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Careers in the Skilled Trades

Q&A with The Construction Life

Manny Neves

Construction Expert & Host of The Construction Life

Construction Expert & Host of The Construction Life podcast Manny Neves discusses the evolving culture in skilled trades, offering candid advice and highlighting the character-building nature of construction work.

As you’ve mentioned in the podcast, learning on the job was not the friendliest and most welcoming approach into apprenticeship. From your interviews and conversation with people in various skilled trades, do you see a shift in the working culture that has made skilled trades more welcoming for students and newcomers to the industry?

Life can be challenging, and the same goes for the construction life. I don’t want it to be easy; it shouldn’t be full of friendly people. There will always be a few bad apples. We should thrive on challenges and strive to understand the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of the field. Why are we so afraid to tell newcomers to construction about the negatives and hardships? Not everything is perfect. How else can people learn the best way to build?

We need to stop protecting people and tell them the whole truth, allowing them to decide if this path is right for them. Will you encounter people who are racist, make inappropriate comments, call you names, or share jokes at the expense of your gender, culture, or religion? Yes, you will. But who cares? Move on, learn from it, and keep focusing on mastering the craft. There are many who are more than willing to share their advice and skills, find your mentors, they are out there.

These skills are valuable not just in Canada, but anywhere in the world. They are transferable globally. Embrace the challenges, learn from every experience, and discover where your skills can take you.

What is one advice you would give to people who are considering entering construction?

Character. You will discover who you truly are and what kind of person you can become when you work with your hands. The level of satisfaction from using your skills, calculating difficult tasks, and then executing those ideas, whether as part of a group or as an individual, is unmatched by any other career. Understand that every day, you can pause from a hard day’s work, look over your shoulder, and physically see what you have accomplished and contributed to life. Those moments will build your character like nothing else.

What was your biggest challenge when entering the field and what helped you to overcome it?

Clients are both the worst and best part of the process. Every skilled tradesperson will experience being taken advantage of by a client at some point, whether it’s a homeowner, an employer, the government, or anyone who holds your income hostage. The best way to avoid these situations is to minimize your financial risk and step away once you have completed the agreed-upon scope of work. Never fall into the trap of thinking that homeowners, employers, or the government will always have your best interests at heart—they rarely do.

What’s the biggest piece of advice you’d give to someone entering the industry?

Getting on a job site with one or a hundred other skilled tradespeople is an opportunity to learn. Don’t ever look at those 8+ hours on site, surrounded by talented individuals, as a chore. Decide today to learn how to do something new instead of worrying about what’s happening on social media. At the end of your shift, you get a chance that many others who don’t work in construction don’t have. While others might only walk by and see dust, congestion, and noise, you get to see a structure being created right before your eyes. You gain a deeper understanding of how that structure was erected and, most importantly, the reasons behind it. In construction, you find many “whys” in life.

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