Exploring this Job
There are many ways to investigate this industry as a high school student. Why not find a summer or part-time job at a local construction company? Don't count on operating the big machines—leave those to the professionals. Rather, you'll be given small tasks around the site, or assist trades people with their work. Regardless of the work, you can earn valuable experience and learn what the work environment is really like.
You can also manage your own building project, such as a tree house or fort. "Hire" your friends to help you as designers or construction workers. You'll be in charge of completing each phase of the project—from designing the structure, setting the budget, and ordering supplies to supervising your crew of workers and building the structure.
The construction of any structure, whether a small bungalow or a skyscraper, is a complicated process. When erecting a new building, an architect must first design the structure according to the owner's wishes; carpenters, masonry workers, electricians, and plumbers must work on the foundation, interior, and exterior of the structure; and building inspectors must ensure all work is done according to the city's code. The construction manager is considered the supervisor and liaison for every step of a building's creation.
For smaller projects, such as a house, construction managers may be responsible for the entire project. If the house is to be built as part of a subdivision, they may act as a liaison between the developer and prospective homeowner. Construction managers may be asked to oversee changes to the blueprint. They are also responsible for hiring and scheduling the various construction crews—excavation teams to dig out and lay the foundation, carpenters for the frame and woodwork, masonry workers for exterior and interior brickwork, plumbers, electricians, and any specialized craftspeople needed to complete the project.
Industrial and large commercial projects are more complicated, and may warrant more than one construction manager for the task. Assistant managers or foremen are often hired to oversee a particular part or phase of a large project, such as zoning and site preparation, or electrical and plumbing. Assistant managers may work with civil engineers on the structure of a new road, or with landscape architects on the renovation of a golf resort. Each assistant manager is responsible for applying for the necessary permits and licenses, as well as meeting with city code officers for periodic and final inspections. If the project does not pass inspection or violates any safety regulations, then it is the manager's responsibility to make the needed changes to bring the project to compliance.
Construction managers must know how to work within a specified budget. The inventory of building materials and tools is important. Managers must make sure costly supplies of steel and granite, for example, are not being wasted. They keep track of expensive tools and equipment, and make certain they are used properly. If special equipment is needed, such as a state-of-the-art fire suppression system, construction managers must be able to procure it at a reasonable price.
The management of a large crew is integral to a construction manager's job. Once a qualified team of workers is assembled, their daily work output must be monitored, because it is the manager's responsibility to make sure that a construction project is completed on schedule. Some managers may take on the responsibility of creating work schedules, calculating wages, or assigning benefits for workers. If there are any work-related issues, such as disagreements between workers, construction managers are called on to settle them. Most importantly, however, a construction manager is responsible for the safety of the crew and safe and timely completion of the final project.