Could a Carpentry Apprenticeship be for you?

In this week’s early careers spotlight, we dive into the world of carpentry, joinery and woodworking apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships and construction (or “the trades”) go way back. Forty years ago, if you were enrolled on an apprenticeship, chances are you would be working in some field of construction.

Yet, Over the last four decades, apprenticeships have evolved massively, now offering opportunities across hundreds of different sectors.

However, the demand for talented apprentices in construction never went away. Trades like plumbing, joinery and carpentry are still necessary for our constantly growing built environment. Many fantastic apprenticeship jobs are created every single year to fill this skills gap.

So what does it take to nail an apprenticeship in woodworking? (sorry).

What is a Carpentry Apprenticeship?

A Carpenter is a skilled tradesperson whose work involves cutting, shaping and installing building materials. Historically, carpenters work with wood, but modern carpentry involves all different types of materials and environments; from building sites to craft shops.

As an apprentice carpenter, you can expect to be hands-on with every stage of the building process. Apprenticeships in carpentry work towards industry-recognised qualifications on a path to becoming a professionally qualified carpenter.

Woodworking covers a diverse and creative range of jobs. This could include setting up in a workshop, on a construction site, or as a handyman. It could also mean creating bespoke items for customers and clients.

What kind of things can I expect to be doing?

A carpentry apprentice can expect to gain experience across a wide selection of specialist areas including working on roofs, doors, door frames and window frames, installing kitchens and fitting staircases. Carpenters may choose to focus on just one type of work, becoming specialists in their field, or alternatively, they may decide to take on different types of work for an increased variety.

Carpentry is a full-time job, and carpentry apprenticeships are available from the age of 16. Like all apprenticeships, carpentry apprentices can expect to spend their time split between the classroom (learning about safe working, health and safety, and theory) and practical application of skills at their place of work.

Carpentry Apprenticeship Levels.

Progression is important in all careers as we learn and take on more responsibility. Carpentry is no different and will see you take on more skills and abilities as you complete your training.

Intermediate Carpentry Apprentice.

Most apprenticeship carpentry schemes are entry-level (also known as intermediate or apprenticeship level 2). Because carpentry and other trades are very hands-on, it is vital to learn through experience and practice, not just by studying drawings or textbooks. Carpentry apprenticeships will, therefore, accept early school leavers, assuming they have passed their GCSE Maths and English exams (or equivalent).

Intermediate apprentices can expect to spend between 12 and 24 months completing their apprenticeship by working towards an NVQ level 2 in Site Carpentry. They can also expect to spend one day a week at college, learning new techniques and practising their skills. After completing a level 2 qualification, apprentices can then choose to specialise in a particular area of woodworking by moving onto an advanced apprenticeship.

Advanced Carpentry Apprentice.

Advanced apprentices continue to hone their skills and abilities, specialising their talents further. They can work towards level 3 qualifications in Site Carpentry, Bench Joinery, and Wood Machining, learning the deeper knowledge of a specific trade.

Advanced apprentices can expect to spend a further 12 to 8 months earning their level 3 carpentry qualification. Completion of this qualification can open many interesting pathways, towards a career in site supervision, project management, heritage preservation, or higher level carpentry and construction courses.

Ultimately, apprentices who complete their training have been given all the tools required to continue honing their work on the path to becoming a master of their craft.

Woodworking paths.

There are many aspects of woodworking.

As a Carpenter,  you can work on sites or in private homes. Your work will involve constructing, fitting and building products.

In the role of a carpenter, you can expect to work on the front lines of installation and construction, working with flooring, roofing, stairs, mouldings and doorways.

A Joiner, on the other hand, might work in a workshop producing products made of wood  (for a carpenter to assemble on-site).

A joiner is more involved in the process of manufacturing, from shaped doors and frames to intricate stairways. They work on both fixed and transportable machinery. Specific Joinery apprenticeships exist to help you specialise in this area of expertise.

It’s also possible to work as a Wood Machinist. A machinist produces wooden components using specialist tools and machinery. Modern machinists create their products using computer-aided design (CAD) software and use automated machines to cut them into shape.

You’ll find specific apprenticeships available across carpentry, joinery, and machinery, although modern carpentry and woodworking apprenticeships sometimes offer valuable experience across all three disciplines.

Carpentry & Joinery
Woodworking and carpentry come in many different creative forms.

Who is this kind of apprenticeship for?

If you are practical and like working with your hands, a career in construction could be just right for you. Employers in construction are looking for motivated and hardworking individuals, however, these types of qualities are also expected:

  • Good problem-solving and logical puzzle solutions
  • Great communication
  • Adaptable and flexible
  • Excellent time management
  • Passion for building and construction.

Apprentice Carpenter Tool List.

It is common in the UK for tradesmen to use their own tools, even during an apprenticeship. Common tools include:

  • Hammer
  • Power Drill
  • Tape Measure
  • Framing Square
  • Saw
  • Chisel
  • Levels
  • and various power tools.

You will also want a tool pouch or box to allow easy transportation and retrieval of tools as you work on your various projects.

Luckily for your carpenters, most of these initial tools are inexpensive and the more expensive items can be saved up for an purchased over time. Check with your specific apprenticeship what tools are expected. You may be lent some initial tools at college to help you begin your training.

What about pay?

Apprentice pay is protected by an apprentice minimum wage, so apprentices can expect to be paid at least £3.90 per hour, as well as having all of their training paid for. While minimum wage jobs in construction are possible, many companies will pay above the minimum wage in order to retain good apprentices against industry competition.

After you complete you training, a carpenter or joiner can expect to benefit from a wage of £16,000 to £40,000, depending on years of experience and working conditions.

Fancy a career in construction?

If carpentry sounds like something you would like to learn more about, check out our construction page for a full list of up to date vacancies. For further information, you can also visit the Institute of Carpenters (IOC) website!


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