Construction Trades Offer Good Pay and Job Satisfaction in Westchester

Curious about the construction trades? There are a wealth of opportunities in Westchester to support a variety of interests.

From the tangible satisfaction of witnessing physical creations rise from the ground to the diverse range of roles that cater to various skill sets, the construction sector continues to attract individuals who are looking for a promising career that usually doesn’t even require a college degree.

George Drapeau has been in the construction business since 1984 and today works for the professional trade organization Construction Industry Council of Westchester and the Hudson Valley, which represents more than 600 businesses.

“We’re looking at challenges with getting a workforce that can do the work that is before us, going forward into 2030 and so on,” says Drapeau. “We have enormous opportunities.”

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That’s thanks in part to federal bills like the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a trillion-dollar investment that includes funding for water infrastructure, roadways and bridges, and much more.

“We’re moving into a new era where a lot of things have to be upgraded and improved, if not replaced,” says Drapeau. That’ll get done with the help of 18 different building trades, which includes everything from laborers, operating engineers, and excavators to carpenters, steamfitters, electricians, ironmakers, glazers, and so on.

Those who join the construction industry can generally expect good pay, though of course the exact rate depends on the trade. For example, an ironworker or operating engineer gets paid more than painters and laborers. Drapeau says “good plumbing contractors and tradesmen can earn more than surgeons.”

According to job search platform Indeed, the average project engineer’s salary in New York is just short of $100,000 a year. Joining a union could provide even more job security. For example, Local Laborers 60 pays between $40 an hour up to $60 an hour, not including overtime pay.

‘A Sense of Accomplishment’

Then there’s the element of job satisfaction. Human resource firm BambooHR conducted a wide-ranging employee satisfaction survey in 2023 to identify the happiest industries, based on how likely employees were to recommend their organizations as a place to work. Construction came out on top, based on results from more than 1,600 companies — due to both rising wages and the significant number of job opportunities.

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“You’re working with a team with a clearly defined objective, which is to build something, you’re getting paid well, and there’s a sense of accomplishment,” says Drapeau. “Then you can see the fruits of your efforts when the job is completed.”

Kew Gardens
Photo courtesy of ECCO III Enterprises, Inc.

That’s exactly why Maggie Cocks loves her job as a project engineer for Yonkers-based ECCO III Enterprises, Inc., where she has been working for seven years. “I love the fact that I can ask questions and they tell me all different kinds of ways to get one thing done,” says Cocks. “I love the process of always thinking and computing.”

She’s out in the field for most of her projects, but she also does get time at the desk, where she helps purchase materials. For her next role, she will be a superintendent, which is doing what she does now but one step up. Another path people take is to be a project manager, which is the person who oversees the entire project from cost to subcontracting to scheduling.

“I think it’s a great choice for a career path,” says Cocks. “There will always be work. There are hundreds of bridges out there that are aging out. My grandfather was a carpenter and during the depression his family was comfortable. During the pandemic, I had a paycheck coming in.”

And for someone who likes the fact that the construction industry is a promising and reliable career path but doesn’t want to be out in the field at all, there are desk jobs available. James Kingdon, who also works for ECCO III, is a design-build project engineer and technical writer.

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“Construction does have a lot of diversity of jobs in it,” says Kingdon. “I think a lot of people think about the boots-on-the-ground work, which is of course the main driver of the industry, but there is the entire business side as well. That involves all the pre-work stuff, like the design-build, estimating, and safety.”

Similar to Cocks, he appreciates the stability of the job, especially knowing that most government incentives to help the economy involve some sort of infrastructure package. He usually works on no more than two projects at a time, but hopes to see himself move up to design-build manager to take on more responsibility one day.

“There’s a lot of opportunities to do a lot of creative problem-solving in the design-build world,” says Kingdon. “There’s a lot of opportunity for us to consider new approaches.”

A job in construction might be right for you if:

  • You enjoy the satisfaction of making things.
  • You’re a good team player.
  • You’re detail-oriented and take pride in a job well done.
  • You want skills that transfer easily to other states or even countries.

Some Key Westchester Employers

  • Darante Construction Ltd.
  • ECCO III Enterprises, Inc.
  • LeChase Construction Services
  • KINGS Capital Construction
  • Yonkers Contracting Corp.

Related: What to Know About Joining a Union in Westchester County

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