Trades are not things you learn once and then you’re set for the rest of your career. Like most other fields, trades are constantly evolving. For carpenters, that evolution may take the form of building code changes, improvements in technology, the development of new “green” (i.e., environmentally friendly) construction materials and methods, and so on. Even after you have finished your apprenticeship and become a journeyman carpenter, and even after you have worked for several years and achieved master carpenter status, you will never stop learning. As an added bonus, the more advanced skills you have, the higher a salary you will be able to command!
Many of the same organizations that offer carpentry apprenticeship programs—like unions and contractor organizations—also have continuing education, or skill advancement, courses that working carpenters can take to enhance their current skills or to learn new ones. For example, carpenters can take course in how to layout and install acoustic ceilings or floor coverings, how to apply finishes and veneers to millwork, and how to create concrete frames. They may also learn how to build stairs and install roofing. These are excellent skills to have for all carpenters working in building construction, residential, commercial, or industrial.
Many carpentry schools also offer courses in other trades, like plumbing and welding, and in carpentry-related trades like millwork. Carpenters are unique as they are the only tradespeople who are involved in a construction job from start to finish, and being familiar with all of the different trades makes them particularly invaluable. Courses like this are highly recommended for carpenters who want to expand their specialty skill set as well as those interested in becoming independent contractors, as having these skills will allow them to fill many different types of positions on a job site.
Finally, some organizations offer business and leadership courses specifically for construction workers. For example, carpenters can take courses in communication, project management, problem solving and decision making, and human relations. These are excellent courses for carpenters who wish to own their own business as well as for those who want to become general contractors.
Continuing education courses are usually offered on evenings and weekends, so you can upgrade your skills while continuing to work at your current job. Depending on the topic, the courses may take anywhere from three hours to 40 hours or more. In some places, where continuing education is required for certain types of workers, the training may be free.
Like in any other trade or profession, the best carpenters are lifelong learners. Participating in an apprenticeship program is a great way way to get started, but it is merely the first step on an educational journey that will last your entire career.
The Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters. Carpenter skill advancement program.
Pacific Northwest Carpenters Institute. Oregon/Southwest Washington & Idaho construction skill advancement programs.