My name is William and I am the same type of person that enjoys the hands on experience. I started my construction career with the foundations and laboring for a block layer. That consisted of mixing up mortar, pouring it into 5gal. buckets and carrying it to where the block layer was set up, then pouring it on to his board. I had to make sure he always had enough cement blocks and mortar to last through out the day. There was also the digging of footers, which consisted of pouring the cement base on which the block sits on. You talk about hands on, that is very physical work.
One thing about the hand on approach is you learn how to make mistakes. Believe it or not, this is a good thing because then you need to research and find solutions. That forces you to question your own way of doing things may not be the best way! Doing things over and over you get better at it.
Here's my suggestion for your next steps.
William recommends the following next steps:
Another method is to get a good pair of steel-toed work boots, sleeved shirt and long pants that can stand-up against objects of construction sites that want to tear them, a comfortable fitting pair of gloves and a hard-hat as well as an all-weather comfortable coat. Then go around and knock on job-site trailer doors or trucks and ask for their help; explaining you are looking to break into construction as a laborer.
Remember bosses see everything especially if you are constantly sitting on the job or making an effort to keep the site clear of trip hazards with stacked timber pieces one might need for just that whatever.
Good luck. Oh yes I guess I should introduce myself I have over 30 years in construction in the safety and health field with a salary of over $100K and a company rig to drive home at night. And I don't have a college education. I take a lot of week long classes of a variety of safety topics and read books.
John recommends the following next steps:
1) TRADE SCHOOLS
There are various trade schools in your state and around the U.S. that offer industry-specific teaching and training that will lead to apprenticeship opportunities and better-paying first jobs (e.g., electrical, mechanical, carpentry). Trade schools are much less formal (less reading and writing required) than the typical 4-year college degree and can usually be completed in 2 years or less. You will still have to read and write, but a trade school offers a hands-on educational approach to get you working and making money in the construction industry. Don't forget to ask about scholarship opportunities.
Unions are another option to begin an apprenticeship program. With no college tuition required, this is a great way to start in an industry head-first with benefits.
3) ENTRY-LEVEL JOBS AT LOCAL COMPANIES
You can also talk to local companies, tell them your ambitions, and work 1-2 years in a couple construction trades of interest to determine which construction sector is right for you. If you're the right candidate and do a good job, they may pay for school or certifications to help grow your career. If you don't know the specific trade you want to be in or are just starting out in the construction industry, then I recommend going this route.
One of these types of companies you could talk to or interview with is a geotechnical engineering and construction materials testing firm in your area that focuses on special inspections and soil and concrete testing, for example. The position title you would be seeking is called an "Engineering Technician." I know many people who have gone this route and now work for some of the world's largest engineering and construction firms as inspectors and construction managers responsible for overseeing the construction of multimillion dollar developments, and few of them had college degrees. Most of these companies will hire people without construction experience. It's a great way to experience a variety of trades and different types construction projects, talk to people in the field, and get a better understanding of the complexities of construction.
It is important that I mention if your goal is to become an engineer or project manager of an engineering firm, a 4-year degree will be required. The right company will help pay for these degrees if it will benefit them.
As stated in the introductory paragraph, hard work is the last main ingredient for success. There will be no short-cuts, but dedication to the industry and a willingness to learn and get outside of your comfort zone will take you to places you probably don't even yet know exist.
Jonathan recommends the following next steps: