A Complete Guide to an Apprenticeship in Carpentry (With FAQs)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated 12 September 2022
Published 4 October 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Carpentry is a valuable trade that involves the construction and installation of wooden structures, furniture and fittings. Most carpenters get into the trade through an apprenticeship which allows them to learn practical skills from a master carpenter, earn a wage and gain a nationally-recognised qualification. If you enjoy practical work and have good physical skills and dexterity, a career in carpentry could be rewarding. In this article, we explain what an apprenticeship in carpentry involves, provide a step-by-step guide to starting your carpentry career and answer some FAQs about working as a carpenter.
What does an apprenticeship in carpentry involve?
An apprenticeship in carpentry usually takes four years to complete and mostly involves working and training under the supervision of an experienced tradesman. Apprentices learn about working with wood and develop their skills in carpentry. Apprenticeships offer an opportunity to learn about the business of carpentry. Carpentry involves working with customers to define their requirements, connecting with suppliers and resolving problems as they arise. Apprentices usually spend around one day a week at an approved college and may complete other work on their own time.
Tasks of an apprentice carpenter
The duties of an apprentice carpenter vary. Your day-to-day tasks may include:
observing experienced carpenters to learn from their work
assisting carpenters by handing them tools and materials
completing training and studying at a college or approved institution
handling, cleaning and maintaining construction tools
cleaning the work area after a project has been completed
learning how to read and understand blueprints and diagrams
completing small builds from blueprints under the supervision of an experienced carpenter
helping to choose and order timber and other materials
measuring, cutting and assembling materials
inspecting damaged structures and making repairs
How to get a carpentry apprenticeship
There are a few steps to beginning a career with a carpentry apprenticeship. They are as follows:
1. Gain relevant experience
Although it's not a requirement for most carpentry apprenticeships, getting some experience on a building site or doing other physical work can help you to secure an apprenticeship. If you're still at school, look for weekend or holiday work on building sites that may hire young people as labourers. If you've finished school and don't already have this type of experience, you may want to consider looking for jobs that allow you to experience working with your hands while you prepare for your apprenticeship.
Related: What Is an Apprenticeship?
2. Consider a pre-apprenticeship course
Completing a pre-apprenticeship course is not a requirement to do an apprenticeship but it can give you an edge over other candidates. Many people complete Technical-Vocational Education and Training (TVET) courses while still at school. This type, of course, gives you the opportunity to work on a building site and gain practical skills once a week while you're in years 10 and 11. A TVET course counts towards your high school grades and pays you for your work while you're still at school. TVET courses usually result in a certification, such as a Certificate I in Construction.
If you have already left school, you may consider enrolling in a course for a Certificate II in Building and Construction (Carpentry). This is a pre-apprenticeship course that can take as little as 10 weeks to complete. It provides an introduction to carpentry skills, such as setting out, measuring and safety when using carpentry tools.
3. Apply for a WHS white card
Workers whose jobs routinely take them into construction zones have a WHS white card. To receive a WHS white card, you complete a short training course on safety protocols and procedures to follow when working on a construction site. Once you have your white card, it remains valid as long as you continue working in construction. If you stop working in construction for a period of two or more years, the card expires. Your employer or college might be able to help you with obtaining a white card.
4. Build your carpentry apprentice resume
The purpose of your resume is to demonstrate any relevant work experience, such as working on a construction site or other jobs that include building or practical work. You can also include any other part-time or full-time work experience, as these provide transferrable skills useful in any profession. If you have completed a pre-apprenticeship course, be sure to include this and any exam results or other qualifications on your resume.
5. Look for carpentry apprentice jobs
Now you can look for jobs as an apprentice carpenter and filter the results by location, date or salary to find the best jobs for you. You can also complete training at a TAFE college or institution. Most apprentices do this at the same time as their apprenticeship. An apprenticeship in carpentry usually takes four years to complete.
Top skills for carpentry apprentices
The purpose of an apprenticeship is to help you to develop the skills and expertise for your chosen profession. You may be a good candidate for a carpentry apprenticeship if you already have some of the following skills:
Mechanical skills: Carpenters use various mechanical tools to do their jobs and be able to effectively use, maintain and repair them. Although you learn about using specific carpentry skills as part of your apprenticeship, a general interest in mechanics and tools is beneficial.
Maths: Carpenters frequently use maths for tasks such as accurately measuring materials, calculating costs and keeping track of expenses to make sure a project stays on budget. If you're already good at maths, this could be an advantage in securing a carpentry apprenticeship.
Problem-solving: Carpentry involves solving problems that occur when projects don't go to plan. Carpenters can find the best and most efficient way to solve problems before they become too costly.
Dexterity: A carpenter's work often involves working with precision on intricate parts and connections. This means that carpenters have nimble fingers and the ability to work well with their hands. This is something that you can improve with daily practice in using carpentry tools.
Communication and interpersonal skills: Carpenters can communicate well with the people that they work with, customers and suppliers. This is to carry out work effectively and safely. If you already have good communication skills, you might be a good fit for a carpentry apprenticeship.
Physical strength and stamina: Your carpentry apprenticeship might involve carrying heavy tools or materials, standing for long periods and bending or crouching. Successful carpentry apprentices are in good physical condition.
Related: How To Become a Construction Worker
You may still have questions about becoming an apprentice. Here are the answers to some common questions about the field of carpentry and being an apprentice:
What can I earn as an apprentice carpenter?
Apprentice carpenters receive pay according to an agreed scale set out by the government. Your wages depend on several factors, such as your age and your level of education. Your wages may also increase each year of your apprenticeship.
What can I earn as a qualified carpenter?
The average national salary for a carpenter is $86,960 per year, with an hourly wage of $40.32. Your exact wage might depend on the type of work you do, your level of experience and where you work. For example, the average annual salary for a carpenter in South Australia while the average salary in the Northern Territory is $97,553.
What are a carpenter's working conditions like?
Carpenters work both indoors and outdoors, which could mean working in different weather conditions. You may work long hours, particularly when completing projects. Working as a carpenter could include standing for long periods, crouching or kneeling and carrying heavy equipment and materials. Carpenters sometimes work in cramped spaces or on building sites that might be noisy and crowded.
Can I become a carpenter without an apprenticeship?
Although most carpenters enter the trade through an apprenticeship, it is possible to become a carpenter through experience alone. You could try calling or emailing local building sites or companies to see if they're willing to take you on as a labourer. You could also enrol in courses in carpentry at your local trade school or even a community centre. This might allow you to gain skills such as working with tools and staying safe on a building site.
Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on hiring organisations and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
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