The Career Center &
RELEVANCE IN THE CLASSROOM
Construction Trades On-Site
In a world where it seems that we all want to label, categorize, and departmentalize everything, it occurred to me that our class does not fit neatly into a pre-conceived mold. This class is a real-world application of a myriad of skills and disciplines. Consider that on any given day we may resemble:
A math class: Construction workers use math daily. Accurate measurement is extremely important, as is being able to perform simple calculations in your head. The construction worker must understand and be comfortable with fractions, the Pythagorean Theory, formulas, and concepts such as plumb, level, square, etc
A physics class: The construction worker is always concerned with the structural elements of a home and how the forces of nature and different loads will affect that structure. There are also energy issues such as R-values, U-values, and heat loss that must be addressed. Sometimes, the field of acoustics is important too in controlling noise levels within the home.
A history class: Builders need to be aware of architectural styles and elements when they order materials. Keeping a house authentic and pleasing to the eye is crucial. If not, your project could stick out like a sore thumb. The student should be exposed to and aware of the classic architectural styles along with modern alternatives.
A reading class: There are many things that the construction worker must also be aware of and be able to read and understand. Blueprints, specifications, contracts, codes, and tons of books and articles aimed at improving your knowledge base and skills, all require you to read at least at the high-school level. Fine Homebuilding and the Journal of Light Construction are both excellent publications that I feel every builder should be aware of and read to increase their knowledge base.
A communication class: The worker must also have writing, speaking, and listening skills. Bids, contracts, memos, proposals, change orders, applications, and resumes are examples of some of the documents that require an ability to write clearly and accurately. Workers also need an ability to speak clearly and accurately to express information to other crew members, their boss, inspectors, clients, and other contractors, etc. The same goes for accurate listening skills.
A physical education class: Construction is demanding work physically. The serious worker needs to be in good shape. Even though there is lots of lifting, climbing, and the worker seldom stops moving throughout the day, many workers still will get an additional aerobic workout elsewhere to stay in shape.
A health class: Part of health is keeping your body fit with exercise and good nutrition, but it also focuses on safety. This is huge in a dangerous trade such as construction. Wearing personal protective gear, working with a clear head, and being able to assess risk, is all part of your job.
A government class: Many laws and policies affect the construction worker. The safety agency OSHA writes standards, investigates violations, and imposes stiff penalties for non-compliance. The codes that builders must follow are also agreed upon and enforced by the government. The government also controls and oversees licensing for builders. Laws and policies that deal with energy rates and requirements for builders are having a huge effect on our industry.
An economics class: The health and well being of the nations economy has a direct effect upon the construction industry. When interest rates are low, people will tend to buy large items such as homes. This also has a huge effect upon the remodeling industry, and peoples ability to fund their remodeling projects. You will also see the law of supply and demand at work with jumps in construction material costs due to natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods. Even the spotted owl caused a jump in prices because so much forest was being protected by the government to make sure habitat was not destroyed.
A computer class: This is the information age. I do not suppose a computer is mandatory, but it sure helps. I use a drafting program to get my ideas on paper and looking professional. There are many business programs aimed at the contractor to keep organization in their business. Also, the internet is an invaluable resource when looking for suppliers, checking on and comparing materials, researching techniques, and getting answers for problems.
An engineering class: Sort of along the line of the physics background, engineering is a big part of construction when designing and building structures. The builder should be aware of concepts such as: sheer, deflection, tension, compression, modulus of elasticity, live loads, dead loads, point loads, etc.. A lack of understanding here could result in a lawsuit later!
An ecology class: That's right, ecology. As we build structures, we almost always have to change the landscape. It is critical for the builder to understand the forces of nature and how they will work against of in favor of the structure. Wetlands, solar gain, wind, sound, groundwater, drainage, the grade, soil conditions, trees and foliage, and view are all considerations when placing a house on a piece of land. Some builders are very conscious about building homes that blend into the environment while others don't seem to have a clue.
An art class: A house could be thought of as an artists palate. There are colors to choose and coordinate, textures to consider, lines to highlight or blend, materials to choose, and patterns to select. There is an entire field of design that deals exclusively with these and other issues. These are the people who put the icing on the cake and have a huge impact on whether or not the house sells.
The point here is that many students enter this class with a lot of preconceived notions about what construction is or entails. It is not simply sawing wood and pounding nails. It is a multi-faceted industry. Think about these few things to when you grumble about having to do some written work or book work. You, the worker, needs to be as versatile and skilled as possible to ensure your value to the contractors who will be hiring you! Just remember, at this point in your life, be versatile, be open-minded, be moldable, seek knowledge, be a well rounded individual, and work hard at developing your skill level. Those are some of the keys to becoming successful and enjoying longevity in this exciting career. Best of luck in your journey and I hope in some way we have helped you focus on a path that is right for you.