Skilled Trades

Skilled Trades

Want a job where you can earn while you learn? If you like to work with your hands, collaborate with other professionals, be a dynamic part of building or rebuilding projects, you may want to sign on to learn a trade. There are scores of options, from carpentry and tile setting to steel erectors and electricians, and many more. The construction industry is scrambling to find skilled workers to fill thousands of jobs, and contractors and labor leaders understand the importance of a skilled workforce, helping to train, develop, and upskill their workers to take on bigger and more complex assignments. How to find the best trade for you? Follow your passion.

Women in the Trades

With an anticipated shortage of workers in the trades, women are in demand—and jobs in the trades can offer women considerable benefits in terms of terms of salaries, interesting and meaningful work, and opportunities for advancement. From plumbers to iron workers to painters and paper hangers and beyond, there is plenty of training and chances to excel in the skilled trades. See for yourself in this video what women have to say about working in the trades.


They make, install, and repair boilers in your home, but also the giant containers for liquids and gases that supply steam to power plants or carry crude oil in a double-hulled tanker. It’s hard work that requires a lot of strength, and ability to use special torches, grinders and other heavy equipment to weld, bolt, cut and rig.
Bricklayers and Stonemasons

Bricklayers and Stonemasons

Using hand and power tools, they cut and shape stone, mix mortar and grout, set and grout heavy stones in place, or repair anything from buildings to brick linings in industrial furnaces.

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These workers are good with their hands and have an eye for aesthetics. Carpentry is a huge trade—carpenters do all the formwork for concrete and are actively involved in almost every kind of construction project. They are especially big in residential construction, from foundations and footings to framing, interior and exterior trim, and even cabinetry. Chisels, planes, saws, drills, sanders, levels, rules, plumb bobs, and framing squares are a carpenter’s stock in trade.

Drywall Finishing

Drywall finishers are the ones who attach the premade drywall to the interiors of rooms, concealing any imperfections for a smooth wall surface—an effort that often requires layering plaster or spackle, or sanding down rough spots so that the wall is picture perfect.


These professionals provide light and power for the work to be done, and install and maintain the electrical power systems for all types of structures. Think wiring and control equipment through which electricity flows and, increasingly, the infrastructure for communications and computer systems.

Elevator Constructors

Tall, modern buildings wouldn’t be possible without elevator constructors who put together, install and maintain elevators—and provide the same services on escalators and moving sidewalks in commercial and industrial buildings and infrastructure projects.

Floor Coverers

Installing carpet, hardwood, tile, or other surfaces is the work of a floor coverer. Durability is key here and floor coverers are often called on to use their creativity in a highly decorative installation. Whether it’s a major installation in an office or a mall, or an intricately decorated foyer, floor covers make sure the surface is safe, long lasting, and attractive.


It’s a glazier’s job to cut, select, replace, and install glass—and that means insulated, specially treated, tempered, and laminated glass for secure, energy efficient results and added drama—modern architecture wouldn’t be as sleek and striking without glaziers.


They make sure buildings and infrastructure are
working properly via survey instruments, metering
devices, and other equipment to inspect wiring, plumbing, sewers, heating systems, and foundations. Because working smart and building safe are central to today’s construction projects, inspectors play a key role in any project. From planning and design through construction and completion, the industry has an obligation and responsibility to
ensure safety to the public, workers, suppliers, and the users of a facility. Establishing and enforcing effective safety management programs fulfill this obligation—and are
demanded by law in most locations. Safety inspector can be a complementary career for superintendents, project managers, and engineers on site.

Ironworkers/Steel Erectors

Ironworkers, or steel erectors, install, align and reinforce steel structures and frameworks. This trade handles and locks large columns of steel into place, forming the skeleton of a structure. Count on strenuous work that sometimes takes place hundreds of feet above the ground. Unloading and operating equipment to lift very large and heavy steel components can be hard and frequently dangerous and requires extensive training. There are many facets to ironworking—one is ornamental or architectural ironwork which involves installing the curtain wall over the building’s structure. Some pretty impressive effects have been achieved. Just picture the Eiffel Tower.

Mechanical Contractors

Any system in a building with mechanical parts is the domain of a mechanical contractor. Usually mechanical contractors work in commercial buildings on boilers, HVAC, co-generation systems and the like.

Mechanical Insulators

Mechanical insulators take responsibility for cutting various types of materials—fiberglass, Styrofoam, cork—and apply it to metal ductwork, steam or water pipes, boilers, vents or walls. It’s an important job, as insulators work to increase energy efficiency, decrease noise, and fire-proof homes and commercial and industrial buildings. Correct insulation has a direct effect on the energy costs and habitability of a building.

Operating Engineers

If there’s an engine, there’s an operating engineer around. An operating engineer will, yes, operate, but also repair, and maintain heavy equipment like cranes and tunnel boring machines (TBMs)— anything mechanical on a job site. Operating engineers also serve as surveyors and in operations and maintenance in buildings and industry.

Painters and Paperhangers

Typically the last professionals on a job site before the building occupants take over, painters and paperhangers combine aesthetics with knowledge of the materials and surfaces involved. Settings can range from industrial, commercial and residential to bridges and ships. This category can include drywall finishers who tape, fill in and smooth out drywall to a seamless finish.

Plasterers and 
Cement Masons

Plasterers finish interior walls and ceilings of buildings, apply plaster on masonry, metal, wire lathe or gypsum, while cement masons are the ones in charge of concrete construction, pouring and finishing slabs, steps, sidewalks, roads, bridges, dams—any concrete item in the built environment.


Working with piping systems and fixtures is a plumber’s job. Plumbers typically work on sanitary and natural flow systems, like drinking water, sewage and waste, and the related treatment and processing systems.


The responsibilities of a roofer are many and range from estimating the type and amount of necessary materials and fitting them for full weatherproofing. Roofers must work safely at heights and install skylights and decorative effects. Some roofers specialize in sheeting and cladding, or tiling, or on landmark projects.

Sheet Metal Workers

Highly trained in precise measurements and working with powerful cutting and lifting equipment, these workers construct, maintain, and install metal products like siding, signs, ventilation equipment, industrial systems and stainless steel work for hospitals. Shop drawings are done manually or with the help of CAD (computer-aided design).

Steam Fitters

Pipe systems required for steam, hot water, heating, cooling, sprinkling or industrial processing, is work of a steam fitter or pipe fitter. Responsibilities include assembling, installing and maintaining all aspects of these systems.

Tile and Marble Workers

These professionals install materials on floors, walls, ceilings, countertops, patios, and roof decks, determining the pattern layout and then cut and shape the tiles to size. Leveling, and creating stable surfaces is a key part of the job, as is proper installation and polishing with power tools or by hand.


The professionals who join pieces of metal together are welders. They use heat, gas, and machinery to create or repair the metal infrastructure of all types of projects, including large scale manufacturing and commercial structures.

Fast Facts about Builders

Augmented reality is affecting construction—in winning more projects, improving safety and facilitating team interaction.

Women are increasingly joining the construction workforce, in skilled trades all the way to the executive suite.

From AI and advanced intelligent materials to drones and robotics, the construction industry is building better and more sustainably.

Skilled trades let you follow your passion in a specialized way.

Infrastructure builds big to move people and products.

There are many paths to construction and many ways to get there.

Construction is going green every which way, every day.

You can use your skills, make good money, and do something meaningful.

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