Sunday, January 12, 2014

How to become a carpenter


I want to be a carpenter, how do I become one?


I’m glad to see that you are thinking about a career in the trades, being a carpenter is one of the most rewarding things that you can do if you have a love for building things and you want a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

Like any profession it takes time for you to become a carpenter, when I say time I mean years, years and years. But like any true profession the longer you’re in it the better you are at it.

In today’s world you can now find courses for carpenter at College campuses. Let me give you a piece of advice, do not take them. Why do you want to pay for something that you could get for free? Actually why pay for something that you could get paid to learn!

The great thing about wanting to become a carpenter is that you have to work in the industry to become one; it’s not something you can learn by sitting in a class room. Hands on is the only way to truly learn to becoming a carpenter, the longer you work at being a carpenter the more you will learn and the more valuable you will be to a company.

Here’s the first thing that you have to do, you need to get some experience in the construction industry, and you need to work in the industry to make sure that you can handle doing it. Carpentry is not an easy life, its hard work, and long hours, sometimes the money isn’t very good, more than half the time you will be working outside (which sounds fun in the summer, but is rough in the winter) and the industry is always changing meaning that you are always forced to learn new ways to do things.

The second thing you need to know is that carpenters are never unemployed long, good carpenters are only unemployed as long as they want to be, in the construction industry a good carpenter is something that is always in high demand.

Here’s how you become a carpenter, this will be your blue print for the rest of your life if and when you decide to join us in the construction industry:

1. Get a job as a labour. Find a construction company that is hiring in your area and apply for a job. Try to get hired by a reputable company, ask them if they have apprentices already, how long they can keep you employed if you are hired and how much work they actually have in the area. The money is not a big deal at this stage; you will be paid very little, because as a labourer you are worth very little to them.

2. Learn your job well. Being a labourer is about physically working every day, keeping your mouth shut and your ears open. Labourer’s move material, set up and tear down scaffolding, haul tools, shovel snow, shovel dirt and the most important thing as a labourer to learn is the art of cleaning up after everybody else. If you can handle this crappy existence for a while then maybe construction is the right profession for you. Being a labourer is a humbling experience, you get ordered around by everyone and you will go home tired at the end of every day.

3. Timing. Once you have been working as a labourer for 5 or 6 months and you have decided that this is something that you want to do for the rest of your life then it is time to start thinking about making a career out of what you are doing. If you’re committed then you have learned on the job these past 5 to 6 months, learned to the point that you don’t require as much supervision as when you started. This is important, you need to be able to show your employer that you have been learning and progressing, if this is so then you can approach your employer about becoming an apprentice. If your employer doesn’t offer apprenticeships or they don’t legally qualify for them under the government’s rules then you need to start looking around for a construction company that does. Even if you can’t stay with your current company to become an apprentice it is not a waste of time, as long as you are learning your current job well. Having experience as a labourer will help you get another job where you can register as an apprentice.

4. Becoming an apprentice. Once you find an employer or your current employer agrees to allow you to become an apprentice then they will enroll you into an official government program for apprenticeships. What this does is put your name on a list for the next available courses for carpentry and it registers you in the apprentice program, a program that has a lot of benefits and perks for you as the apprentice. Now you that you are registered as an apprentice and been confirmed by the government then the government and your employer will keep track of the hours that you will be working in total as a carpentry apprentice. The employer also has a duty to make sure that you are learning certain skills on the job, but it is also your job to make sure that you learn, that means you have to ask questions and pay attention at work to more than just what your labourer job requires. As you learn you will be given more opportunity to observe carpenters and work alongside of them instead of just labouring.

5. Schooling. There are three parts to your schooling, 3 courses; each course is about 8 weeks long. You cannot take the courses back to back to back, you can only take at a minimum of 1 course that is 8 weeks long a year. That means that just to finish the schooling part of the apprenticeship will take you a minimum of 3 years. Usually with the current demand on these courses it takes longer to complete the courses, the average time is usually is 4 to 5 years to complete. That’s not a big deal because the total hours you require to be allowed to take the final carpentry exam is longer than 3 years of full employment
6. The perks. Other then learning valuable things that the 8 week courses will give you there are several other things that are there to help you.  You are illegible for unemployment while you are attending your schooling. You are also given a travel allowance, baby sitting allowance and a cash bonus as incentive from the government every time you complete one of the courses. They also have a 0% interest tool loan that they will offer you so that you can buy tools to help you get started as a carpenter, you do not have to pay the loan back until after your have finished the courses.

7. It’s on you. It is on you to learn this trade, the schooling will only give you some of the basics in math, how to properly read plans, how to understand the building code, how to read the code book and other basic skills. Everything else you will learn from being hands on, onsite working with master carpenters that know more then you and always will. This is not like a high school or college course where you are trying to learn enough to get a good mark on the final exam, this is your lively hood, and the more you know and know how to do the more valuable you become to companies in the construction industry.

8. Evaluations. In my company apprentices are evaluated as they progress through the apprenticeship program and are rewarded accordingly for their learning, dedication and skills by increases in pay and added responsibilities. If I have an apprentices who is not taking the learning seriously or doesn’t bother to sign up for the new courses then that will reflect on their standing in my company, their future employment in my company, their responsibilities and their level of pay.

9. The final exam. Once you have finished your schooling and you have enough hours to qualify then you are eligible to challenge the final exam. If and when you are able to pass that test you will be what is called a RED SEAL carpenter. The great thing about a red seal carpenter is that it is recognized all over Canada and also a lot of states in the USA. This shows people that you are what you say you are, a qualified and skilled carpenter.

Some of things you have to understand about being a carpenter. It isn’t just about being able to build things with tools, carpenters are in charge of people, carpenters have people working under them, carpenters are an authority figure, that means that they are in charge of labourers and apprentices; they control their work, safety and training. That’s a lot of responsibility to have, that means that as a carpenter you’re in charge of production as well, if you are given 4 men to work with you it is your job to keep them all working all the time, safely and efficiently. This is something that you will not learn in school, you can only learn these things by being part of them so that you can understand what way is correct way to manage people, material and tools.

Carpentry is not a male occupation, in the past it has been but most forward thinking contractors understand that you can be male or female and be a good quality carpenter. So any ladies that are thinking about working in construction, think about becoming a carpenter, it is one of the most rewarding things that you can ever do.

My company is always on the lookout for young people who are aspiring to becoming apprentices, I have a policy in my company that if someone comes looking for a job and they want to be an apprentice I never turn them away. I take their name, number and email address and tell them when I need to hire someone in the future they will be at the top of the list for an interview. It works well; I once hired a young man 7 months after he applied for a job as an apprentice; which was the first opening I had for a new employee at that level.  

The best advice I can give you is to get into the construction industry and make sure that you like it and then work on becoming an apprentice. Construction isn’t for everyone, but for some people it can be the best thing that ever happened to them.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

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