To succeed in today’s competitive construction market, contractors need a diverse set of hard and soft skills. Hard skills include those such as technology and project planning. Soft skills are those that involve people, such as communication and the ability to listen. The most successful contractors will demonstrate a solid grasp of both of these skill sets.
Keeping your skills fresh often requires a commitment to continuing education. Industry groups, such as the Associated General Contractors of America , offer training on everything from the latest technology to project management.
Read on for a list of skills most valuable for contractors.
1. People Skills
Every day, contractors must interact with clients, workers and other construction professionals, explaining projects, understanding directives and solving problems.
With clients, contractors must have the ability to interact professionally. Strong communication skills help a contractor understand and manage the clients’ expectations.
Contractors must also interact with other people working on the project, such as architects, city inspectors and contractors from other trades. Thorough communication helps avoid miscommunication so the project finishes on time and on budget.
Contractors must also oversee workers, ensuring they complete the job as assigned and managing issues that arise.
To develop your communication skills, try listening first and asking questions to ensure you understand what the other person is saying before responding.
2. Problem Solving
Problems will inevitably arise on construction projects, no matter how well run. A successful contractor will have the ability to stay calm despite disruptions and devise a plan to get back on track.
For example, when faced with a delayed materials delivery, a contractor must corral his workers and assign them work on another area of the project, if possible. Whatever solution the contractor develops, he must decide with the client’s best interest in mind, making sure to avoid delays and unnecessary expenses.
To develop problem-solving skills, consider finding a mentor who can lend you his experience as your career develops.
Construction and computers increasingly go hand-in-hand. Whether you’re using a computer to complete everyday office tasks such as sending email or planning your next construction project with Building Information Modeling technology, contractors need computer skills to do their jobs well.
Besides knowing today’s technology, contractors must keep up-to-date on emerging trends to ensure your crew continues its ability to complete work more quickly and accurately than the competition.
To track changes in technology, read trade publications such as Constructech, which focuses specifically on construction-related technology.
4. Project Management
Project planning technically involves many skills, but all come together in the ability to execute successful construction projects. Running projects that finish on time and on budget is key to a successful construction career.
Skills included under the project planning umbrella include budgeting, ensuring the number of workers on site matches the amount of available work, and making sure all building codes and safety guidelines are met.
Local colleges often offer project management training for contractors. Purchasing software may also help you track a project’s many moving pieces. Available programs include Projectmates, Procore, and Trimble .