How did you decide to take an apprenticeship in Carpentry?
When I was young, I loved music and I went to college to study music technology, and went into video editing and production. But I found that sitting at a computer all day just wasn’t for me and I get much more satisfaction from working with my hands. I didn’t have the right skillset for a career that I wanted and decided that an apprenticeship would give me those skills and let me earn while I learn. My qualification will give me all the skills and experience to get a good job, in a really satisfying career path. I think carpenters are important to the construction industry because without us you wouldn’t even have walls! Carpenters build the foundations and structures for the walls, to allow other trades to do their work. There is also a real decoration and finishing element to carpentry too.
What qualifications are you studying?
I’m working toward a level 2 diploma and NVQ in Site Carpentry, attending Coleg Gwent, Nash campus in Newport.
What contractors have you worked with during your apprenticeship so far?
I’ve worked with a few contractors so far. I started as a Shutter Carpenter with Birkemp at a housing site. It was at the very beginning of the build, and so I did a lot of ground and foundations, ready for the bricklayers. I didn’t expect to get the chance, but I’ve learnt a lot of steel fixing – it’s definitely a skill I wouldn’t have gained elsewhere. My second placement was at ‘The Grange Hospital’ in Cwmbran. This site was already much further along when I joined – it was a bigger scale project and was a very sterile, precise environment, with lots of intricate details. I’ve also been placed with Jehu at a housing site in Croespenmaen, this was more in-depth carpentry work, techniques like snagging and floor boarding. I enjoyed this site because I got to do lots of hands-on carpentry. Now I’m working with Melin Homes maintenance team, which is reactive calls and repairs for residents. Being on lots of sites has meant that I’ve gained an appreciation for what other trades people do. Individual trades are a lot more difficult than I thought. It takes a long time to build up trust on sites, but moving from site-to-site, you do get to learn from lots of different people. Everyone has their own tips and tricks on how to do things.
How do you find balancing your apprenticeship with college and your personal life?
Well, just like everyone else, I don’t have much of a social life at the moment because of Covid. I have one day a week at home doing my diploma work and four days a week working on site. I have to guide myself a little more and be more disciplined with my time than I would normally need to. I have to keep my head down and make sure I keep on track, but my tutors are always available to help, through video calls and online classes.
What has been the most enjoyable part of your apprenticeship?
I really enjoy the site atmosphere, it’s a different pace from any roles I’ve had before. It can be a bit surreal when you first start. It’s really busy and there are lots of different trades going on round you, but I got used to it quickly and I enjoy it a lot. I feel like I’m part of something much bigger than myself. Towards the end of my time on my first placement with Birkemp, once I’d been on site for a while, I was trusted and had a lot of faith placed in me to do my own work and to get it right. I was given a few more complicated tasks too. One thing I wasn’t expecting to need to perfect is to be able to tie a good knot! I’m always tying string lines, and they are really fiddly!
What does the future look like for your career as a Carpenter?
Ideally, I’d like to be with a company for a few more years to gain more experience and to firm up my new skills. In the long term I’m hoping to go into property development, specifically renovations. I’d tell anyone who is considering taking up a construction apprenticeship to definitely go for it! You’ll never know how much you’ll enjoy it until you give it a try!