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Career Information: Construction and Carpentry

Specialty Construction and Carpentry

Official Resource The National Association of Home Builders --

Short Definition
Careers in the construction industry span a wide net of specialties; from roofer to foreman to electrician to plumber. This career page focuses a bit more on carpentry, even though there are over 25 solid career alternatives in the construction trade.

Expanded Information
Our cities, houses, hospitals, schools, malls, and sports arenas all exist because of the skilled men and women who build them and make them safe for our use.

The Construction Industry is HUGE – there are tons of projects and many different people who work on them. There are trade positions, management positions, careers in unions, and related jobs – and all are necessary for construction projects to be successful.

People pursue construction careers for different reasons, but one thing is for sure: the future of the construction industry depends on the youth of today! In order to keep constructing new buildings and fixing old ones, the industry needs to train lots of people to replace those that eventually retire. And the great thing about the construction industry is that it will always be needed! Of course we will always need new houses and office buildings and highways and dams, but we also need skilled workers who can work with and use technology.

Carpenters are involved in many different kinds of construction activity. They cut, fit, and assemble wood and other materials for the construction of buildings, highways, bridges, docks, industrial plants, boats, and many other structures. Carpenters' duties vary by type of employer. Builders increasingly are using specialty trade contractors who, in turn, hire carpenters who specialize in just one or two activities. Such activities include setting forms for concrete construction; erecting scaffolding; or doing finishing work, such as installing interior and exterior trim. However, a carpenter directly employed by a general building contractor often must perform a variety of the tasks associated with new construction, such as framing walls and partitions, putting in doors and windows, building stairs, laying hardwood floors, and hanging kitchen cabinets. Carpenters also build brattices (ventilation walls or partitions) in underground passageways to control the proper circulation of air through these passageways and to worksites.

Because local building codes often dictate where certain materials can be used, carpenters must know these regulations. Each carpentry task is somewhat different, but most involve the same basic steps. Working from blueprints or instructions from supervisors, carpenters first do the layout—measuring, marking, and arranging materials. They cut and shape wood, plastic, fiberglass, or drywall, using hand and power tools, such as chisels, planes, saws, drills, and sanders. They then join the materials with nails, screws, staples, or adhesives. In the final step, carpenters check the accuracy of their work with levels, rules, plumb bobs, and framing squares, and make any necessary adjustments. When working with prefabricated components, such as stairs or wall panels, the carpenter's task is somewhat simpler than above, because it does not require as much layout work or the cutting and assembly of as many pieces. Prefabricated components are designed for easy and fast installation and generally can be installed in a single operation.

Carpenters who remodel homes and other structures must be able to do all aspects of a job—not just one task. Thus, individuals with good basic overall training are at a distinct advantage, because they can switch from residential building to commercial construction or remodeling work, depending on which offers the best work opportunities. Job opportunities for carpenters are expected to be excellent over the 2002-12 period, largely due to the numerous openings arising each year as experienced carpenters leave this large occupation. Contributing to this favorable job market is the fact that many potential workers prefer work that is less strenuous and that has more comfortable working conditions. Because there are no strict training requirements for entry, many people with limited skills take jobs as carpenters but eventually leave the occupation because they dislike the work or cannot find steady employment.