General Labour Skills: Definition and Examples (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

General labour skills are important for many blue-collar jobs. These skills can help you perform physical tasks, such as lifting, pulling, pushing and lowering. Equipping yourself with these skills can give you an advantage when applying for a job that involves manual labour. In this article, we discuss what general labour skills are, explore some examples of these skills and provide tips to improve them.

What are general labour skills?

General labour skills include a wide variety of skills necessary for manual-labour jobs, such as roles in construction, manufacturing and hospitality. These skills can help employees use equipment properly, be more productive and create a safer work environment. Soft skills, like communication and time management, are also important for these roles.

Examples of manual labour skills

Here are some examples of manual labour skills that are common in many workplaces:

Ability to operate tools

The ability to use different tools is important to labourers. Tools like drills, hammers, handsaws, staple guns and screwdrivers can be very useful in different situations, such as a home demolition or renovation project. Knowledge of these tools includes when to use them and how to use them safely. Knowing when to use the right tool and how to use them properly can improve work efficiency and prevent accidents.

Loading and unloading

General labourers work with many tools or construction materials which are often heavy, so loading and unloading skills are crucial to labourers. It's important to know safe and effective ways to move heavy materials either by hand or with heavy equipment, such as trucks and trolleys. There are also often specific procedures for handling certain materials to avoid damaging them or to prevent injuries.

Heavy machinery operation

Some labour jobs require employees to operate heavy machinery, like forklifts, cranes and load shifting machines. These types of heavy machinery are useful when lifting and moving heavy objects, particularly on a construction site. Labourers usually need a license or certification for operating heavy machinery. For example, the Labour Department requires labourers to take a mandatory safety course before operating cranes and load shifting machines. These courses can help you learn how to operate these machines safely.

Related: What Does a Crane Operator Do and Where Do They Work?

Demolition

Demolition refers to the process of taking apart structures, like residential homes or offices. To do this safely, it's important for general labourers to know the processes and tools necessary depending on the type of building. You may want to take a course on reading floor plans and understanding best practices for the demolition of structures.

Knowledge of construction waste disposal

The government has policies that regulate the disposal of construction waste. It's important for general labourers to understand these rules to remain compliant with regulations. They can look up which locations allow the disposal of different types of construction waste and respective means of transport.

Communication

Good communication skills are useful for labourers working individually or in a team. It can help them communicate effectively with clients and colleagues. For example, when working on a home renovation project, labourers want to communicate with clients and team members so that they understand a client's requests and how to meet their needs. This can help them plan a project more accurately, such as what resources and expertise are required and how long it may take.

Physical strength

Many manual-labour jobs have higher expectations for physical strength than office jobs. The ability to stand for a long time or lift a certain amount of weight are some examples of physical requirements. Good physical condition can help labourers perform physical tasks more effectively and reduce the chance of injuries.

Ability to read technical drawings

Professionals, such as architects and engineers, often use technical drawings like blueprints and floor plans in the construction industry. The ability to read these technical drawings accurately can help labourers carry out construction projects accurately. This includes understanding elements of these drawings, such as the scale and what different symbols mean.

Driving

Driving is also a common labour skill. Although it isn't necessary for many jobs, it can be an advantage to have. There are several driving licences for different types of vehicles. Ensure you obtain driving licences for vehicles commonly used in your industry.

Knowledge of safety regulations

When working in construction sites and buildings, it's essential for general labourers to know relevant safety regulations. This includes having knowledge of construction safety equipment like helmets and safety belts, maintaining a safe working environment and ensuring all employees have completed their safety training programmes. This can help a construction team avoid violating any regulations during the work process and ensure the safety of all stakeholders.

Ability to work in specific environments

Some labourers may work in specific environments, such as at heights or in confined spaces. Some of these work environments require a licence or certification. Before you start working in a special environment, you want to ensure you have relevant safety knowledge and necessary certifications to avoid accidents.

Time management

It's important for labourers to complete their tasks on time, as construction projects often have defined schedules. Construction requires completing tasks in order, so a delay of one task often results in delaying others. With good time management skills, labourers can prioritise their work and handle unexpected events without compromising the quality of their work.

Tips to improving labour skills

Here are some tips for you to improve your labour skills:

Take a course

There are many training courses available for labourers or people who are interested in manual-labour roles. Before choosing one, you want to do some research on these courses. For instance, you can assess your strengths and skills to choose the industry that's the most suitable for you. Then you can find courses that are specific to your desired industry. You also want to pay attention to job postings to see what certifications employers commonly look for.

Related: How to Write Education on a CV (With Tips and Examples)

Find apprenticeship opportunities

If you want some hands-on experience as a general labourer, you can seek apprenticeship opportunities. Some employers offer apprentice programmes where employees can receive on-the-job training and earn income while they learn. These opportunities allow apprentices to learn from experienced professionals working in the industry and observe and learn from them while they work. They can then use this experience to develop their skills and career.

Related: Apprenticeship vs. Internship: What Are the Differences?

Read manuals

When learning to use a new tool or trying out a new work procedure, it's important to read any available manuals first. This can help you quickly understand a tool or procedure and how to use them safely. If you aren't sure how to use a function, you can always refer to the manual. Reading and following a manual can ensure that you're using equipment safely and correctly within manufacturer specifications. This can help reduce accidents and personal liability.

Get feedback from clients or colleagues

Getting constructive feedback can help you improve your skills and work processes. You can ask your clients or people you work with for feedback after finishing a project. They can help provide another perspective and identify your strengths and weaknesses. After collecting feedback, you can develop your strengths while focusing on improving your weaknesses.

Related: 10 Examples of Positive Feedback (With Tips for Giving It)

Maintain good physical condition

Since physical strength is usually necessary for general labourers, maintaining a good physical condition is very important. You want to improve both your strength and mobility to avoid injuries at work. You can consider regular weight training, yoga and stretching. Developing a habit of regular exercise can also help to relieve stress and maintain mental health.

Ways to highlight your labour skills during job interviews

Here are some ways you can highlight your labour skills:

On your resume

A resume is a great place to list out all your professional qualifications, certifications and licences. This can give employers a quick overview of your skill set. If you're applying for a specific industry, you may also want to include industry-specific skills and knowledge on your resume by listing your relevant experiences.

Related: CV vs. Resume: Differences, Similarities and When to Use

On a cover letter

If you want to highlight your labour skills in a cover letter, you can select a few skills that are most relevant to the position. Give a more detailed explanation of these skills, including any certifications or education related to these skills. You can also provide examples of how you used them in the workplace.

During a job interview

In an interview, employers may want to know more about your experience with labour skills. When preparing for an interview, think of some examples from your previous working experience that illustrate these skills. You want to give details, such as your responsibilities and achievements, in previous jobs. When selecting real-life examples, choose those that can best showcase your expertise, skills and knowledge related to the industry.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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