5 lessons I learned from working in it.
To begin with, as for construction, you need to be at least 16 years old, pass the provincial qualification exam for the trade covered by the application, successfully complete the health and general safety course for construction sites and have a high school diploma.
However, for most construction labour jobs, a high school diploma is the minimum education requirement. Moreover, trade school teaches you ways on how to become a skilled construction worker.
You’ll learn how to use certain equipment, read plans, tools, heavy machinery and how to drive boom lift machines. Some domains demand long training, like electrician schooling, for instance, takes up to about 9 months in class and 4 years to complete, with 144 hours of technical training and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training each year of your apprenticeship. My first experience in construction was a very cold Monday morning in Montreal Canada. I was shocked, on one hand by the weather, on the other that I couldn’t wear my winter coat because it made it impossible to tie my tool belt around my waist. I learn later that most people wear two layers of hoodies, and that’s the typical winter coat for a construction worker. It was a contract for the city of Montreal, a library for the city of Pierrefonds in West End. As I enter the construction site, I could see the building didn’t even have walls or windows installed. From there, I knew this was going to be a long ride to get to know this domain, but all challenges were accepted, so why not, and spring was about to come shortly.
At this library, I had the chance to be there from the start to the end of the project, it gave me 2 and half years of experience in construction and that was my favourite job site, I learned everything there. My first work partner was Michael, he was 63 years old, he started to work as a tinsmith at the age of 16 years old, that’s all he knew, but he was the best I’ve ever met in the field. For you who don’t know, a tinsmith is someone who is a worker who makes or repairs things of sheet metal such as tinplate.
My first lesson came from Mike, he taught me to always be aware of everything going around me if I don’t want to get hurt. There are more than 100 people on a big commercial job site, such as plumbers, carpenters, electricians, elevator mechanics and more. With Mike, we were doing everything from installing ventilation systems to assembling runs for other workers. He taught me how to read a plan, which is very hard to understand the first time because it’s not a plan designed only for you, but for the whole site, and you got to understand every quotation and measure very well so as not to get stopped by a wall or pipeline from somebody else’s work, and Mike only explains once, if you weren’t listening, that’s your problem. Louis was my second work partner; I would share the day with him sometimes when Mike didn’t need my help. He was the best teacher ever because he would make sure you understood well before letting you go. He taught me how to work correctly, to take my time no matter what, because in construction it was harder to redo a job than to just do it once. He showed me how to be fully equipped with clothing and tools, and how to sign up for advantages and insurance. My second lesson was to be patient on everything and never rush.
My first construction site was my favourite and I thought every job site was going to have the same environment and work ethic. It was totally the opposite of that, I never had the chance to be in a great team like the first one and learned again like that. I was, most of the time, getting transferred from job site to job site and that was something that bothered me.
Sometimes mother nature has other plans for you, and that’s where my third lesson will help you be prepared the most. One day, on a hot humid day in Montreal downtown, we were renovating Holt Renfrew Ogilvy; it was really one of the most challenging and demanding sites ever. Most of the stores and offices were still open during the renovation because we were working per section of the building. That day we received 2 full 53” foot trucks full of equipment ventilation docs, ladders, plan tables, isolations, rods, suspension equipment and boxes of tape and glue. We were three apprentices and we all had the same task to empty this truck before lunch. It started to pour rain, not even 15 minutes in and one guy had to go back inside to help the others. We ended up being 2 guys to unload both trucks in the rain, and I always look a day before on how the weather is going to be and by doing that you get to bring more clothes to the job or at least be more prepared, however, on that day I was totally wrong. By the time we finished the wet unloading marathon, I was drenched from head to toe and had to continue the rest of the day like this, there was no easy way I could go home and come back in time, lunch break was only 30 minutes and that was the time it took me to get home.
The fourth lesson in construction always has extra clothing because you never know how the day is going to be.
In the fifth lesson, you got to have your own tools on you. Nobody really likes to share their equipment because equipment gets stolen, I learned that the hard way. At first, I didn’t have a tool bag, it takes time to assemble the right equipment because most of them were expensive and you always have a limited budget.
Most people think that because you finish at two o’clock in the afternoon that your job is amazing. However, waking up at four in the morning, being the only one getting ready to go to work and knowing that at six am it’s time to go to work until two o’clock was tiring physically! During your day, you’re going to walk kilometres of distance along with moving and lifting heavy equipment all day. Most of the time I was working alone and in tough environments, sometimes working at night, doing demolition, working underground and not seeing daylight. It was a lot of things that I didn’t know about and day by day I was losing interest in the job and staying there only for money wasn’t the best route to take. At the end of the day, I was always exhausted both physically and mentally due to the hours I was spending driving and working. I wanted more and knew I was capable of more; a better lifestyle was the only thing I had in mind. Also, on a site, even a minor slip or fall can cause serious injury. While work sites are much safer now than ever before, dangerous work conditions are still something you must always keep in mind before choosing construction work as your livelihood. Construction is a very broad term, and the pay scales will vary depending on the type of construction job you are doing, as well as your skillset. However, compared to other labour jobs, a construction worker can expect to enjoy an excellent paycheck when there is work. Construction is a very broad term, and the pay scales will vary depending on the type of construction job you are doing, as well as your skillset. However, compared to other labour jobs, a construction worker can expect to enjoy an excellent paycheck when there is work. In general, many trades allow you to earn $50,000 or more after you have enough experience. Also, if you own your own business, work for a successful company, or serve in a management/supervisor role, you can earn even more. Another advantage to working in construction is that for many trades, it’s easy to enter the trade and start a career with almost no experience. For many trades, you can start as a labourer, work hard, learn the trade over a few years, and progress in your skills, position, and salary. Many contractors in trades like carpentry, remodelling, and more, are looking for people that are hard-working and willing to learn. During your first two years in construction, you’re going to get tested by the more experienced individuals, depending on your team and company as well. You’re always going to be the one chosen for ‘cleaning day’, which happens to be every Friday, empty the garbage’s in the employee room, empty the Forman truck every morning when he brings material, arrange the storage room daily, isolate the vents with a special glue, and this is all probably what you’re going to be doing for a while from Monday to Friday.
Therefore, you have to be patient no matter what the circumstances are and whatever they throw at you. It’s hard to adapt at first, but after a couple of months, you’re going to get your chance to install and work with the others. If you do good, you’ll probably never do these old tasks again. This is my full two-year experience in the construction world and my first taste of life and adulthood. I learned a lot in those years, I was only seventeen when I started. Being interested in construction helped me fix stuff around the house and being handy; builds character and helps you mature faster. So, for every young man that doesn’t know what to do after high school and wants to experience this field, you will not regret it no matter how it ends.
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