​6 Soft Skills All Skilled Trades Workers Should Master

No matter your expertise, everyone should be capable in these areas

​6 Soft Skills All Skilled Trades Workers Should Master

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In the skilled trades industry, where the focus is often on technical skills and physical endurance, soft skills are sometimes overlooked. However, these non-technical skills are crucial for the success of any construction project. 

Hard skills are the technical knowledge and training required for a specific job or project; this would include your trenchless pipe repair know-how. Soft skills are more general abilities, such as adaptability and problem solving, that are useful in any job — and everyday life.

Research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center has concluded that 85% of job success comes from having well-developed soft and people skills, and only 15% of job success comes from technical skills and knowledge.
Soft skills facilitate smoother interactions among team members, improve client relations, and contribute to the timely and effective completion of projects. Let’s look at the essential soft skills all construction workers need to master and how to acquire them.

1. Communication

Effective communication is the cornerstone of any successful project. It involves clearly conveying instructions, listening actively to feedback and resolving misunderstandings swiftly. Workers must be able to communicate effectively with a diverse team, including tradespeople, engineers, architects and clients. To improve communication skills, workers can:

  • Participate in communication workshops or training programs;
  • Practice active listening by paying close attention to what others are saying, asking clarifying questions and summarizing their points to ensure understanding; and
  • Learn to tailor communication styles to different audiences, understanding that the way you communicate with a coworker might differ from how you communicate with a client.

2. Teamwork

Construction projects are collaborative efforts, requiring the seamless cooperation of all involved parties. Being a good team player means understanding your role within the team, respecting others' roles and contributions and working towards common goals. Enhancing teamwork skills in the trades can be achieved by:

  • Engaging in team-building activities that foster trust and mutual respect among team members;
  • Developing a deep understanding of the various roles within your team and how they interconnect; and
  • Practicing empathy and considering the perspectives and challenges of your teammates.

3. Problem-solving

In the ever-changing landscape of a job site, the ability to solve problems quickly and effectively is invaluable. This skill involves identifying issues, analyzing potential solutions and implementing the most suitable one. To hone problem-solving skills, workers can:

  • Participate in scenario-based training that simulates real-life challenges encountered on job sites;
  • Cultivate a habit of proactive thinking by anticipating potential problems and devising contingency plans; and
  • Encourage a culture of open dialogue about challenges, allowing team members to bring diverse perspectives to problem-solving discussions.

4. Flexibility

The ability to adapt to new situations and adjust plans accordingly is crucial in construction, where unexpected changes are part of the norm. Flexibility and adaptability involve being open to new ideas, altering methods when necessary and maintaining productivity despite disruptions. These skills can be enhanced by:

  • Embracing change as an opportunity for growth and learning, rather than resisting it;
  • Practicing mindfulness and stress management techniques to remain calm and composed in the face of change;
  • Seeking varied experiences within the construction field to develop a broader skill set and a more adaptable approach to work.

5. Leadership

Leadership skills are not only for those in management positions; they are vital for all workers to inspire and motivate one another, ensure safety protocols are followed and maintain high standards of work. To develop leadership qualities, consider:

  • Taking on more responsibility within your team, such as mentoring new workers or leading small projects;
  • Studying leadership techniques and styles through books, courses or seminars; and
  • Observing and learning from effective leaders within your organization or industry.

6. Continuous learning

The industry is continually evolving, with new techniques, materials and regulations emerging regularly. A commitment to lifelong learning ensures that workers can stay up to date with industry standards and best practices. To foster a mindset of continuous learning and upskilling:

  • Pursue additional certifications or training in your field;
  • Stay informed about industry trends and advancements through professional journals, trade shows and conferences; and
  • Encourage a learning culture within your team by sharing knowledge and experiences with one another.


Acquiring and mastering soft skills involves a commitment to personal and professional development. It requires not only participating in formal training and education but also seeking feedback, reflecting on experiences and practicing these skills in daily interactions. By prioritizing these non-technical skills alongside their technical counterparts, skilled trades workers can enhance their own career prospects and contribute to the overall success of their projects.

About the author: AEM is the North American-based international trade group representing off-road equipment manufacturers and suppliers, with more than 1,000 companies and 200-plus product lines in the agriculture and construction-related sectors worldwide. AEM has an ownership stake in and manages several world-class exhibitions, including CONEXPO-CON/AGG.


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