Beyond classes such as woodshop or mechanical drawing, there are a number of real-world ways to begin exploring a career in carpentry and the construction trades. Contact trade organizations like the National Association of Home Builders or the Associated General Contractors of America; both sponsor student chapters around the country.
Consider volunteering for an organization like Habitat for Humanity; their Youth programs accept volunteers between the ages of five and 25, and their group building projects provide hands-on experience. If your school has a drama department, look into it: Building sets can be a fun way to learn simple carpentry skills. In addition, your local home improvement store is likely to sponsor classes that teach a variety of skills useful around the house; some of these will focus on carpentry.
A less direct but equally useful method to explore carpentry is via television. PBS and some cable stations show how-to programs-such as This Old House and New Yankee Workshop-that feature the work of carpenters.
Carpenters account for a large group of workers in the building trades, holding approximately 1.2 million jobs. Slightly more than 50 percent of carpenters work for contractors, doing either specialty work or a variety of general work tasks. About 12 percent of carpenters work in heavy construction, and more than 25 percent are self-employed.
Some carpenters work for manufacturing firms, government agencies, retail and wholesale establishments, or schools. Others work in the shipbuilding, aircraft, or railroad industries. Still others work in the arts, for theaters and movie and television production companies as set builders, or for museums or art galleries, building exhibits.
Information about available apprenticeships can be obtained by contacting the local office of the state employment service, area con-tractors that hire carpenters, or the local offices of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, which cooperates in sponsoring apprenticeship programs. Helper jobs that can be filled by beginners without special training in carpentry may be advertised in newspaper classified ads or with the state employment service. You also might consider contacting potential employers directly.
Once an applicant has completed and met all the requirements of apprenticeship training, he or she will be considered a journeyman carpenter. With sufficient experience, journeymen may be promoted to positions responsible for supervising the work of other carpenters. If a carpenter’s background includes exposure to a broad range of construction activities, he or she may eventually advance to a position as a general construction supervisor.
A carpenter who is skillful at mathematical computations and has a good knowledge of the construction business, may become an estimator. An experienced carpenter might one day go into business for himself or herself, doing repair or construction work as an independent contractor.