How to get a job as a carpenter

Welcome to the latest in our Be Ambitious series. Today we're hitting the nail on the head with a look at at the world of carpentry and the job opportunities it has to offer.

Wood is one of man's oldest building materials, making carpentry one of the oldest trades in the world. And we're talking really old – like about 7,000 years ago (Early Neolithic Period), according to archaeological evidence of the trade.

What you'll need

Carpentry involves a lot of physical work such as climbing ladders, heavy lifting and standing for long periods, so you'll need to be in fairly good physical condition. Carpentry is also very much about precision and symmetry, so manual dexterity and attention to detail is essential. You'll also need the ability to read blueprints, lay out projects and assemble different materials. Good maths and problem-solving skills will help you out here.

How to find a carpentry apprenticeship

Carpentry apprenticeships are out there and can be found if you're willing to do the work looking for them. This can be through organisations such as the Master Builders Association or the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network, which administers apprenticeship programs throughout the building and construction industry, or by contacting building companies yourself and asking if they'd be willing to take you on as an apprentice.

Formal qualifications

Your chances of successfully scoring a carpentry apprenticeship will be increased if you've signed up for some formal qualifications. TAFE NSW's Certificate III in Carpentry is a good starting point as it's designed specifically for apprentices in the carpentry trade. While it has no educational entry requirements, you will need to first successfully complete the WHS Induction Training (White Card), which is mandatory for entry to a construction site. As with many of the manual trades, safe work practices comprise an important part of the training, often considered equally important as the "nuts and bolts" of the trade itself.

Pre-apprenticeship and trade pathways

Pre-apprenticeships and TVET courses

Did you know you can begin your TAFE studies while you're still at school? This is through the TVET program. TVET stands for "TAFE-delivered vocational education and training", and construction is an eligible industry area. It means you can learn valuable workplace skills and gain hands-on experience while you're still at school, increasing your prospects of employment.

The TVET program has been developed by the Board of Studies and can count towards your HSC. Upon completion of your TVET course, you'll be awarded a Certificate I in Construction qualification, which is nationally accredited and recognised. If you're interested in starting your training while still at school, speak to a career advisor either at your school or your nearest TAFE NSW college.

Other pre-apprenticeship pathways include School Based Apprenticeships & Traineeships.

Graduated from High School?

You may enrol in the Certificate II in Construction Pathways which equips you with a range of trade skills in this 'trade tester' qualification. Completion of this course may also give you eligibility for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) for most building trade courses and careers.

Final thoughts

Being a carpenter can be a very rewarding trade. Your work environment can change from project to project, which keeps it interesting and varied, and your skills and knowledge will always be in demand. Best of all, you never know where your trade will take you. Actor Harrison Ford was originally trained as a carpenter, and only got his big break in movies when he was hired to build cabinets for director George Lucas. Now there's an example of your trade taking you clear across the galaxy!

Download your free Carpentry Course Guide here.