What Is a Carpenter’s Helper? (Plus How to Become One)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published November 22, 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Carpenters transform simple raw materials, such as wood, wood substitutes, and other materials, into structures they build, install, maintain, or repair. When performing these duties, a carpenter can use an assistant to ensure they meet project deadlines. If you're considering a carpentry career, understanding what a helper's duties and responsibilities are could help you succeed. In this article, we explain what a carpenter's helper is, provide four steps to become one and what to expect, and describe some industry trends.
What is a carpenter's helper?
A carpenter's helper assists a lead carpenter in completing projects on time and efficiently. Their work helps a carpenter focus on specialized tasks. Depending on the project's or employer's requirements, these helpers can perform various duties. They might clean materials before and after each use, move them through a construction site, or check them for defects. In addition, they may cut wood, install drywall, and maintain the tools and equipment necessary for completing projects. They can also help measure surfaces to establish vital reference points for structure installation.
A carpenter's assistant may begin by reviewing blueprints and construction plans for the finished product with the lead carpenter. After that, they perform the required tasks under the carpenter's supervision. They typically don't work on the primary parts of a project, such as establishing a project's start or communicating with the client. Many carpenter's helpers are apprentices who are training to become full-time carpenters. Still, companies might hire a carpenter's assistant for a temporary role when they need extra staff for a large project. Some other carpenter's helper duties are:
measuring materials to make the right cuts
operating machinery (such as saws, drills, and other power tools) to cut material
installing drywall and other project materials
cutting boards and wood planks to specific sizes using a table or circular saw
painting walls and other surfaces with paint rollers, brushes, and spray equipment
installing plasterboard or sheetrock on ceilings and walls with nails, hammers, hand tools, and trowels
attaching moulding and other wood trimmings to ceilings or walls
Related: 20 Skilled Trade Jobs in Demand
How to become a carpenter's helper
Here are four steps you can take to start a carpenter's assistant career:
1. Complete high school
It's possible to work as a carpenter's assistant with a high school diploma. When you're in high school, take relevant courses to learn the necessary carpentry skills. Classes such as drawing, math, drafting, and design can help you do so. In addition, you could learn about various carpentry tools, terminology, and workshop operations.
2. Enrol in a carpentry training course
You can enrol in a carpentry course at a community college or technical institution after completing high school. Some employers don't require that carpenter's helpers have specialized training, so this is typically optional. Training can still be beneficial because it increases your options when applying for a job. Additionally, you may receive a significant amount of on-the-job training as you progress in your career. You are likely to learn about safety procedures, how to use power tools, and complete daily tasks. Depending on the employer and the role's complexity, training may last a few days, weeks, or months.
Related: How to Become a Carpenter in 6 Steps
3. Develop carpenter's assistant skills
Developing these skills can help you succeed in this role:
Safety expertise: This is an important carpentry skill because carpenter's helpers work with heavy equipment and tools, perhaps in high spaces. These assistants know how to use their equipment and tools safely to protect themselves and others from injuries.
Communication: This important skill can help you work with the lead carpenter and other team members more efficiently. You can use it when asking questions, sharing ideas, and providing feedback to ensure you understand a project's requirements and your supervisors' expectations.
Attention to detail: In this role, you work with multiple tools and materials, so understanding how to identify the correct ones for a project is important. This skill can also help you identify potential safety hazards during a project and take precautions to avoid them.
Organization: This can help you and the rest of your team efficiently complete a project and avoid delays. You might be responsible for organizing a crew's materials and tools, which can include monitoring who owns or is borrowing which tools, where the equipment is, and which materials the crew is using.
Teamwork: You often collaborate with lead carpenters in this role, so effective teamwork is a highly important skill to develop. It's common to work as part of a team of crew members to reach a shared goal.
Technical expertise: You are likely to perform various tasks that require technical skills in this role. These could include reading and understanding blueprints, using various machinery, and knowing which tools and materials to use during a project.
Strength and stamina: You perform manual labour that involves long hours of walking, standing, and climbing ladders in this role. You also lift and hold heavy materials, which requires a high level of physical strength and stamina.
Math: This role involves using math to calculate a structure's dimensions. You can use this skill to estimate how much of each material you or your team needs to complete the project.
Related: 8 Carpenter Skills for Your Resume
4. Get work experience
Completing more carpentry work means you gain more experience in the field. Doing so helps you enhance your skills. It can also increase the amount of professional opportunities for which you qualify. You can start searching various job boards for a carpenter or company advertising for these helpers to assist them with projects.
Carpenter's assistant work environment
A carpenter's assistant has a physically demanding role. They help lift heavy equipment and materials and frequently kneel and bend throughout their workday. Depending on the project, they may be working either indoors or outdoors, usually for eight hours daily, five days a week. You might also have required overtime when working on an important project with a tight deadline. Many of your responsibilities involve working in a hazardous area. This would require that you wear protective gear, such as gloves, hard hats, reinforced boots, and safety glasses.
Carpentry career advancement path
The role of a carpenter's assistant is an entry-level job, which means there are many advancement opportunities. For example, you can work up to becoming a carpenter and then a lead or senior carpenter. You can then advance to a journeyperson carpenter role, and eventually to a master carpenter. Next, you may progress to a general contractor position and then become a construction manager. After gaining enough work experience and funding, you may decide to start a carpentry business and hire helpers to assist you with your projects.
Current carpentry trends
The following trends can help you stay current with recent developments in the industry. Doing so ensures your skills remain relevant and helps you maintain your advantage in the workplace:
Using robots to improve construction efficiency is a trend that continues to advance as technology improves and becomes more widely available. If you enjoy working with technology and are interested in this trend, you can learn how to operate robotic equipment and what the benefits are. It's also helpful to improve your teaching and communication skills to prepare for working with team members who aren't familiar with these tools.
Homeowners are becoming more interested in making their homes energy efficient to help the environment and to reduce energy costs. This means you may work with a carpenter who specializes in energy efficiency to meet this demand. Learning about the latest products and technologies that reduce energy consumption can help you find work with a carpenter who's an expert in this area.
Green building materials
Green building materials are becoming more desirable among homeowners and builders. These options can be more sustainable and durable than traditional materials. You might learn to install and repair these materials as the demand for them increases to improve your employability. Doing so involves knowing the correct installation methods and how to resolve issues that may arise.
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