Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How to Become a Journeyman Carpenter

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Carpenters seem to do more work on a job site than any other skilled construction tradesman. They build the molds for the concrete foundation, frame up the walls, windows and doors, lay in the floor base and often hang the sheetrock on the inside of the structure and the shingles, or tile, or vinyl, or composite siding on the outside. They are also in the middle of problem solving when there are problems with the positions of electrical outlets or difficulties with the roofing and the molding beneath it.

There are several paths that an aspiring carpenter can take to obtain the necessary training for becoming a professional. As with most building trades, the traditional path to journeyman status has been through an apprenticeship. Employers with union membership in their ranks often co-sponsor apprenticeship programs with the carpenter's union. These programs, however, don't come close to training all of the new carpenters coming into the industry.

A carpentry apprenticeship can last 3-4 years. In the absence of a formal apprenticeship program, some individuals get a job as a carpenter's helper and attend classes in the trade offered by a vocational school, a community college or an online university. The classroom work is important, both to the student and to the potential employer.

Classroom studies include working with basic mathematics: algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. There is instruction in reading blueprints and construction documents that provide job details. You'll learn to classify various woods by their characteristics such as hardness, ability to withstand exposure, and tendency to splinter or crack. The instructor will explain the basics involved in framing a building, putting up a roof and building a stairway. You'll learn about various types of millwork and joints used in connecting structural components.

Students who opt to pursue the classroom work in advance of seeking a job as a helper or apprentice are more likely to be hired because of the footwork they've done. Getting into the classroom for a diploma or certificate program in carpentry can kick start your career in the trade.

The other goal for continued education in the field is management. Because carpenters are exposed to all facets of a construction job, they are often candidates to become a job foreman. With a little more formal education and some supervisorial experience, you may develop yet another new career as a project manager.

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