Learning From Older and Younger Construction Workers

Matt Shelly
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Older workers in any industry look at younger or newer workers as unproven rookies. Younger workers often see experienced professionals as traditionalists who are stuck in old, inefficient ways. The truth is, younger and older workers can learn a lot from each other, and one of the best ways to build a strong construction team is to diversify the age and experience of the employees.


Older workers have been around for years and worked through a number of challenges. They've seen construction cycle through booms and busts, so they're in a position to offer advice to newbies on how to maintain personal finances and seek work when building is on the decline. Experienced construction workers have also dealt with a plethora of project types. When teams are faced with seemingly impossible projects or problems that can't be solved with obvious solutions, older workers are able to pull from historical experience and knowledge. There's incredible value in personal stories, so older workers shouldn't be afraid to share their stories with rookies—you never know who you might inspire with your tale.


Younger workers bring their own stories to the job site. One way newbies can help older workers is by reminding them that it's okay to be inspired and dream. A construction worker who is working on year ten or fifteen may be so involved with the daily grind of life and work that he's forgotten to pursue ambitions; younger professionals can teach experienced workers to take risks again. Newly trained or educated professionals also bring information about new technologies and processes to the job site. Younger team members may be fresh from technical college, where they learned about innovations that could save the team time and money. They may also be more likely to employ computers and other technologies to help face construction challenges.


While risk-taking is good when it comes to pursuing your dreams, older workers should temper youthful enthusiasm in some areas of the job site. Experienced workers understand the physical risks of a construction site; they've experienced injuries or seen their coworkers injured or killed due to carelessness or freak accidents. Young workers may feel like accidents are few and far between or that incidents are unlikely to happen to them. Recent data released by the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries indicates that construction-related falls kill five workers every week; older workers can help newbies understand how to stay safe on the job.


Diversification in any workplace helps teams approach problems from different angles and come up with viable solutions. In the construction industry, older workers can teach newbies to deal with challenges, pass on important skills, and help keep everyone safe. Newer workers can bring hope and renewal to the work site and teach experienced pros about new technology.


(Photo courtesy of stockimages / freedigitalphotos.net)


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  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Thanks Susan. You're right, older workers need to mentor the new ones. There is so much that a new employee needs to know. However, most of the time the focus is only on what a new person can learn, not what they can teach. A new construction worker has a fresh perspective and is usually more enthusiastic about the work, which rubs off on the older workers.
  • Susan B
    Susan B
    It's not easy for the inexperienced to break in without a few bumps. It's up to the experienced to accept and guide them - because, they also had to start somewhere...

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