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Construction Worker

Construction trades helpers and laborers, assist skilled tradespersons and perform laboring activities at construction sites. They are employed by construction companies, trade and labor contractors. Job opportunities should be good. The work can be physically demanding and sometimes dangerous. Most construction laborers learn through informal on-the-job training, but formal apprenticeship programs provide more thorough preparation. Like many other construction occupations, employment opportunities are affected by the cyclical nature of the construction industry and can vary greatly by state and locality.

Construction laborers perform a wide range of physically demanding tasks, involving building and highway construction, tunnel and shaft excavation, hazardous waste removal, environmental remediation, demolition and many more.

Although the term "laborer" implies work that requires relatively little skill or training, many tasks that these workers perform, actually require a fairly high level of training and experience. Construction laborers clean and prepare construction sites to eliminate possible hazards, dig trenches, mix and place concrete, and set braces to support the sides of excavations. They load, unload, identify, and distribute building materials to the appropriate location according to project plans and specifications on building construction projects. They also tend machines; for example, they may mix concrete using a portable mixer or tend a machine that pumps concrete, grout, cement, sand, plaster, or stucco through a spray gun for application to ceilings and walls. Construction laborers often help other craft-workers, including carpenters, plasterers, operating engineers, and masons.

Construction trades workers helpers and laborers perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Load and unload construction materials, and move materials to work areas
  • Erect and dismantle concrete forms, scaffolding, ramps, catwalks shoring and barricades required at construction sites
  • Mix, pour and spread materials such as concrete and asphalt
  • Assist trades persons such as carpenters, bricklayers, cement finishers, roofers and glaziers in construction activities
  • Assist heavy equipment operators to secure special attachments to equipment, signal operators to guide them in moving equipment and provide assistance in other activities
  • Assist in aligning pipes and perform related activities during oil and gas pipeline construction
  • Assist in drilling and blasting rock at construction sites
  • Level earth to fine grade specifications using rake and shovel
  • Assist in demolishing buildings using prying bars and other tools, and sort, clean and pile salvaged materials
  • Remove rubble and other debris at construction sites using rakes, shovels, wheelbarrows and other equipment
  • Operate pneumatic hammers, vibrators and tampers as directed
  • Tend or feed machines or equipment used in construction such as mixers, compressors and pumps
  • Clean up chemical spills and other contaminants, and remove asbestos and other hazardous materials
  • Oil and grease hoists and similar equipment
  • Direct traffic at or near construction sites
  • Perform other activities at construction sites, as directed.

Job opportunities for construction laborers are expected to be good, due to the numerous openings arising each year as laborers leave the occupation. In addition, many potential workers are not attracted to the occupation because they prefer work that is less strenuous and has more comfortable working conditions. Opportunities will be best for workers who are willing to relocate to different worksites.

Employment of construction laborers is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2012. New jobs will arise from a continuing emphasis on environmental remediation and on rebuilding infrastructure-roads, airports, bridges, tunnels, and communications facilities, for example. However, employment growth will be adversely affected by automation as some jobs are replaced by new machines and equipment that improve productivity and quality.

Employment of construction laborers, like that of many other construction workers, can be variable or intermittent due to the limited duration of construction projects and the cyclical nature of the construction industry. Employment opportunities can vary greatly by State and locality. During economic downturns, job openings for construction laborers decrease as the level of construction activity declines.

For information about jobs as construction laborers, contact local building or construction contractors, local joint labor-management apprenticeship committees, apprenticeship agencies, or the local office of your State Employment Service.

Laborers' International Union of North America,

Laborers-AGC Education and Training Fund,

National Center for Construction Education and Research,

There are more than 500 occupations registered by the U.S. Department of Labor's National Apprenticeship system. For more information on the Labor Department's registered apprenticeship system and links to State apprenticeship programs, check their website:

Some experience as a general construction laborer may be required for construction trade helpers. Some pipeline workers, such as stabbers, mandrel operators and pre-heater tenders, usually require one season of experience in oil and gas pipeline construction. Flagmen/ women may require a traffic control certificate. Mobility is possible among workers in this unit group.





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