Older female looking to get into carpentry (UK)

Discussion in 'Carpenters' Talk' started by jjd, Sep 15, 2021.

  1. jjd

    jjd New Member

    I guess the likelihood of me being taking on as an apprentice is slim to none?
  2. stevie22

    stevie22 Screwfix Select

    Given that there is so much work about I reckon you ought to have a fair chance if you can find builder who will give you a go.

    To me attitude is all important: you learn skills. Just be prepared to muck in and ask questions. Good luck.
    pppmacca43 likes this.
  3. woodbutcherbower

    woodbutcherbower Screwfix Select

    I haven’t made any contribution to this thread simply because all the input from other tradesmen (especially okoak) has been bang on the money, I couldn’t have put it better in every case.

    So let me just share this;

    I left university with a first-class honours degree in Chemistry. I joined a large household-name pharmaceutical company based in Beeston near Nottingham (easy clue) and started working on the research team. I absolutely HATED it. Being employee no. 64,782 just didn’t cut it for me. But since I’d always been a keen amateur woodworker and was pretty good at it, I spent the princely sum of £29 having an A4 flyer printed up which I started pushing through letterboxes. Nothing major, just odd jobs - putting up shelves, fixing dropped gates, a bit of painting and so on. I did this at weekends.

    I eventually made enough part-time cash to buy a clapped-out little van and a selection of secondhand power tools. And then - one day, I was driving along and I saw these two old guys up scaffolding, installing an absolutely magnificent set of scrolled bargeboards on the gable end of a Victorian house. So I parked up and waited until they came down. Long story short - I persuaded the eldest of the two to let me ride shotgun with them for two weeks - I used up a pile of holidays. In that two weeks, they showed me how to make mortise & tenon joints, how to use a router and a coping saw, how to make dovetails, how to set out and plan work, how to glue and clamp, how to sharpen and use chisels, which timbers you use for specific tasks - a vast amount of stuff which I soaked up like a sponge. They were actually delighted to share all of this knowledge, since as they got older, they had started to realise that all the old skills were being lost, and they loved the fact that an enthusiastic youngster was so keen to learn and take up the craft.

    I did a similar thing with kitchen fitters, roofing guys and a local joiner, who I accompanied on several jobs involving hanging multiple doors, building cabinets in his little workshop and so on. I spent hours practising on offcuts. Since I figured that customers would perhaps like a one-stop-shop for jobs like kitchens, I also repeated the trick with a tiler, a plasterer and a plumber, learning enough basic skills in those trades to make a nice job of an entire kitchen or bathroom. Once I felt that I was confident and skilled enough to progress further, I spent another few quid on leaflets and strode out on Saturday morning, once again pushing them through letterboxes. By the time I got home, there were four messages on my cassette answerphone.

    I quit my job two months later, I’ve never looked back, and have now been on the tools more than half a lifetime, making enough to have a simple-but-nice house, putting my kids through college, having a holiday every year, having a nice van and great equipment, and establishing a reputation for quality work which sees my diary permanently full at least four months in advance.

    It can be done.
    Mr Rusty, stevie22 and chillimonster like this.
  4. Okoak

    Okoak Active Member

    When I left school in 1978 there were 7 or 8 sizeable building firms in and around the small town I live near, each of them took on 2 or 3 Aprentices every year and when I was at college there were about 30 of us in my year which probably fell by 4 or 5 after some of them felt it wasn't for them.
    None of those companies exist now, and nobody takes on Aprentices any more. I can't honestly recall coming across a single Aprentice Carpenter since the mid 80's......there have been quite a few youngsters that have worked for builders as kind of unofficial trainees, but no actual Aprentices that go to college and achieve any formal qualifications that I can recall, it just doesn't happen anymore and there we have the construction industry skills shortage in a nutshell.... Ironically the old (long closed) construction department at my college has been sold off, demolished and they've built houses there instead!
    Even if there were some Aprentices I've no idea where they would have to go to college now, or how they might actually get there.
    Very large national companies probably have some type of training schemes in place, and probably local authorities, but beyond that it's a very rare thing these days.
    I think the only way is to start off somewhere like I've suggested and try to make some connections from there to get where you want to be. Any form of practical experience you can get at this stage will give you more chance to progress, but right now you have nothing to offer, you need to build your value to an employer like you would build a house .... One brick at a time.
  5. jjd

    jjd New Member

    thank you. Would you know the best places to look for this type of work, outside of the big job websites I mean ?
  6. Jord86

    Jord86 Screwfix Select

    I always advocate local pubs between 4-6pm as it's usually builders hour around those times, I appreciate it may appear daunting to walk into one on your own for a beer or whatever if you're not that way inclined, but as you become more familiar and build a rapport with the regulars you will most likely be given a chance. I've recruited local labour from the local several times over the years and it's always worked out ok, only once someone didn't turn in as he'd gone out the night before and he was blasted publicly with the riot act as soon as I next saw him, never happened again.
  7. Okoak

    Okoak Active Member

    As above, you need to be proactive, you have to put yourself out there and let people know you exist and what you are looking for.
    It's a different world from what you may be used to, there is no corporate stuff, no procedures, no shortlists and 2nd interviews, no cv's or formal interview..... Its getting out and knocking on doors, asking builders on jobs if they can help, it's chatting to builders in the pub and going to visit workshops and asking if you could chat to them for ten minutes.
    If none of that is stuff you feel able to do then I'm sorry to say you probably aren't really going to fit into the industry.
  8. JOMEL

    JOMEL Screwfix Select

    Hi again
    I just watched some programs on tv this last weeks
    Not sure of the title Jays workshop ?
    They took a few folks in to train in various woodworking task's.
    Not 16 year old but older folk.
    What an excellent idea.
    They learned a lot and the work was excellent
    No paper exam just how to draw out tasks and complete them.

    Well done who ever thought that one up.

    Johnny M
    pppmacca43 likes this.

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