Tips for Carpentry Apprenticeships

Carpentry apprenticeships are among the oldest of all apprenticeships, perhaps the oldest in the world. They're basis of a skill set which provides very portable employment opportunities. They're also extremely practical skills which are personally useful. Carpentry is no longer purely manual labor, it's also a highly creative field, when design components are included in the work.

Finding a carpentry apprenticeship

Unlike other trades, carpenters don't provide apprenticeships on a regular basis. Usually formal apprenticeships are offered by construction firms or other related businesses within the industry. It's easy to find them locally, or through job boards. You must be 18 or older to enter into an apprenticeship.

To get one of these apprenticeships, you will need:

  • High school education with good passes in woodwork, math, algebra, geometry, English,
  • Good manual skills
  • Classes in blueprint reading provide useful pre-entry qualifications

Other sources of training

These sources also provide trades training and qualifications, but aren't the same things as an apprenticeship:

  • Community colleges
  • Trade schools
  • Vocational training

The work environment

Carpentry apprenticeships involve four years of work, which includes academic and practical training.

The academic training deals with:

  • Carpentry theory and techniques
  • First aid
  • Blueprint reading (includes elements of layout,  putting together complex construction)
  • Mathematics

On the job, the practical work involves:

  • Learning the use of carpentry equipment
  • Construction in progressively more complex forms
  • Assembly
  • Wood treatment and handling
  • Occupational Health and Safety
  • Fundamental skills like saw use and cuts, drills, joining, frame making, etc.
  • Working with prefabricated materials for construction purposes

This training is carried out on a job by job basis, overseen by the trades trainer. It's comprehensive training, and each stage promotes the skill sets for progression to the next stage of training.

The work varies, appropriately, because carpentry jobs are actually a mix of tasks, in different settings, so apprentices soon become familiar with having a range of operations to work with on any given job. From basic assembly to finicky cutting and construction, it's an all round training exercise. The high levels of manual skills required are still present, but modern carpentry is much more assembly based. Modern equipment and working with prefabricated materials takes much of the drudgery out of what was once arduous physical labor.

A high quality of work is an important element in carpentry. Any carpenter will tell you that any piece of wood can behave badly, or cause problems due to defects in quality, warping, or will have other factors which are important in quality control. Some woods have particular qualities which makes them good construction materials, but sometimes tough, uncooperative things to work with. 

At the professional level, presentation and functionality of work is another issue. The immaculate, high standards of commercial construction carpentry are the products of experienced professionals who are hired by construction companies specifically because of the excellent standards of their work. At the functional level, carpenters are also creative problem solvers, who know how to use space and materials to work with design and materials.

Wages: Apprentices are paid on a progressive scale based on years of experience.

Hours: The baseline daily hours are usually standard trades hours, which can be 12 hour days, depending on employer needs.