How to Hire an Apprentice for Carpenters

New Zealand has a strong tradition of apprentice programs within the skilled trades. Apprenticeships can benefit both your carpentry business and the apprentice—providing you with an extra set of hands to get more work done and them with valuable on-the-job training and experience.

Let’s look closer at how to hire a carpentry apprentice, from reasons why you might take one on to interviewing potential candidates.


Why do carpenters hire apprentices?

There are many reasons why a carpenter might hire an apprentice:

Help train up the next generation
An apprentice is a great way to share your carpentry knowledge and skills. Hiring an apprentice is one way for experienced carpenters to pass what they’ve learned to the next generation. You could become a mentor for new carpentry business owners or find someone to take over your business when you retire.

Create dedicated staff
Apprentices can help you create a staff that’s tailor-made for your business. While there are requirements that apprenticeships in NZ must follow (more on that later), there is some freedom to train your apprentices in your ways of working. This could help you create employees who already understand your business culture and how you like things done.

Grow their business
Hiring an apprentice is also a way to help your carpentry business grow. If you have more work than you can do alone, an apprentice could be a great way to take on more or larger projects. A new apprentice can take on much of the grunt work required for projects, and over time, they can complete more complicated work.


Are you ready to hire an apprentice?

Having an apprentice (or two) might sound great, but don’t start writing a job listing just yet! You should make sure you’re ready and able to take on an apprentice before hiring one.

It takes time to properly train an apprentice. You may be busy, but that doesn’t mean you can skip out on letting them observe you as you work or training them. It may make sense to bring on an apprentice just before a busy period. That way, you can give them the attention they need and deserve before being fully thrown into the deep end.

Another important part of hiring an apprentice is paying them. You must pay apprentices a wage in NZ (more on this later). If you can’t afford to pay an apprentice, then you are not ready to hire one yet.


Understanding NZ legislation

It is your responsibility to follow NZ legislation around employing an apprentice. This helps ensure that the apprentices you hire receive the proper training and work experience needed to complete the program and become fully qualified carpenters (if they wish).

In NZ, apprentices must:

  • Be paid at least the minimum wage
  • Complete a relevant level 4 certificate
  • Have a training plan

There are resources available through the NZ government for carpenters who are interested in hiring apprentices, including a full breakdown of current legislation and funding programs.


Where to find quality apprentices

The Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) helps carpenters find apprentices in their area. You can post a job listing to their online recruitment board and connect with interested applicants. Apprentices can also be found through non-industry job boards, local unions, or word-of-mouth referrals.

However, if you want quality apprentices, you may need to make sure your carpentry business is someplace that an apprentice wants to work. A professional website and active social media accounts help show that you are serious business (and could also help you find new clients!). If you’re able to offer any perks, like a work truck or free coffees, they could set you apart from other employers.


What makes a great apprentice?

A great apprentice is much like any other great employee. They may need certain traits to help them thrive in your business and in the carpentry industry in general.

Skills that typically make a great apprentice include:

  • A willingness to learn
  • Showing initiative
  • Honesty and integrity
  • Being reliable and getting the job done
  • Following safety rules and regulations
  • Customer service and sales skills

Some of these abilities can be taught along with general carpentry skills. Others come down to personality, which you can look for during an interview.


Interviewing apprentices

For many carpenters, interviewing potential apprentices is the first time they’ve been on the other side of the interview process! You may want to search for interview questions online or ask your local carpentry union if they have interview training and resources for business owners.

Some general interview tips that may help include:

  • Keep things informal – Choose a comfortable location, such as a café, where you both can feel relaxed. Consider starting the interview with some light chit-chat, like asking about their hobbies.
  • Know what personality you’re looking for – An apprentice may be talented, but they might not be the best fit for your business if you don’t get on with them.
  • Listen to what they say (and what they don’t) – If an apprentice seems to be talking around a question, you may want to try digging a bit deeper by asking the question a different way to see if you can get a more direct answer from them.


Growing your carpentry business

With any luck, you’ll find a great apprentice during the interview process. Then it’s just a matter of formally hiring them and training them up! The skills and knowledge you pass on will help keep the carpentry trade alive in New Zealand while giving your business more manpower to grow and thrive.

Looking for carpenter insurance to protect your small business and employees? BizCover makes it easy to compare and buy insurance for carpenters and heaps of other trades! Start your online quote today.


This information is general only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It should not be relied upon as advice. As with any insurance, cover will be subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions contained in the policy wording. 

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