|98-99 Handbook Contents...||UMSL Govt. Docs...||UMSL Libraries...||UMSL Home...|
Nature of the Work
* The largest construction trade in 1996 with 996,000 workers, nearly one-third of whom were self employed.
* Although employment is expected to grow slowly, job opportunities should be excellent because high turnover rates create many job openings.
* Carpenters with skills in all aspects of carpentry work the most steadily because they have the versatility to perform whatever types of jobs that may be available.
Carpenters are involved in many different kinds of construction activity. They cut, fit, and assemble wood and other materials in the construction of buildings, highways, bridges, docks, industrial plants, boats, and many other structures. Their duties vary by type of employer. A carpenter employed by a special trade contractor, for example, may specialize in one or two activities, such as setting forms for concrete construction or erecting scaffolding. However, a carpenter employed by a general building contractor may perform many tasks, such as framing walls and partitions, putting in doors and windows, hanging kitchen cabinets, and installing paneling and tile ceilings.
Local building codes often dictate where certain materials can be used, and carpenters must know these requirements. Each carpentry task is somewhat different, but most involve the same basic steps. Working from blueprints or instructions from supervisors, carpenters first do the layoutmeasuring, marking, and arranging materials. They then cut and shape wood, plastic, ceiling tile, fiberglass, or drywall using hand and power tools, such as chisels, planes, saws, drills, and sanders, and then join the materials with nails, screws, staples, or adhesives. In the final step, they check the accuracy of their work with levels, rules, plumb bobs, and framing squares and make any necessary adjustments. When working with prefabricated components, such as stairs or wall panels, the carpenter's task is somewhat simpler because it does not require as much layout work or the cutting and assembly of as many pieces. These components are designed for easy and fast installation and generally can be installed in a single operation.
Carpenters employed outside the construction industry perform a variety of installation and maintenance work. They may replace panes of glass, ceiling tiles, and doors, as well as repair desks, cabinets, and other furniture. Depending on the employer, they may install partitions, doors, and windows; change locks; and repair broken furniture. In manufacturing firms, carpenters may assist in moving or installing machinery. (For more information on workers who install this machinery, see the sections on industrial machinery repairers and millwrights elsewhere in the Handbook.)
As in other building trades, carpentry work is sometimes strenuous. Prolonged standing, climbing, bending, and kneeling are often necessary. Carpenters risk injury from slips or falls, working with sharp or rough materials, and using of sharp tools and power equipment. Many carpenters work outdoors.
Some carpenters change employers each time they finish a construction job. Others alternate between working for a contractor and working as contractors themselves on small jobs.
Carpenters, the largest group of building trades workers, held about 996,000 jobs in 1996. Four of every 5 worked for contractors who build, remodel, or repair buildings and other structures. Most of the remainder worked for manufacturing firms, government agencies, wholesale and retail establishments, and schools. Nearly one-third were self-employed.
Carpenters are employed throughout the country in almost every community.
Carpenters learn their trade through on-the-job training and through formal training programs. Some pick up skills informally by working under the supervision of experienced workers. Many acquire skills through vocational education. Others participate in employer training programs or apprenticeships.
Most employers recommend an apprenticeship as the best way to learn carpentry. Because the number of apprenticeship programs is limited, however, only a small proportion of carpenters learn their trade through these programs. Apprenticeship programs are administered by local joint union-management committees of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, the Associated General Contractors, Inc., or the National Association of Home Builders. Training programs are administered by local chapters of the Associated Builders and Contractors and by local chapters of the Associated General Contractors, Inc. These programs combine on-the-job training with related classroom instruction. Apprenticeship applicants must generally be at least 17 years old and meet local requirements. For example, some union locals test an applicant's aptitude for carpentry. The length of the program, usually about 3 to 4 years, varies with the apprentice's skill.
On the job, apprentices learn elementary structural design and become familiar with common carpentry jobs such as layout, form building, rough framing, and outside and inside finishing. They also learn to use the tools, machines, equipment, and materials of the trade. Apprentices receive classroom instruction in safety, first aid, blueprint reading, and freehand sketching, basic mathematics, and different carpentry techniques. Both in the classroom and on the job, they learn the relationship between carpentry and the other building trades.
Informal on-the-job training is usually less thorough than an apprenticeship. The degree of training and supervision often depends on the size of the employing firm. A small contractor specializing in home-building may only provide training in rough framing. In contrast, a large general contractor may provide training in several carpentry skills. Although specialization is becoming increasingly common, it is important to try to acquire skills in all aspects of carpentry and to have the flexibility to perform any kind of work. Carpenters with a well-rounded background can switch from residential building to commercial construction to remodeling jobs, depending on demand.
A high school education is desirable, including courses in carpentry, shop, mechanical drawing, and general mathematics. Manual dexterity, eye-hand coordination, physical fitness, and a good sense of balance are important. The ability to solve arithmetic problems quickly and accurately is alsohelpful. Employers and apprenticeship committees generally view favorably, training and work experience obtained in the Armed Services and the job corps.
Carpenters may advance to carpentry supervisors or general construction supervisors. Carpenters usually have greater opportunities than most other construction workers to become general construction supervisors, because they are exposed to the entire construction process. Some carpenters become independent contractors. To advance, carpenters should be able to estimate the nature and quantity of materials needed to properly complete a job. They must also be able to estimate, with accuracy, how long a job should take to complete, and its cost.
Job opportunities for carpenters are expected to be plentiful through the year 2006, due primarily to extensive replacement needs. Thousands of job openings will become available each year as carpenters transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force. The total number of job openings for carpenters is usually greater than for other craft occupations, because the occupation is large and the turnover rate is high. Because there are no strict training requirements for entry, many people with limited skills take jobs as carpenters but eventually leave the occupation because they dislike the work or cannot find steady employment.
Increased demand for carpenters will create additional job openings. Employment is expected to increase more slowly than the average for all occupations through the year 2006. Construction activity should increase slowly in response to demand for new housing and commercial and industrial plants, and the need to renovate and modernize existing structures. Opportunities for frame carpenters will be particularly good. The demand for carpenters will be offset somewhat by expected productivity gains resulting from the increasing use of prefabricated components, such as prehung doors and windows and prefabricated wall panels and stairs, that can be installed much more quickly. Prefabricated walls, partitions, and stairs can be quickly lifted into place in one operation; beams, and in some cases entire roof assemblies, can be lifted into place using a crane. As prefabricated components become more standardized, their use will increase. In addition, stronger adhesives reducing the time needed to join materials and lightweight cordless pneumatic and combustion tools such as nailers and drills, as well as sanders with electronic speed controls, will make carpenters more efficient and reduce fatigue.
Although employment of carpenters is expected to grow over the long run, people entering the occupation should expect to experience periods of unemployment. This results from the short-term nature of many construction projects, and the cyclical nature of the construction industry. Building activity depends on many factorsinterest rates, availability of mortgage funds, government spending, and business investmentthat vary with the state of the economy. During economic downturns, the number of job openings for carpenters declines. The introduction of new and improved tools, equipment, techniques, and materials has vastly increased carpenters' versatility. Therefore, carpenters with all-round skills will have better opportunities than those who can only do relatively simple, routine tasks.
Job opportunities for carpenters also vary by geographic area. Construction activity parallels the movement of people and businesses and reflects differences in local economic conditions. Therefore, the number of job opportunities and apprenticeship opportunities in a given year may vary widely from area to area.
Median weekly earnings of carpenters, excluding the self-employed, were $476 in 1996. The middle 50 percent earned between $345 and $660 per week. Weekly earnings for the top 10 percent of all carpenters were more than $874; the lowest 10 percent earned less than $267.
Earnings may be reduced on occasion because carpenters lose work time in bad weather and during recessions when jobs are unavailable.
Many carpenters are members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.
Carpenters are skilled construction workers. Workers in other skilled construction occupations include bricklayers, stonemasons, electricians, plumbers, pipefitters, plasterers, and concrete masons and terrazzo workers.
For information about carpentry apprenticeships or other work opportunities in this trade, contact local carpentry contractors, locals of the union mentioned above, local joint union-contractor apprenticeship committees, or the nearest office of the State employment service or State apprenticeship agency.
For general information about carpentry, contact:
Associated Builders and Contractors, 1300 North 17th Street, Rosslyn, VA 22209.
Associated General Contractors of America, Inc., 1957 E St. NW., Washington, DC 20006.
Home Builders Institute, National Association of Home Builders, 1201 15th St. NW., Washington, DC 20005.
United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, 101 Constitution Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20001.
|98-99 Handbook Contents...||UMSL Govt. Docs...||UMSL Libraries...||UMSL Home...|