DAY IN THE LIFE OF A JOINERY APPRENTICE

Steve Plumb joined Falkus Joinery in early 2017 as a joinery apprentice. In that time, as well as juggling his studies at The Building Crafts College (level 2 in bench joinery) and his work commitments, he has proved to be a vital member of the team and has already begun to climb the ranks, and was recently promoted to Junior Joiner.

Having previously worked as a display artist, he made the decision to up skill and change career. Keen to understand his draw to the industry, we caught up with Steve to pick his brain.   

How did you first get into joinery?

My first joinery experience was in my early 20’s whilst working as a Display Artist for Urban Outfitters, building POS fixtures and window displays. The actual joinery was very basic compared to what I do now, but it definitely helped develop my work ethic and appreciation for working with wood.

Describe an average day in the workshop

Each day is different. As an apprentice, I’m often working/assisting on several jobs at once so the main focus of each day is working out how best to divide my time so that I can work as efficiently as possible. That being said, sometimes big projects can mean that you spend the whole day in the shed ripping large quantities of timber down to size, but luckily most days are far more varied than that! I love the pace of working in the City and it’s great to have a big jobs list all ticked off at the end of the day.

What the best part of your job?

Working with my hands (and brain!). With joinery, I find it easy to become completely absorbed in whatever I’m doing. It’s such a satisfying and creative way to spend time.

What’s the worst part of your job?

Early mornings and the constant noise of the workshop.

What could the industry do to encourage more women to get into joinery and construction?

I think the actual industry is far more diverse than many people realise, it just has a bit of an image problem. There are plenty of women already working in construction, admittedly there could be more, but the industry needs to celebrate them more and perhaps make more of an effort to reach out women and girls in education who are looking for career inspiration.

What do you think the future holds for joinery – do you think this will be 100% machine based in the future?

I don’t think fine joinery can ever be completely machine based. A big part of job is learning to understand the natural properties of wood and using this knowledge to influence how you work with it. A machine would struggle to match grains, choose the most ascetically pleasing face on a board or even select the best timber for the job.

It’s hard to say what the future holds, but with the high demand for construction and development in the City, I think it’s safe to say that joinery’s here to stay.     

What advice would you give to individuals who are trying to break into the industry?

Do all that you can just to get your foot in the door, even if that means starting out from the very bottom. If you are willing to listen, work hard and learn then you can progress very quickly. Even if you have no experience, companies always value people who are reliable and willing to work.

We hope you enjoyed reading Steve’s story, and if you’re keen to find out more about our joinery apprenticeship scheme just get in touch.  

Although his career has only just begun with us, we predict a bright future for this ambitious joiner.

HAVERING COLLEGE: WORK EXPERIENCE AT THE JOINERY

This morning the joinery was joined by two of Havering College’s brightest students Joe Hill and Stanley Kappes, for work experience at the joinery. Both boys are currently in their first year of the carpentry and joinery course and are already making waves.

Joinery is often thought of as being old hat and so we were thrilled to hear that so many young people were still enrolling in their hundreds and were eager to learn the trade and make a career of it.

Work experience workshop challenge

Over the course of the day, we wanted to give the boys something that they could really sink their teeth in to, so we set them to work on one of our latest projects, but before we got them started we wanted to find out more about them and their views on joinery. Here’s what they said:

carpentry and joinery apprenticeships-on-sketch-up

Why did you choose to do carpentry & joinery course?

Joe:  I first got into joinery because of my brother; he’s a few years older than me and a qualified quantity surveyor and having heard all about his career and opportunities that were open to him, it really sparked my interest.

Stanley: Similarly to that, I also had a family member introduce me to the trade. My dad owns a plastering, window and doors company, and so for the past couple of years, I’ve been helping him out with the fitting. From working with him it became apparent that there are lots of challenges involving a lot of skill, and with that came a lot of opportunities. I realised then that this career path could open a lot of doors for me so when I saw the course I jumped at the chance.

Joinery-tools-on-a-working-bench

What excites you about joinery?

Joe: For me, I’ve always really enjoyed the design element and figuring out how everything fits together. I was really lucky at school and had a great teacher who was always encouraging me to do more and explore all aspects of joinery and everything that that entailed. It was through him that I started working and experimenting with CAD to develop my skills. I’ve also started working on sketch up in my spare time, which is great because it’s so simple to use.

Stanley: The thing I love is working with my hands and the sense of achievement you get once you’ve finished working on a project. I’m not much of a designer, but I can read the drawings to a high level and am really enjoy learning about the different processes, materials, veneers and finishes.

How do you approach new processes?

Joe: I’m always really interested in the research side of things, for example, today we’ve been tasked with recreating a mace stand, so for this, I’ll look at lots of other/similar stands to get a feel for them and try to figure out the most effective way to build them.

Stanley: I’m more of a visual guy and like to try and think about the structure and how it might all piece together. However, I’m happy to admit that I’m still very new to the industry and luckily I’m surrounded by so many people who have years and sometimes even decades worth of experience under their belts. I’ll always try to make a process my own, but I’m always willing to listen and learn new ways of working.

Close up woodworking hand-tool

Where do you see your careers going?

Joe: As I mentioned before, I really enjoy the design side of things so ideally, I’d like to work on the floor for a number of years and perfect my trade. Once I have a good grasp of things I’d like to work in the office as a designer and then who knows. The great thing about this industry is that you can constantly develop and grow into new fields. As long as you have a core understanding of how things work, I believe that it can really take you far.

Stanley: I’d really like to go into management. Once I finish my course I want to stay on and do the level 3 management course to help set me up for the future. It’s difficult to know where my career will take me, but I feel lucky knowing how many opportunities are out there and what could be.

carpentry and joinery apprenticeships London

What do you think the future of joinery is?

Joe: sometimes it’s daunting when you hear about joinery firms going out of business due to a lack of funding for new machinery and nowadays it seems that a lot of people are buying IKEA furniture as a short-term solution. But for me, I feel that joinery focuses more on the high-end more robust products and if you look around woodwork is everywhere. People are always going to want to handcrafted bespoke items, but there’s another element too in terms of restoration and heritage joinery too.

Like most industries, there will need to be a period of evolution in terms of trends and technology, but I firmly believe that there will always be demand for this specific skill set.

Stanley: To add to that, I also believe that consumers really love that products are handmade as there’s a real skill and charm that goes with it. It’s also way more personal and special. Yes, you can buy cheaply made IKEA furniture but those items are designed to be quick fixes that will only last you a couple of years. We’re building quality pieces that will stand the test of time, therefore we’re quietly confident that joinery is here to stay.

Students in the workshop

We hope you enjoyed this article as much as we enjoyed writing it. If you’re currently enrolled in a joinery or related course and would like apply for work experience in the joinery. Get in touch.