What can you expect during a carpentry and joinery apprenticeship?
Mike Armitage is the Program Leader for Carpentry and Joinery at Exeter College. We spoke to him about the learning journey of a construction apprenticeship and the opportunities that it presents.
Direct Line for Business: What can a prospective apprentice expect from carpentry and joinery course?
Mike Armitage: Our carpentry and joinery apprenticeships are offered at various levels. Firstly, students can undertake a 2 year, Level 2 (intermediate) course and a 1 year Level 3 (advanced) NVQ course. Beyond these, students can progress to our HNC and BTEC Level 3 courses. Other than the course essentials, we also focus on topics like site management and architecture.
We have a dedicated Construction Training Centre that covers the full construction trades and services from painting and decorating, plumbing, bricklaying, gas installation to of course, carpentry and joinery.
Direct Line for Business: Why did you choose a career in the construction industry and what led you to become a lecturer?
MA: I’ve always enjoyed making things. So, working with my hands was a natural career choice for me. My Dad worked in construction so I started working for him, then I went to college and found a real passion for carpentry.
I always worked with apprentices throughout my industrial career and I really enjoyed it, so looked to further that aspect of my career. Teaching students skills that will enable them to earn a living for the rest of their lives is really rewarding. It allows them to provide for themselves, and eventually support their dependents through their careers. Just like my Dad did for me.
Direct Line for Business: What are some practical skills/techniques do your students learn?
MA: It’s essential to have strong foundations to begin with, so we always start with the basics. Initially, we emphasise the importance of quality and not the speed, as that will come with practice.
Training early on includes the practical basics, such as tool safety and how to plane wood (shape and smoothen wood) and cut straight. From this we train students on creating basic joints and other intermediary tasks before finishing with the complex work.
Other than this, a carpentry and joinery apprentice can expect to learn things outside their specific trade, such as accurately reading building plans, how to cut and fit roofs, skirting boards and ironmongery (metal cutting and shaping).
Direct Line for Business: What are some of the social skills that your students learn?
MA: Students spend one day a week based in a college in which they quickly learn that a day at college is just like a day at work. The same standard of attendance, timekeeping and discipline is expected as if they were on a site.
In addition to building their skills and knowledge, we prepare them for the variety of people that they’ll come into contact with. We teach them to respect other trades, diversity and equality.
We also stress the importance of maintaining good communication and relations with customers. If they’re rude, customers won’t recommend them, which could have a negative impact on their business.
Costing jobs accurately is also really important as getting it wrong could really affect their income and future opportunities.
Direct Line for Business: Why would you recommend an apprenticeship to a school leaver or someone who is considering a career/education change?
MA: I think apprenticeships are absolutely fantastic! They’re an opportunity to learn a lot of new skills and earn money whilst you do it. The skills and knowledge that they gain last a lifetime, and they walk away with a recognised industry qualification.
The UK’s construction industry offers plenty of employment and progression opportunities. Our apprenticeship courses are popular and enrolment is increasing. We’re also noticing a rise in the applicants’ grades which suggests that more academic students are recognising apprenticeships as a route to pursuing their chosen career.
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