If you’re looking to break into the construction industry in Canada, there’s never been a better time. A current labour shortage and the expected retirement of about 250,000 construction workers means there’s plenty of opportunity. Plus, there are so many options: painter, drywaller, electrician, mason, plumber, cement worker, equipment operator, truck driver, and so on.

Not sure where to start? Here’s what you need to know.

Safety First

Before you begin looking for jobs in construction, you need to complete a basic health and safety certification course. This is a must for working on any construction site, and it’s important because it gives you the knowledge you need to do your job safely.

Set Yourself Up for Success

ACCES Employment’s Trades Connections Program is a free program designed to help newcomers to Canada build a career in the trades. It includes industry-specific language training, so you’ll know the terminology you’ll need to use on the job, as well as certification in first aid and WHMIS (workplace hazardous materials information system). You’ll also get an overview of Canadian workplace culture and information on in-demand construction jobs. Plus, at the end of the program, ACCES provides support for enrolling in training programs, registering for an apprenticeship, or finding a job in the trades.

Not All Opportunities Are Equal

You can go out and get a job on a construction crew with little training, but those jobs tend to pay a lot less than what you’d make if you get some training, become an apprentice or join a guild or union. With the right training, you could start at $21 per hour—which could add up to an extra $900 per month over a general labourer.

Program and Certification Costs Can Be an Issue

There are a few construction trades that require significant investment. Truck driving often seems appealing because you’ll work long days, but then have days off, and physical effort is comparatively lower than many other trades (e.g., bricklaying). But an AZ license can cost as much as $10,000, which is out of reach for a lot of people.

There are also other costs that can impact the ability to work in certain trades. Electricians, for example, require a high level of language proficiency for their training. This may mean you need to invest time and money in language courses before you can even begin trades training, which may not be possible for some people.

Gaining Valuable Experience Through Apprenticeship

Apprenticeships are a great way to break into the industry because they combine on-the-job training with classroom learning. Typically, you’ll work on the job for a year alongside experienced professionals, then spend two to three months in the classroom (often at a college or a union training centre). Apprenticeships are completed in two to five years, depending on the trade.

Consider Stepping Stones

There are many paths to finding a job and building a career in the trades, and one option is to start as a construction craft worker, as a stepping stone toward a career in a more skilled trade. Construction craft workers generally work on construction sites, and their work can range from site preparation to excavation to working on concrete, masonry, steel, wood and precast building. This wide-ranging experience provides an opportunity to establish yourself within the industry and gain valuable skills that will serve you well if you decide to pursue training in a specialized trade.