Starting a Carpentry apprenticeship

Train as a carpenter - & Earn while you learn

Enrolling in a wood occupations NVQ carpentry apprenticeship is the best way to start your career as a carpenter.

An apprenticeship is a great way of gaining qualifications and work place experience at the same time. And of course, on top of starting a great new career you will also 'earn while you learn', you don't get paid to do A-levels and going to university may result in being debt ridden for years to come.

Because the apprenticeship involves work based training that is designed around the needs of employers you gain real skills that are always in demand as well as nationally recognised qualifications.

I'm currently working in Australia, and my VISA application was processed much faster because I spent the time getting my NVQ qualifications and training as an apprentice. They are internationally recognised qualifications that could land you a job abroad if you ever wanted to leave the UK and gain experience in another country.

How much does a carpentry apprentice earn?

Every employed apprentice must earn a minimum of £3.70 an hour wages (see here for up to date minimum hourl rate for carpentry apprentices), however the average an apprentice can look forward to taking home is £170+ per week because most employers pay much more than the minimum. And, this will only increase as you gain more skills and progress through the course.

On top of the wages and training, carpentry apprentices are paid for bank holidays and 20 extra days holiday per year.

Once qualified, a full time carpenter can earn anywhere from £18,000 upwards. It's also very common for carpenters who don't want to move up the career ladder within a company to go on and become self employed. This means you can be your own boss, and even go on to employ others and build a successful business of your own. The money you can earn is only limited by the amount of hard work you are prepared to put in.

Am I the right age/old enough to start an apprenticeship!?

You need to be a minimum of 16 years old and training is free if you are between 16 and 18. There is no maximum age limit an apprentice can be. As long as you meet the entry requirements and are fit enough to do the work it doesn't matter how old you are.

How long will it take to get qualified?

The carpentry apprenticeship course is two years long. After that you are qualified to go out and work on site and that's when you will really start to learn. I think it is really worth staying on for an extra third year to gain your NVQ level 3 like I did.

There was much more advanced work in staircase design, roofing and pricing up jobs. It's definitely worth staying on for another year and gaining the extra skills and knowledge while you can. I didn't really like college and the company I was with wanted me at work 5 days a week instead of being on day release for another year.

But, I funded the third year myself and finished it in 9 months. I knew after that I'd never have to see another classroom again! It was worth it.

Where can I find a vacancy?

Go to the national apprenticeship website to find vacancies in your area. There are also opportunities there that you might not think of, like serving a carpentry apprenticeship building yachts! Check out the search tool here

What does the apprenticeship involve?

In order to qualify and gain your NVQ carpentry and joinery qualifications you are required to complete tasks both in college and at the workplace.

The first jobs in college include;
  • Mark and cut basic woodworking joints like a mortise and tenon, dovetail etc.
  • Make, assemble and fit door lining then hang a door in it
  • Learn to fit mortise latch/lock in a block of wood with a brace and bit (hand powered drill)
  • Cut skirting board miter and scribe
  • Assemble stud work wall to drawing
  • Scribing to irregular surfaces
  • Once the basics are covered you will move on to more advanced tasks including kitchens, staircases and learning roofing skills.

    What tools does a carpentry apprentice need?

    I had nothing when I first started my apprenticeship! If you are employed by a company they have to supply all your P.P.E. like steel toecap boots, gloves, hard hat, hi-viz jacket etc. Although you won't be expected to have a full tool kit you should at least if you can afford it buy;

  • Carpenters pencils
  • Tape measure
  • Hammer
  • Carpenters square
  • Tool box
  • Screwdrivers
  • Chisels
  • Hand plane
  • Bevel
  • Some kits are available with several of the most used carpentry hand tools
  • Other tools can be collected as you go. The company I worked for would let me buy tools on their account and take £10/£20 a week out of my wages. I tried to always be paying something off so I built up a toolkit quickly, not because I liked being in debt but there are so many (power) tools to get you need to start straight away.

    What kind of carpentry jobs are there?

    There are loads of different types of jobs and directions, click here to see some of the career choices available to a qualified carpenter.

    Then what?

    Once you are qualified you can stay with the company you trained with, look for a different carpentry job or even better go self employed, start advertising for your own work and build a successful business of your own.

    Have a comment or question to ask about starting a Carpentry Apprenticeship?