Last updated on November 3, 2021
If you have thought about becoming an apprentice builder for a long time or you have recently decided that a building trade is a challenge and opportunity you are looking for.
Then the obvious thing to do is to get an apprenticeship ready for when you finish school or when you want to change your current career. Or maybe you are already on the building site and want to get qualified.
The great thing about the apprenticeship scheme is that you learn and get paid at the same time while avoiding student debt. However, that isn’t the reason to become a builder.
The type of people that get into a trade is primarily kinesthetic learners. What this means is that kinesthetic learners learn by “doing” alongside watching someone else or doing the bookwork.
How do people learn?
The types of learning are:
- Kinesthetic learning
- Visual Learning
- Auditory learning
- Reading learning
They say that everyone learns differently, but arguably, “doing it” (Kinesthetic learning) after watching someone else (Visual Learning) is the best way to gain a new skill.
With an apprenticeship, you will also be paired with the bookwork and a mentor to understand things you cant easily watch and learn on-site, But 95% of the time you will learn on the building site through your employer and the people you work with that are already skilled and qualified themselves.
With an apprenticeship, there is more than just bookwork like many other studies. Instead, you will also get work experience at the same time.
The good news for us is that we can earn, work and learn at the same time, without much of a student loan. You may need to pay for some night classes and on-site assessments from time to time though.
Common types of Apprenticeship opportunities
- Carpenter/ Builder
- Drain layer
When to start?
1. Starting an apprenticeship from high school.
So you’re still in school, or you have just finished school, and you are getting ready and planning for your escape.
2. A switch to building from an established job.
It is also common for people to start a builders apprenticeship from a regular office job or from one trade to another.
Typical jobs that people change from to become a carpenter
Some chiefs can get tired working night shifts at irregular times and see carpentry as another hands-on profession they can do during the day.
2. People in finance
It seems like a drastic change, but it’s common to see new apprenticeships from people that exit a long career in finance to start on a building site.
Probably for two reasons, they get bored and want to try something different like most people after 10 years of any job. They want a job that allows them to walk, wear what they want, say what they want, and do something physical.
They also have an idea of what established construction businesses can earn, and maybe they want to start from the bottom and go all the way in their new construction career with there current skills they already have behind them.
Find a trade school.
First, find the most well-known trade schools in your area, one that takes pride in getting people qualified and doesn’t let their students get stuck with an employer wanting to keep them as an apprentice or laborer for life.
Becoming a qualified builder should take 3-4 years.
There are two standard apprenticeship options or routes.
- Start an apprenticeship straight away, with a builder you choose. And do night classes.
- Or do a Starter Trade course for the first year. The benefit of doing a pre-trade course like this is that you can knock out 80% of your bookwork before the stress of having a job at the same time. You also learn how to use power tools in a relaxed environment, making it easier to find a builder that will take you on afterward. You may still need to do some night classes but not as many, and you can do them in a class rather than by yourself at home.
Finding a builder to take you as apprentice.
1. Find a builder you already know.
The first thing to do is see if you already know someone who is a builder and can take you on as an apprentice.
The advantage of this is that you are less likely to be messed around later, but this isn’t always the case with good building companies.
For example, I was stuck on my last unit for 6 months, the company I was working for wouldn’t give me this job to do, “how to apply silicon to showers and toilets.”
Eventually, my trade school just signed me off. But this type of shin happens to pretty much everyone. To keep you locked in.
2. Find a builder and a job that is not yet available.
Just because a building job isn’t listed on job search yet doesn’t mean that it doesn’t yet exist. Maybe it takes the average busy builder a month on average before he finally gets around to listing that new job opportunity.
3. Apply for the job you find.
Find your local job posting directory and send your CV. OR.
How to create an apprenticeship job?
Put a whole day aside for your career. Use google maps or your local contact pages to find all the local building business addresses in your local area. And save them into a spreadsheet.
After you create your CV you can physically print it out and send it in the mail to the business address of the builders in your area. You might be surprised by how many responses you might get.
You might also have an option to choose an apprenticeship opportunity rather than an employer choosing you. This can give you the flexibility to find a healthy working environment and a company that is growing.
Why simply just asking for a job can work?
If you are serious about learning and working, there doesn’t have to be an official job opening. If you apply to any serious building business, they would also actively work on growing. This is probably their number 1 focus.
Most construction businesses also consist of a percentage of temporary labor-hire. If this is the case, you know, there is a possibility of a permanent position even if not advertised.
It’s not important how big a company is, but how much they grow while working with them. If a company is large but stagnant, they probably have no reason to move you off the broom anyway.
If a building company is small, but their goal is to have four building projects running next year instead of just one at a time, then they’re busy educating their boys and saying yes when motivated people knock on the door.
What if you are struggling to find a builder that will take you on?
If times are tough for the building industry, you can also consider doing a pre-apprenticeship course if you haven’t done it already.
Other options are to find a temporary relatable job, like landscaping, or being a laborer for a bit.
You can and should also ask to volunteer for free to get some work experience under your belt.
I did this before my pre-apprenticeship course to decide if Carpentry was right for me.
The builder ended up paying me and wanting me to come back, so I did it alongside my pre-trade course, which was (4 days per week). The one-day on-site paid for my training the other 4 days.
Why go to a pre-trade school?
In a school environment, you can learn things faster than on a Jobsite working to a schedule, as you won’t be doing manual labor jobs in between your learning process.
You can also get 80% of your bookwork done instead of only doing it all in night classes after a heavy day at work.
You will also learn a lot of the basics of building and how to safely use hand tools and power tools.
Another benefit you might get in a trade school is extra motivation on what you can do with your qualification afterward that you might not get from an employer or your working environment.
- Traveling with a trade qualification.
- High-paying remote disaster relief construction work.
- High-paying remote work in the islands.
- Renovating and flipping the family home. (No tax)
- Building your own home.
- When to quit a job.
- How to apply for a new job.
- Working a 4-day workweek.
- Mental and physical health for builders.
- Starting a side hustle for retirement.
Depending on your school, most of these mentors are also builders and have done a range of these things and can tell you about how they did it, their mistakes, and what to do right.
Is there a demand and future for trade jobs?
Yes, as the world shifts to become more equal globally. Safety and wages have already improved a lot for trades in western countries, for other countries, it’s not always the same story yet, however.
Fewer people are starting trades; the housing crisis continues, many buildings need heavy repairs, most western countries have a shortage of builders and are relying on un-trained foreign labor.
Many western countries want and need more skilled people in the trades and help by paying or subsidizing this training.
A lot of standard jobs have an unstable future and can become quieter eventually with automation and technology.
Many jobs are currently created and propped up to keep themselves going and keep people busy.
Even though we go in and out of recessions, Builders and tradies will still be needed for as long as the economy is active, expeccially for sustainable building, repairs, maintenance, and natural disaster repairs.
Have contact with a builder.
When you have contact with a builder from volunteering, doing a pre-trade course, or from one of your friendly letters asking for a job in the mail.
Or if a combination of these works for you, then you need to make contact.
The most common thing for when a builder responds is to visit for an interview; at this point, you can meet, talk and see what happens.
- Do not rely on a trade school to find a job for you.
- Search for your own job.
- Get your own tools first.
- If you can, say no to laboring jobs.
Why should you be careful of laboring jobs?
Some builders might say that they don’t have an apprenticeship position, but they do have a laboring position.
The reason is it’s easier. There is less commitment even though the job can be close to the same thing. They might want to test you out to see if you are committed and will work hard as you say.
They could also be waiting for a position to become available (For someone else to leave) and want you to get the basic skills down while you wait.
The most important thing is that your employer sees that you are committed to becoming a qualified builder and that you have a passion for it. And that you work hard and don’t give up easily.
However, you can get comfortable and lose your focus on finding an actual apprenticeship when you get into the routine, especially if your employer gets comfortable with you working as a laborer also.
If you need a job now, go for it, but if you think two more weeks of unemployment will result in getting an apprenticeship with more applications, stay focused and keep trying for what you want.
This is the mindset that will get you the apprenticeship your looking for in the first place.
What to do if you are offered a laboring job and accept it?
- Work hard like you usually would.
- Ask your employer at the beginning at what point in time will he/ she consider you as an apprentice.
- When that period is close to being reached 3 months/ 5 months later, remind your employer and ask them what they think.
- If you sense this is strictly a laboring job, enjoy it, it’s an easy, fun job. There is no stress or responsibility. You just don’t want to be doing it forever.
- Lastly, accept the laboring job, but keep looking for an apprenticeship; tell your employer you really appreciate the work and will work hard, and you will do this until you find an apprenticeship opportunity. After a few weeks, he might decide he needs to lock you in sooner.
You might still be getting responses slowly from your letters when each builder starts thinking about getting a new apprentice at different times.
When I applied for my second job, close to 2 years later, it turned out my first letter was still on my new employer’s desk. That’s different from an email 3000 messages down the list.
Consider a landscaping job.
If all else fails, you could opt for a landscaping job while you wait for a builders apprenticeship to become available. Same with laboring, be careful not to get distracted and get too comfortable making you forget about your original goal.
One of the most productive jobs to do, could be landscaping as it can improve your ability to use power tools and work in the meantime.
It’s very similar to carpentry. Except landscaping can be a more physical and a more relaxed environment because landscaping doesn’t have many other people on the Jobsite.
And for most of the time, no building code to follow, building inspection, or even a plan to follow.
Expect to have a closer relationship with the clients also. Getting regularly fed and catered for on the job happens more on the landscaping jobs.
Landscaping can also let you exercise a bit of creativity many times. Landscapers get to make decisions or suggestions on what to do. This isn’t the case with building a house following a construction drawing.
Doing some landscaping for a bit can give you a few unique skills that you can take over to building later. But you can’t become qualified doing only landscaping work.
Checklist for applying a builders apprenticeship:
- A CV
- A good attitude
- A drivers license
- A car
- A bit of past DIY experience
- A carpenters apron
- A good quality tool kit (Read below)
- A toolbox
Here are the essential tools needed to start a builders apprenticeship.
It’s essential to have a basic tool kit if you want to be taken seriously. When you start, having the right tools show that you are serious, plus it is required and separates you from being a laborer or being laughed at.
Here’s how to find the right tools online.
Hand tools needed
- Tape measure
- Sliding bevel
- Hand saw
- Red chalk line
- Adjustable crescent
- Gib knife, magnesium trowel
- A1200 level
- A short torpedo level
Power tools needed
- Circular saw
- Cordless drill
- Impact driver
- A laser level
Tools you don’t need as an apprentice:
Most tools should be provided by your employer, especially the big ones that can become a burden for you to lug around and are going to be used by multiple people, and are subject to heavy wear and tear.
Not that you shouldn’t eventually get more tools for yourself. But don’t feel pressured to supply all the tools you need. Some standard tools employers should provide are.
- Nail guns (Some apprentices get nail guns for one reason; nail guns always provided are horrible to work with).
- Angle grinders
- Table saws
- Miter saws
- Dyna drills
- Safety gear: Like workboots, glasses, ear muffs, lung protection, and Hi-visibility jackets.
Now you have almost everything you need to know to start your new career with a builders apprenticeship or an apprenticeship in another trade.
All you need now are a few tips on how to be a good apprentice to succeed in your apprenticeship! Until then, enjoy the digging as the next two years will be a grind. For now, we have your back when it comes to selecting the right tools.
After that, you will be on your way to operating the real tools.
My name is Aaron, and welcome to Bangingtoolbox.
As a qualified builder and DIY’er, my goal with Banging Toolbox is to provide the #1 building and DIY resource on the internet for my readers.
I’m here to show people how to start DIY, and to help qualified professionals take building to the next level.
Feel free to have a look around, and don’t hesitate to ask me any questions, you can find out more about me here.