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Outline of Job

The job of a carpenter is to craft wooden fittings and installations, and then fit them in houses and industrial buildings. This would involve working on fittings such as kitchen and bathroom units, floorboards and window frames. This is a manual job requiring good levels of creativity and accuracy, carpenters sometimes being known as joiners. A carpenter can work in a variety of areas or may choose to specialise in a select few. Here are some of the specialist areas:

  • Shop-fitting – The construction of fittings for shops, offices and other public structures
  • Machining – Measuring, cutting and refining floorboards and window frames
  • Bench carpentry – Creating and putting together wooden fixtures such as furniture
  • Site-work – Fitting structures such as staircases at development stage, and then fitting items such as cupboards when structure progress is complete

Daily Activities

  • Measuring, cutting and putting together wooden fittings
  • Working on and off-site
  • Working alongside other construction workers
  • Working in peoples homes
  • Creating wooden fixtures for office buildings and other large organisations
  • Using woodwork benches
  • Using a variety of power tools

Skills Required

  • Attention to detail
  • Creative thinking
  • Good level of physical fitness
  • Understanding of safety regulations
  • Able to work as an individual and as part of a team
  • Able to follow technical designs
  • Organised manner and practical approach
  • Mathematic skills
  • Good working with your hands

Expected Earnings & Conditions

Typical starting salary is £13,000 – £16,000, with qualified carpenters able to earn in the region of £17,000 – £23,000. Carpenters who have acquired a good level of experience can expect to earn up to £28,000. Salaries will vary according to organisation, as well as individual experience. Over-time is usually available, and you will be able to negotiate your own income should you move into freelance work.

Working hours are normally nine to five, but over-time can increase your working hours. This is typically available during the weekend and evenings. Conditions will be dependent on the speciality of work, those on-site typically having to work in bad weather conditions, while those specialising in shop-fitting having to work in dusty environments. Safety equipment should be provided. Travel to work-sites is necessary, with nights away from home likely to occur every now and then.

Qualifications & Experience Required

There are no formal qualifications required to work as a carpenter, with work experience being one of the greatest assets you can have if wishing to enter the profession. It is possible to enter the Apprenticeships Scheme currently operating in the UK, which offers real work experience in areas such as construction, and then be kept on by your employer should you demonstrate good work ethic.

Availability of openings will vary according to region, and to enter the scheme you will need GCSEs in areas such as mathematics and technology, or equivalent qualifications like the BTEC (Business & Technology Education Council) Introductory Diploma in Construction.

College courses in construction are just as beneficial, but will need to be aided by evidence of work experience. Related courses would be in areas such as carpentry, joinery and construction. There is general information concerning carpentry as a career choice on the ConstructionSkills website

Additional Training & Development

Carpenters would start out in a junior position, learning on the job and from more experienced colleagues. They would then be able to work to become qualified carpenters, and could perhaps be promoted to management or site supervision positions, or, work in specialist areas such as building restoration. Teaching is also a distinct possibility, as is moving into freelance work.

You will need to work toward NVQs while working as a carpenter, in areas such as Wood Occupations. This would provide you with skills related to bench-work, shop-fitting, and performing tasks such as installing structural components and erecting timber frame walls. There are also a range of courses available from the IOC (Institute of Carpenters).

Most employers now require their employees to possess a CSCS (Construction Skills Certificate Scheme) card, to prove their fitness and skill level. To achieve this you will need to have a health check, and also attain an NVQ or equivalent qualification. Those without qualifications already working can use OSAT (On-Site Assessment and Training) or EWPA (Experienced Worker Practical Assessment) to gain the necessary NVQ and CSCS card. You may also be eligible for funding offered by the Traditional Building Skills Bursary Scheme, a programme working to keep traditional methods of craft alive in modern society. Availability of placements will depend on the area.