Carpenter

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Paul, mid 30s

How did you choose carpentry?

These days, Paul works in his own carpentry business. Not bad, really, given that Paul says he got involved in carpentry partly because as a "wild child" at school, he eliminated certain other career options.

"Plus, woodwork was the only subject I really liked," says Paul. Twenty-two years later, Paul still enjoys the satisfaction that comes from creating things, and finds running his own business to be very challenging and rewarding. "There's a real sense of achievement, being able to drive by something you've created or helped build."

What skills do you need?

To become a carpenter, you'll need to be good at planning, and will require some woodworking, tool and electrical skills. "The planning skills you can acquire through school. A bit of a background in maths and graphics also helps, and the rest you learn on the job," says Paul.

He also cautions that you'll need good people skills. "Sometimes you'll have to work with tradesmen who are difficult or inflexible, or you might get frustrating clients who will tell you after you've put the door in that that's not what they wanted. Not only is that frustrating, but it costs you money, too."

Paul adds that there tends to be a perception that tradesmen make a lot of money, but as he points out, "What people forget is that you don't get paid holidays, you don't get sick days. When you're working for yourself, you miss out on those perks."

What sort of work do you do?

Paul mainly takes on residential projects, with a little bit of commercial work thrown in. He says that there's a lot of after-hours work spent organising, planning and providing quotes, or just running around town picking up the necessary materials.

How do you get into the industry? 

Paul says that it can be a little difficult for apprentices to get into the field, and says that this is largely due to an industry shift towards subcontractors.

However, you might improve your chances if you have friends or family in the industry, so use those networks if you can.

Group training schemes, where apprentices gain experience with a number of different employers, are another option.

What career opportunities are there?

Once you become a carpenter, you can work as a subcontractor, or run your own business. Otherwise you could specialise in a particular area within carpentry, such as joining, building cabinets, framing, and fit-outs (which involve constructing doors and/or wardrobes).

"It's also possible for carpenters to branch out into other areas of construction, such as concreting or bricklaying," adds Paul.

Any tips?

Finally, when asked what advice he could give young people interested in getting into carpentry, Paul responds: "You get a lot of satisfaction and a sense of achievement out of creating things as a carpenter, but be prepared for hard work."

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).