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Craft Labor

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Craft Laborers

The versatility of the craft laborer makes him or her essential to the completion of any project.

Construction Craft Laborers are the most diverse and versatile trade professionals in the construction industry. Construction Craft Laborers are able to perform a number of skills and take part in every type of project. All other trade professionals depend on laborers for their multifaceted array of skills.

The term laborer belies the complex and critical functions they perform, and their skill with high tech equipment. For instance, they operate pipe-laying machinery and use computers and other high-tech input devices such as lasers and transits. Among the critical work functions performed by construction craft laborers are:

   • Move, store and supply construction and building materials for all types of construction    activities
• Recognize and mitigate safety hazards including hazardous materials, environmental
   hazards and accident conditions at any type of construction site
• Maintain and supply hand tools, power tools, and equipment for all types of tasks
• Build structures and infrastructures such as buildings, houses, bridges, dams , tunnels,    utilities and roads
• Demolish and/or disassemble and remove structures and buildings
• Prepare and layout sites for construction activities
• Abate all types of environmental hazards

These are just some of the skills and duties of the construction craft laborer. Some laborers choose to specialize in a particular skill, mainly critical functions such as demolition or environmental remediation. Others remain generalists, building all-around skills that allow them to work on a wide range of projects.

Salary and Benefits
Journeyman Building Construction
Journeyman Heavy/Highway
$25.30 - $26.55 per hour
$24.95 - $27.40

Benefits include:
   • Family Health Benefits
• Pension and Annuity Funds
• Disability Insurance
• Vacation Fund

Working Conditions
Craft laborers work in a large variety of conditions that vary depending on the type of project or the specialty the individual performs. Lifting heavy materials, working in tight spaces and operating heavy equipment like jackhammers are all part of the laborer’s duties.

As laborers are often relied upon to work with hazardous materials, they are thoroughly trained in safely handling such materials.

Career Opportunities
Because of their versatility and the multitude of critical functions they perform, the career prospects for craft laborers are very good. The federal government’s Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) projects that demand for laborers will grow at about 10 to 20 percent over the next decade.

The variety of duties ensures that a construction craft laborer has generous career opportunities and those that obtain a number of skills improve their ability to find work during economic downturns and also improve their chance of attaining supervisory level positions. Growth of construction laborer employment will be spurred by continuing emphasis on environmental remediation and on rebuilding infrastructure, according to the OOH.

Specialist vs. Generalists -- Craft laborers who choose to remain as generalists are most likely to ascend to supervisory positions faster because of their all-around knowledge. Those who choose to specialize on the other hand become experts in a particular skill and are in high demand because of their intimate knowledge of critical functions.

Construction Labor apprentices must complete at least 4,000 hours of on the job training and 400 additional hours of classroom training before they graduate to journeyman status. The typical apprenticeship lasts two years.

The first 1,600 to 2,100 hours of on the job apprentice training are spent learning general skills. General skills include site preparation and maintenance; the recognition, preparation, operation and maintenance of tools (both hand and power), equipment and material; and safety.

The remainder of apprenticeship training is spent learning the three specialty areas of building construction, heavy/highway construction and environmental remediation.

In the classroom education component, there is a core curriculum and choices of electives.

The core curriculum is comprised of blue print reading, craft orientation, first aid/CPR, general construction, hazard communication, mason tending, pipe laying, concrete and OSHA safety.

Electives from which apprentices choose from are asbestos abatement, asphalt, foreman preparedness, hazardous waste worker, lead abatement, line and grade, mason tending, radiation remediation, underground storage tank removal.

On-the-job training involves assignment to a qualified employer. The apprentice learns his or her skills while taking part in the completion of real projects. Not only is the education free but the apprentice earns wages and benefits.

Each Apprentice begins by earning 60 percent of the journeyman wage rate. After 1,000 hours and 80 hours of class time are completed, the apprentice's wage increases to 70 percent; after 2,000 hours it increases to 80 percent; and after 3,000 hours it increases to 90 percent.

Apprentices are entered into the craft laborers pension and welfare fund immediately, earning contributions into those funds at the regular journeyman rate.

Minimum Standards and Requirements
To qualify for the apprenticeship program, candidates must meet the following qualifications:
   • At least 18 years old
• High school diploma or GED
• Valid drivers license
• Candidates must be able to read and speak English
• Must pass a Department of Transportation drug test.

After applying and taking an orientation class, apprenticeship candidates take a Work Keys Skills Assessment Test. Apprentice candidates are expected to complete Applied Mathematics and Reading for Information questions at Level 3 of the Work Keys exam.

General Categories of the Craft Laborer Profession
The following categories give a general overview of the types of work craft laborers are called on to perform. However, because of the vast flexibility of this profession, these synopses only provide a thumbnail sketch of the tasks these professionals carry out on a daily basis.

Building Construction
In the building construction specialty area, craft laborers are part of a multifaceted team of professionals that erect and finish major structures such as office buildings, factories, arenas, parking garages, research facilities, power plants and schools.

The building construction category involves mixing, handling and placing of cement, concrete and other building materials; erecting and maintaining scaffolds, handling and stocking building materials; and excavating construction sites.

Craft laborers working in this specialty area work alongside carpenters, ironworkers and bricklayers – performing a multitude of job-critical tasks.

Heavy Highway and Utility Construction
In the heavy highway and utility construction category, craft laborers responsibilities include concrete placement and finishing, asphalt surfacing; joining, installing and repairing pipe systems; setting elevation and aligning control stakes to ensure road surfaces are level; and laying out and constructing traffic barriers and safety fences.

As the term indicates, this specialty helps build the highways, bridges and tunnels that make transportation possible. They play a major role throughout the entire process -- from setting up the concrete traffic barriers, to coordinating with other trades professionals to put necessary pipes in place, level the surface area and lay the surface material.

Craft laborers in this specialty also help build the utility infrastructure, including water, storm, sewer and gas piping, and electric and telephone conduit.

Environmental Remediation
Restoring contaminated buildings and Brownfield sites, cleaning up oil and chemical spills, and removing asbestos and lead from older structures are part of this category. They also are experts at abating the damage from the release of radioactive materials, such as from accidents at nuclear sites. The men and women who specialize in this area truly perform a vital service.

The primary duties in the environmental remediation category include operating and maintaining air sampling equipment, and interpreting the data. Craft laborers also set up and maintain decontamination systems, remove and dispose of hazardous materials and build work area enclosures. Often craft laborers build and maintain their work areas when handling these cleanup situations.

Craft laborers performing this type of work regularly wear the latest protective suits and use state of the art breathing equipment. Their reliance on these suits requires them to become experts in their care and use.

Because of the nature of this important work, craft laborers who work in this category are experts at handling sensitive substances and are well versed in the latest protective garments.


Students who have the following characteristics, are ideal candidates for the construction craft laborers profession:

   • Good manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and balance.
• Ability to read and comprehend all warning and safety signs and labels on a construction site   and the reading skills sufficient to understand and interpret plans, drawings, and written   instructions and specifications.
• Possess basic problem-solving and math skills.
• Very diligent about being on time and reliable.
• Capable of working as a member of a team.

Where to Go:

Craft Laborers:
Students interested in a career in the craft labor professions should contact:
  Joseph Zipfel, Apprentice Coordinator
  New Jersey Construction Craft Laborers Apprenticeship Program
31 Mott Avenue
Monroe Township, NJ 08831
  (732) 521-0200
  Also for more information log onto
  Heavy Highway and Construction Laborers

North Jersey:
Laborers Local 472 Safety Education & Training Center
Cliffwood, NJ
(732) 583-6260

South Jersey:
Laborers Local 172 Safety Education & Training Center
Folsom, NJ
(609) 567-1959