Whether you’re a high school student, a recent University grad or simply trying to make a new career choice, at least consider looking at the benefits of choosing a career in trades. You’ll probably come to realize that there are in fact quite a few pros to choosing this route, traditionally labeled as a “boys only club” limited to class clowns without a care for higher learning.
While there’s no need to gloss over the fact that most parents and teachers would probably prefer students to choose an academic career path, between 2008 and 2013, the number of Ontario University graduates who decided to attend college went up by 40 percent. But what exactly is the driving force behind this trend?
Too many recent grads are finding themselves unemployed and under-qualified for jobs. Yet the irony is many “entry-level” jobs somehow require three years of experience and/or a hodgepodge of practical skills that just don’t come with a typical university education. For some people, recent grads or not, getting into the trades can seem like the perfect solution to this problem. A career in roofing can be an attractive prospect, for instance. So how do you get started?
Why choose a trade?
Your first step towards becoming a roofing contractor – or starting any career in the trades – is to get some form of professional instruction. In terms of roofing, a two or three-year paid apprenticeship is the usual route. This isn’t as daunting as, say, getting a four-year university degree that comes with little to no practical skills and paid work. The first benefits of choosing a trade for a living is that it takes less time to get the credentials and less money.
The trades also come with the added benefit of having lots of room for upward mobility and flexibility. Depending on the trade, you may also have quite a bit of job security. You could choose to be a bricklayer for the rest of your life and go home quite happily every night, but then you could also choose to start your own business like many estheticians do, or aim to become the foreman of some behemoth condo. In the world of trades, these are very realistic and attainable goals.
The Lowdown on Life as a Pro Roofer
So what’s the real deal behind life as a roofing contractor?
Well, consider this. To have a roof over one’s head is one of the most basic human desires. So who’s going to build that roof?
A roofer is the person you’re going to turn to every time a roof needs to be installed, replaced or repaired. You’ll have to perhaps install scaffolding, carry out inspections, and figure out which materials and how much of it will be needed to install or to repair a roof. You might even have to make the call that a roof is going to need replacement. In fact, it’s up to you to keep the insides of a building safe from exposure when it rains, snows or sleets. Making sure that the job is done safely and properly is a must.
That said, you’ve got to be realistic. Climbing, heavy lifting, bending, crawling and kneeling are all part of the job. If you’re an active, conscientious person, then this may be the career for you. You’ll have to be alert at all times to make sure that you keep yourself and everybody around you safe. Safety must be at the forefront of all your decisions, because roofers have a high rate of injuries and illnesses; slipping and falling are constant risks for those who are unaware of their surroundings and don’t take the proper safety precautions.
The weather is also an important consideration when becoming a roofer. Heat exposure is a common risk for those who don’t take breaks and stay hydrated, as work is also often limited to good weather. In colder areas of the world, many roofers may try to work long hours to complete as many jobs as possible, despite increasing the risks of making dangerous, costly mistakes.
This may sound like a lot of responsibility, and it really is. You’ll need a good head on your shoulders, and you’ll need to stay in shape to make sure your body can tolerate the working conditions. That said, it’s a career you can take pride in, and it’s a job that gives you a concrete product (and maybe a nice pair of arms) at the end of the day that you can look at and say “I did this”.
Job flexibility is also a coveted bonus that many people appreciate about the trades. In Canada, about a quarter of all roofers and shinglers choose to be self-employed, and with that comes the ability to set your own schedule and to answer to yourself.
The Rookie’s Guide to Becoming a Roofer
Apprenticeship with a local roofing contractor is the usual route towards becoming a roofer. You can expect this to be very hands-on, with lots of time spent doing many of the things actually listed in a job description. In some provinces like Quebec and British Columbia, classroom experience is also a requirement.
That said, you’ll get some actual workplace experience no matter what, as most certification programs have apprenticeships or co-ops built into the curriculum. While you may not get the mythical three years listed on many “entry level” job descriptions, three to six months of workplace experience is still better than nothing, which is what most people leave university with.
At the end of your apprenticeship period, you’ll have built up work experiences and a network of people who know you and the quality of your work. In Canada, you can look to make between $40,000 – $60,000 a year.
With good work ethic and a positive, professional attitude, you shouldn’t have any problem finding yourself employed – oftentimes with the same company that you may have done an apprenticeship with. After a few years of solid experience, self-employment may even be a realistic goal if you’re the kind of person who likes to be the boss. It’s up to you to set up your life the way you want it. If roofing seems attractive to you, start by hitting the gym and looking up apprenticeship grants, programs and/or sponsors in your area!
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Good luck in your search,