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March 20, 2022


Show Notes

Teachers are the most important part of a society. If we think of a construction analogy, they are like cement that is holding everything together. They are building the foundation of a nation.

The episode 209 of “The Construction Life” has a special guest Derek Sousa who is teaching high school trade students’ construction. Derek told how he planned to drop out in 10th to join construction, but his cousin fell off the roof and was badly injured so he changed his decision and finished school and graduated. He started his apprenticeship as a general carpenter with local 27. He ended up spending three weeks at a royal orchard school and that was his first exposure to carpentry.

He also worked with his friend who did house renovations. So, he ended up going to work with them for three years. And he was doing his apprenticeship with them doing different jobs.

He wanted to get a stable job so he started applying. He was hired as a maintenance carpenter for schools to manage 11 schools. He did this job for eight years.

It wasn’t until 2015 when he took a year off to go to Brock University and got teaching license and applied to his high school. His former teacher was retiring and the position was offered to him. Here are some of the important aspects discussed in this episode.

Bridge of Experience

He says that earlier in the days, there was not much practical construction, he learned more woodwork and more theory when he was studying. He studied measurement, calculation, tools, safety, but no one prepared the students for work life. Derek says that knowledge and wisdom are connected by the bridge of experience. Darek is focusing on real-life simulations to give his students first-hand experience in this field. Grade 9 is to make students comfortable with tools, theory. In 10th, he teaches them how to do trust systems while doing a mini-scale house. And in 11th, he teaches them hand-cut roofs.

By the 12th they should be ready to do the actual work.

Construction is not a backup plan

Derek believes that construction skills are priceless. One should not think of it as a backup plan instead, it is a proper career. The issue is parents especially moms are not comfortable thinking their child getting into construction. Everybody wants their children to be lawyers, doctors, or engineers. Such parents should be educated, and Darek is playing his role. You can also work part-time in construction, or work on your own property when you have skills.

Female representation

Derek says he has 3 out of 24 students that are females in one of his classes. He helps them represent themselves equally and tries to make them as comfortable as he can. One of his female students wants to become a carpenter and chose the subject as a high school major.

Safety is the Construction Bone

Derek believes safety is a construction bone. He tries to make his students aware of the safety measures and believes it should be part of every construction decision. No contractor wants to get into lawsuit troubles. People should realize there is no going back, you can lose your life, you can be paralyzed because of the jobsite accidents.


A good attitude is everything. It brings you back to the job site. How you should care about others’ business, how do you respond to the client, how do you learn from your seniors/coworkers, everything matters! Start talking to each other, learn from the next trade, help the newcomers. Derek also explained how he went online to teach construction.


Derek says that every teacher teaches on the basis of their background, it could be in concrete form work, another one can have in framing, so teaching the same textbook might be difficult. What Derek is trying to do is he’s trying to get these students to understand what skills are needed out in the field. So, they can go from his high school, straight into an apprenticeship, because he believes wholeheartedly in apprenticeship because of his experience.

He also believes paying huge sums of money for construction schools is not a wise thing to do. Construction experts should be brought into teaching and it’s all about getting these students into real-life sooner!

Work Ethics

Derek explains how students should know the importance of work ethics in the industry. He gives one point to students who show up on time, and one point for doing work to make them realize the importance of it.

Two tools that should be taught in school!

  • According to Manny, it would be pneumatic nails, and a circ saw.
  • Derek says measuring tape and hammer because they are the basics, and every contractor should know how to use them.
  • Carlito says it should be a worm drive and a hammer.

How do you want to leave the class?

He’d like to see more full-scale projects; he wants to actually build sheds in the classroom. He wants to bring the real-life application into the classroom, build at full scale. He thinks he is doing that now at a smaller scale. He wants to focus on work ethic, bringing the full-scope application in class, new techniques, and skills.

First Five Minutes of Work!

When you show up at a job site late, people will never take you seriously for life. Try to reach 5 minutes earlier, go through the details, go through tailgate safety talk and optimize the first five minutes of the workday.

Important takeaways of this episode!

  • Trending trades in his students, becoming the electrician and plumber.
  • Machinery needs to be updated in schools.
  • Usually, troublemaker kids are driven to become a constructor. Derek started as a concrete worker and is a teacher now, you can shift gears even in the construction industry. You can work on different trades, you have so many options out there. If you are open-minded, there is so much in this industry.
  • Derek’s student bought his truck (1999 Dakota) from his own earnings at the age of 21. So, in construction you can start earning from the young age.
  • You have to start somewhere. You cannot skip 10 steps and start from step 11. You have to start from scratch. You have to learn and climb the ladder and do the grunt work, and this will help your learning.
  • Car is for you, when you get successful in the industry. Start with a truck, your boss will like you for this.
  • Never stop traffic, unless you have been certified and have a stop sign. Because it can cost you not only a fine but you will be liable for any accidents that occur because of your traffic control.
  • Students want to know how much they will earn money per hour. Which trade makes you the most money. Derek replies hard work makes you earn money. Sometimes it’s not about money, you have to prove yourself, instead of thinking about money, give your best, exceed the expectations!
  • An instructor should be working 10 times harder than any other teacher or contractor to prepare the younger generation.
  • He loves Makita, and wants it to be part of his workshop.
  • Govt. is spending around $600 for each student to teach them seven certifications including CPR, working at heights, leadership, fire safety, and customer service.
  • There is always a smarter than a harder way.
  • He really would like to see more thermal breaks and insulation vapor barrier in the college.
  • What is your favorite construction word?

I’m done.

  • What is your least favorite construction?

Where’s the tool?

  • What turns you on in construction?


  • But turns you off in construction?


  • Your favorite vehicle?

Formula 1 racecar

  • What is your least favorite vehicle?

Volkswagen Golf!

  • What construction noise do you love?

Miter saw starting up

  • What construction noise you hate?

The driver bit missing the screws

  • What profession other than your own? Would you like to attempt?

Race car driver

  • What profession would you not like to do?


  • If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

Well done. It’s been awesome.