When I started my career in construction one of the biggest challenges I faced was how to learn about construction and the industry. Initially I looked into taking university or college courses, than resorted to reading books and finally to online blogs and articles. What I found was that the industry is fragmented and there’s no magical pill to learning about construction.
The following are the ten best ways that I have found, throughout my career, to learn about construction:
- Construction Experience
- Online blog posts
- Industry Publications
- Youtube and other video resources
- Online construction courses
- University or college programs
- Books or E-Books
- Conferences and Events
In this article I’m going to walk through each of the above in depth to help you learn more about construction.
Construction Project Experience
How many of you have worked for that old superintendent that kept saying the only way you’ll learn is through project experience. Well, things have changed alot since they came through the industry, but that old superintendent wasn’t wrong. Construction project experience is one of the best ways to learn how to build.
There are various ways to get more construction project experience, the simplest is to get a job with a contractor. Depending upon the industry or specialization you want to focus on you should narrow your job search to companies that specialize in it. This way you don’t waste your time learning about how to build retail stores when you really want to build power plants.
Another way for you to get more construction project experience is through volunteering. Organizations such as Habitat for Humanity will place you on jobsites to perform tasks. By putting up drywall on a weekend you’ll learn more about the trade and what it takes!
Using Online Blog Posts to Learn About Construction
When I first started writing for cnstrctr I thought that the world of online blogs that focused on the construction industry was really large. What I quickly learned is that the number of quality blogs is small.
What I did find though is that there are some really great blogs that focus on niche areas within the industry. Whether it’s Construction Marketing that you’re interested in or Blogs about Drywall there are so many great resources that people have created.
Each year I publish a list of my favourite construction blogs. Keeping up to date on these by becoming a regular reader will help you to learn about the construction industry.
Construction Industry Publications
Construction publications come in many different shapes and forms. From newsletters to magazines the benefit to a construction publication is that they are typically run by industry companies and professionals.
Some of my favourite construction industry publications include:
- Professional Constructor Central – is an online newsletter which aggregates alot of online publications and distributes emails on a daily or weekly basis.
- Constructor Magazine – is a monthly magazine which covers various subjects that contractors deal with regularly.
- Contractor Magazine – another construction industry magazine which deals with current events in the industry.
Whether it’s a magazine or a newsletter construction publications are a great way to learn about construction.
Youtube Video Resources To Learn About Construction
My generation (millenials) are notorious for our sharing and one of the best platforms that has been created to do so is youtube. Learning construction through video is an easy way to retain information and learn while you’re doing other activities.
Simply by searching for construction on youtube returns hundreds of thousands of videos. Narrowing your search more means you can learn about construction and many more niche subjects.
A few tips for making your youtube experience more valuable.
Create playlists – by creating playlists as you find videos that you like you can save them. This will allow you to pull up videos more easily on subjects.
Listen While You Work – just because you don’t want the video you can have videos on in the background and listen to the audio. Learning something is better than nothing.
Be Specific With Your Search – looking for just construction returns too much. Be very specific with your search so that the most relevant resources are returned.
Youtube and other video resources are one of the easiest passive ways to learn about construction.
Finding a Mentor to Teach You About Construction
Early on in my career I learned that people with experience are typically happy to teach you. Finding a mentor who has spent years in the industry and is willing to invest time in you is key to learning more.
When searching for a mentor in construction consider who the person is, are they respected? How long have they been in the industry? What have they done during their career? These questions will help you understand who the person is and what they have done. Don’t be afraid to approach someone and ask.
Finding a mentor can help you to learn by avoiding mistakes. Sometimes mistakes are the best way to learn, but I’ve found that avoiding them all together by learning from someone elses mistakes is far easier. Finding a mentor can help you to speed up how much you learn about construction.
Online Construction Courses
Online construction courses are a new method of learning that many people have taken to. During my career I have registered in a few – all of which have provided me with valuable knowledge and skills.
Where can you find online construction courses and what are the best? Here are some of my favourites:
Okay I am more than biased about this. We’ve been working on Constructor School for sometime now and will be launching in the coming months. We will offer plenty of online construction courses for you to enjoy and learn from all at an affordable price. Our online courses will help you to learn about construction.
This website allows people to submit online courses for others to purchase. The benefit to this is that there are plenty of online courses for you to choose from that are all fairly light on the pocket.
Linkedin has hundred and thousands of courses with a wide range of topics. With a simple search you can narrow the subject down to construction. While some of their courses to border on the more expensive side there is plenty of content and a monthly membership.
Whichever option you choose – online construction courses are a great way to learn more about the industry and techniques.
University and College Construction Programs
When most people think of university and college programs they think of young people. That doesn’t need to be the case. There are many university and college programs that you can take that will help you to learn about construction.
Today, many university and college construction programs can be taken online or part time through in person classes. The benefit to these types of programs is that they provide structure and guided learning. Many programs often come with certifications or provide hours that you can put towards certifications.
The downside to university and college construction programs is that they are typically more expensive and time consuming. Unless you are dedicated to learning these can feel overwhelming with a full work schedule.
Using E-Books and Books To Learn About Construction
I might be a bit biased about using e-books and books to learn about construction (I’ve wrote a few of them. So why are e-books and books a great way to learn? The reason is that they make you do it yourself.
When you’re registered for a course you decide when you want to pay attention. You may miss part of the lecture. A book is a choice – if you choose to read it’s because you want to so there’s a greater chance you’ll enjoy and appreciate the subject.
According to Statista over $1 billion in sales were done on e-books in 2017. That’s enough money to build and run a hospital for 30 years. Since they are becoming more mainstream people are taking to self publishing and of course amazon.
So what e-books are worth your time to learn about construction? Through my experience some of the best construction related e-books are:
- Guaranteed Project Success (authored by me)
- Over Budget and Behind Schedule (authored by me)
- The Profiteers (History of Bechtel)
- 101 Case Studies in Construction Management
- Lean Construction – Practical Insights
- Breakthrough Project Management
- Inside Commercial Construction
Construction Conferences and Events
Construction conferences and events are setup to specifically help people learn more about construction. As a professional in the industry you should use this to your advantage. Often times your employer will pay for you to attend these events.
Construction conferences are typically specific to a niche. For example Las Vegas offers an annual “World of Concrete” event and California plays host to a “Technology in Construction” event. A quick google search will pull up events and get togethers which focus on what you want to learn more about.
When looking for new events make sure to do your research. The main thing to look out for is annual attendance. Conferences can be a bit “flighty” meaning that if it’s their first year they may not have the best attendance. If a construction conference or event has been recurring for multiple years chances are they are making enough money through a large attendance.
Observing Others in Construction
One of the easiest (and cheapest) ways for you to learn about construction is just to observe and watch others. Some of the best ideas I’ve had while planning projects I’ve seen on other jobsites and stolen. Hoists in New York city all land on the roadway with large temporary loading docks built for easy access – this was implemented on my last project.
Simply by watching other projects as you walk around the city you live or while visiting others you’ll see new techniques and procedures. Taking a photo or keeping a notebook will help you to track these ideas and utilize them in the future.
Another way to observe is by arranging for tours of other jobsites. Companies often encourage you to communicate internally and share information. Make a point to visit other jobs to understand how they approached problems. Visiting completed buildings can also help you. Looking at complex completed structures can help you understand what architects and engineers are intending with their details and drawings.
Just by watching and observing you can learn alot about construction.
Wrapping Up And Further Reading
The construction industry is massive and can be a confusing place if you don’t know where to look or start. The process to learn about construction can feel overwhelming. By starting with some of the above processes and spots you’ll set yourself for a solid foundation in construction.
When you start your next construction project look at the drawings and ask yourself “what don’t I know?”. Make a list of everything you come up with. Take the list and google the subject. You’ll be surprised with what comes up. If you can’t find what you’re looking for on google try searching one of the many resources I have noted above.
What will you try to learn in construction in the next week? Month? Year? Let me know in the comments below.
As some further reading for you, check out some of our blog articles to help progress your career: