Updated: Sep 16
Three things that are often overlooked by new workers entering the construction industry.
Driving around the Lower Mainland it's hard to believe the construction industry faces a skilled labour shortage over the next 5 to 8 years. It's predicted the industry will be looking at shortages of up 23,000 by 2029. As an incentive to keep skilled tradespeople in the province, BC will reintroduce Skilled Trade Certification through the Skilled Trades Act BC at this spring's legislative assembly.
With plenty of employment opportunities and the province "promoting and supporting apprentices and trainees throughout their training journey," we can expect to see new faces on our job sites this summer feeling sore and unsure of what they are supposed to be doing.
Below are my top 3 recommendations for workers entering construction.
Tip #1 - Good fitting boots
This may sound too simple, but time and time again, I see new workers entering the industry with general inexpensive work boots. The decision to save money on boots is a costly one. Not only do workers find themselves replacing the boots often, but they also struggle with severe foot pain. Workers need to remember they are entering an industry where 99% of their time will be spent on their feet on some pretty unforgiving terrain.
Plan your purchase - Just like shopping on an empty stomach will impact what goes into your cart, shopping at different times of day can impact how your boots fit. Think about the difference between trying boots on first thing in the morning or the end of a 14 hour day on your feet; there can be a dramatic size difference.
Don't rush the process - Spend some time in the boots, lace them up and walk around the store for a bit. I have met an individual who spends an hour in the store making sure their boots are comfortable. Oh yeah, bring a clean pair of work socks with you to help with comfortability and fit.
Break them in - New boots fit way differently than a pair you've lived in for a year straight. Your feet need time to stretch the new fabric. The more aggressive the break-in process is, the more likely your feet will blister.
Tip #2 - Limber up
On-site stretching programs get a bad rap because too many people are embarrassed at their flexibility level. The reality is working in the trades is physically taxing on the body, from repetitive heavy lifting to holding prolonged body positioning you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. Taking the time to do some personal preventative maintenance is not only good for work; it's also fantastic at keeping injuries at bay.
The benefits of taking 10 minutes every morning to limber up and stretch out your muscles will be felt in as little as 14 days are:
Reduced cramps and muscle pains
Improved blood flow
Helps reduce stress
Rule #18 in Zombieland, if you were wondering.
"Turns out, a loose muscle is a strong muscle" – Michael Easter
Tip #3 - Know the plan
People tend to make mistakes when they don't fully understand the plan; that generally means an incident in construction. It can be challenging to ask for clarification when you don't fully understand the plan and you're new to the team.
Overcome your fear - Anticipating a response to a question when we're unsure leaves us open and vulnerable to personal attack; this is often more than enough to keep someone from asking for clarification. Many feel it's better to not make waves and slow the process down than ask.
Start by taking a deep breath with your diaphragm; imagine you're making an air baby with your belly. This activates calming stuff in your brain so you can ask your question.
Recipe for success
The first few months in the construction industry will be overwhelming, and there is a good chance you will be sore. Trust me when I say the recipe for success is when your boots feel like slippers, your body doesn't hurt all the time, and you understand what you are supposed to do.
Leslee Montgomery is a Professional Counsellor and Mental Wellness Architect creating physically, mentally and emotionally safe workplaces by reducing injuries turnover in the construction industry.