Construction Skills: Definition and Examples
Updated March 10, 2023
Employers in the construction industry often look for employees who are proficient in math, can use common tools and are safety conscious. By aligning your skills with potential employers, you can find a construction job that is perfect for you. In this article, we discuss the skills you need to be a construction worker, how to improve them and ways to highlight your abilities as you search for employment.
What are construction worker skills?
Construction worker skills are the abilities and industry knowledge required to complete physical labor on construction sites, like machine operation, masonry, carpentry and project management.
Read more: Top Construction Skills and How To List Them
Example of skills needed for a construction laborer
Construction takes place in a variety of locations, from high atop a skyscraper to tight spaces underground. Here are 11 key skills you need to succeed as a construction worker on any job site:
Ability to operate tools and machinery
Construction workers must be able to use common hand tools such as hammers, saws and drills. Many construction jobs also need workers that can operate large machinery, such as earth movers, cranes and bulldozers.
Familiarity with safety protocols
Laborers should be familiar with the safe use of building materials, safety protocols and proper tool handling. A familiarity with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards is critical.
Many construction workers have trade-specific technical skills in specializations like:
Drywall installation and finishing
These specializations involve knowing best practices and how to use tools related to the work.
Read more: 22 Common Job Titles in Construction
Proficiency in math and reading
Construction workers should have a good understanding of basic math, algebra and geometry to make accurate measurements, calculate angles and determine adjustments to plans as they work. Reading skills are essential for interpreting blueprints, code specifications, customer instructions and other work-related documents.
Comfortable with technology
The construction industry is constantly developing new building methods and tools to make work easier and more profitable. Successful construction workers should have a desire to learn and apply new knowledge to their job.
Strength and stamina
As a construction worker, you must be able to lift heavy objects, dig, use tools, operate machinery and climb ladders. You may be also required to wear heavy or cumbersome personal protective equipment as you work. Staying physically strong ensures that you're able to work long days without injury or exhaustion.
Construction jobs often require sitting, standing or even lying for long hours. When working outside, laborers must often deal with poor weather conditions, including extreme heat, cold and strong winds. So, construction workers must have both physical and mental stamina to work in difficult conditions.
Hand-eye coordination and dexterity
Hand-eye coordination allows construction workers to use tools without injury. Coordination also prevents costly mistakes when performing common construction tasks, such as drilling, hammering, cutting or sawing. Manual dexterity allows construction workers to move their hands quickly, hold tools and manipulate materials.
The most effective construction workers can remember important details and work independently. A good memory allows these professionals to recall critical instructions, safety protocols, technical requirements and work procedures without the need for constant reminding or, worse, constant revision.
Listening and communication skills
Working as a team is common in construction jobs, so these professionals must be able to communicate effectively to complete their building projects. Communication helps avoid costly construction errors, ensures everyone takes and gives directions, ask questions and provides updates to other team members.
Written communication, in the form of safety reports or project updates, is also important to ensure that the project tracks all incidents or successes for auditing and project management purposes.
Construction work can be unpredictable, and a number of problems can arise due to inclement weather, broken tools, failed equipment or delayed materials shipments. Construction laborers must be able to quickly resolve problems through critical thinking as well as the analysis of options and outcomes.
Laborers work together on crews at construction sites. Effective construction workers can collaborate with others, learn from teammates and resolve conflict on the job.
Read more: How to Get a Construction Job
How to improve your construction job skills
The following tips can help you improve your construction job skills:
Participate in classes and training. Even the most skilled construction worker has room to grow. Staying up-to-date on new building materials, tools and processes makes you more valuable to any construction project. You can also find continuing education through trade schools, community colleges and online. Many construction equipment manufacturers also offer classes in heavy equipment operation.
Prioritize safety. Safety is the foundation of a long-lasting and successful construction career. Review safety guidelines and standards by taking safety classes, earning safety certifications and reading regulatory websites or publications frequently. OSHA offers many free and inexpensive courses that can keep you and your crew current on important safety protocols.
Learn and apply new construction techniques. There are always new and better ways to perform the same construction tasks, such as pipe fitting or drywall finishing. Learning new construction techniques can help you be more efficient on the job. You can learn methods by working with more experienced workers, watching professional videos online or reading industry publications.
Maintain your physical fitness. Construction workers must stay physically fit to avoid injury and perform well on the job. You can maintain your physical skills by exercising and performing tasks that improve hand-eye coordination and dexterity.
Embrace technology. The construction industry is constantly changing and growing with advances in technology. Stay abreast of new construction technologies by following professional journals and websites. You should also spend time using and getting comfortable with emerging construction technology such as drones and mobile apps.
Read more: 16 Popular Trades in Construction
Construction skills and abilities in the workplace
No matter the construction environment, there are many ways to demonstrate your construction skills and abilities in the workplace:
Continue developing your technical skills and stay updated on new construction technologies, methods and materials.
Spend time with and learn from more experienced construction workers.
Take advantage of opportunities to earn advanced certifications and on-the-job training.
Improve your communication skills by asking questions and listening to team leaders.
Read and develop your ability to interpret blueprints and other construction documents.
Expose yourself to emerging construction technology and share what you learn with workers on your team.
Related: Highest-Paying Construction Jobs
How to highlight construction laborer skills
When applying for work as a construction laborer, it is important to make your skills and abilities stand out. Here is how to make highlight your skills in your resume, cover letter and interview:
Construction skills for resume
When writing your resume for a construction position, it is critical to highlight any certifications, professional training, apprenticeships and degrees you have earned that would be relevant to construction. Revise your work history to include skills and experience in construction-related jobs. Even if you do not have previous experience working on a construction site, your related skills and experiences can help you stand out to potential employers.
Read more: Construction Worker Resume Samples
Construction skills for cover letter
Most construction laborer jobs do not require a cover letter. However, if you are applying for a construction management job, a cover letter should be used that highlights projects you have successfully managed in the past.
Read more: Construction Worker Cover Letter Sample
Construction skills for the job interview
During a job interview, be sure to note your skills that are specifically listed in the job description. Discuss specialized certifications, training, apprenticeships or degrees during your interview as well.
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