As a construction laborer, I find that one of the funniest misconceptions about my job is that Hollywood and pretty much all TV show producers seem to think that all construction workers have Brooklyn or Bronx accents from the 1950s. Even when they show construction workers in LA or Dallas, the workers all seem to have Brooklyn accents.
But more seriously, I’ve had people literally tell me that I do “unskilled” or “brainless” work because I’m in construction. Yes, the construction industry is one of the least credentialed industries; you literally do not need a high school diploma. But once you enter the industry, you are expected to learn on the job—and quickly.
This week, I’m putting in a concrete footer/foundation underneath a
120-year-old brick house. That doesn’t require academic credentials, but it does require skill. Guys in my neighborhood have been killed because they did the process wrong.
Many people seem to think that strength is the best quality for a construction worker to have. Actually, even when it comes to the hard laboring jobs, the biggest and strongest guys are often the worst workers. They often get outworked by older, smaller, and/or skinnier or fatter guys. A man who likes to work or has a good attitude towards work can easily outwork a lazy muscular guy.
I had a relative by marriage who ended up disabled after a number of years in construction after episodes of showing off how much he could lift. He’d show up all the other guys on the job site by carrying two of whatever everybody else carried one of, after bragging he could out-lift everyone on site. All this resulted in delays in work followed by multiple back surgeries. I’d bet that some of the men who refused to engage in his petty contests kept their jobs a lot longer than he did.