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The employment question

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Scrit

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A while back Byron Black (I think) started a thread about switching careers. I'm now trying to find out what sort of people would consider a career change into professional woodworking, what they'd expect form the job (financially and otherwise) and what sort of skills they think they could bring to the table. Any thoughts on this subject would be appreciated.

BTW this does not mean I'm changing my trade - I've already made the change many years back (and more than once :oops: ) - nor that I'm looking to recruit. At least not yet

Scrit
 

tim

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Scrit

Are you looking for info only from those considering the switch or also from those who went through the switch at some point?

Cheers

Tim
 

Scrit

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Hi Tim

Both, in fact. I think that those, like me, who've made the switch have actual experiences to relay to others. From those who'd like to switch I'd like to know why and what drives them to make the switch. This is really a bit of ad hoc research I'm carrying out to try to understand how and where to recruit people into a niche market trade. Those that say "recruit a joiner" are unaware of the major differences which exist between joiners and cabinetmakers, in many ways the same differences are there between joiners and kitchen fitters on the installation side of things.

Scrit
 

ByronBlack

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Hi Scrit,

I think it was me that started that particular thread because at the time I was finding it difficult to see a way in - and still do in fact.

I would probably change tomorrow if I could for the following reasons:

- Percieved Job Satisfaction
Because I enjoy it as a hobby, I naturally extend this thinking to doing it for a living, but that's the rub; quite often a hobby is ruined by the burden of doing it for money.

- Pride
I would feel a lot more pride about my work if I were making quality pieces of furniture for a client, rather than operating a number of machines making spectacles.

In terms of what I would expect from the job. I would expect a low salary (as is always the case of entering a new sector) and probably menial tasks to begin with.

I get the impression that it's very difficult to make a career out of being a cabinet-maker, unless you attain well-known status, but then those kind of guy's seem to make most of their living from education and training.

Hope that helps your research in some ways.
 

DomValente

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Pretty much everything BB just said, except now after having achieved a modicum of success in my second career I'm seriously considering packing up shopfitting/kitchen fitting/bedroom fitting and concentrating on individual bespoke pieces, it appears that so many people have wanted my services for that sort of thing, but I've pushed them aside for more lucrative work, which wasn't my initial intention, Damnit I wasn't even ever going to use veneered boards.
Sorry that doesn't answer your question.
I think, knowing what you do Scrit, you do need bench joiners who can also do a bit of everything else so they're not going to be 15 year olds( no disrespect, but at that age you don't yet have the experience).
personally, if needed, I have taken on college leavers, but I was happy to train them, don't think you'll have time for that.

Dom
 

normanW

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I made the switch early in life,afer training as a chemist in the late sixties,Irealised it wasn't the job I really wanted so I handed in my notice I left without another job to go to, after 6 months on the dole I ended up at the government skill centre in Middlesbrough to train as a joiner.It was 9 months of intense training after which I gained employment as a bench joiner,didn't fancy building site work.I worked for about 18 months before the building slump began I found employers then only wanted time served men,and I have'nt done it for a living since.Also I found hostility from time served joiners to dilutees as we were called.It would be different today I think but techniqes have changeed so much in the building trade I would'nt know where to start.Enjoyed the training though and would go back now if this sort of training were available.
 

jonny boy

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Hello,
I have the experiences of being a furniture and cabinet making carpenter initially then moved out of that into bench joinery and doing this whilst being a dedicated home woodworker. I had to go to the joinery side of work as furniture/cabinet making was becoming ever more difficult to make a living from. Customers just didn't want to pay for hand made furniture and always compared the pricing of work with the mass produced rubbish bought in places like MFI and so-on. On the joinery front, I really enjoy it, I work for a company who make everything from standard sash windows to solid timber staicases and high end shop fittings.
We have a website, www.aknjoinery.co.uk Where you can see some of the stuff we make. I'm now at the age of 34 and can't see me changing into any other career now and i'm happy in what i'm doing anyway. If I had to make a choice between joinery or cabinet making, I think I would choose joinery although I may be in a lucky position of doing different things all the time where as some joinery can be quite production line based, especially the wood machining side.
cheers,
jon.
 

promhandicam

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I have been thinking for a while about going self employed. I've worked nearly 18 years overseas for different Christian organisations and have enjoyed most of it enormously but the stress has taken it's toll and I have had a couple of bad bouts of clinical depression.

My wife is a teacher and would really like to get back into teaching perhaps in an international school and so we have been thinking that perhaps if she found the right job which would give us enough to live on it would give me the time to spend identifying a potential market and trying to establish myself. If my wife found full time employment I wouldn't initially need to make a lot - we have a fairly modest lifestyle. The one thing that for me makes a change like this difficult is that we have two kids aged 10 and 9 and they need some stability.

My background is in mechanical engineering - HNC and 4 year technicians apprenticeship. I've done office refurbishment work in the UK and all sorts of different things since coming overseas. At the moment I'm a 'jack of all trades' (and master of none) but am really enjoying working with wood and am trying to improve my skills in this area.

HTH and would be pleased to have any suggestions / comments,

Steve
 

engineer one

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as an older pipper, it is too late for me to consider such a change, but it does remind me of one of the problems for amateurs.

that is the amount of time we spend making things. because we have no time constraints, we tend to do things more pedantically, and take fewer short cuts.

there are lots of people who want to give up jobs that are all consuming and does not necessarily have an end product, and get into one which does. but the realist knows that many jobs even craft related do not have a complete time line between the cutting out, fixing and assembling, finishing, and then delivering or installing to the customer.

today fewer older people could afford to work for very long for minimum wage, but that is say240 quid a week, and are you going to get full value from that investment? then you have the other overheads, of say 12.5-15% which adds at least another 40 quid a week. you need to see at least 7 quid an hour in return from such a person before we get to thinking about overheads and profit.

many of us can do the machine work quite well and relatively quickly, and of course with practice, will get quicker. however, if you are looking at some hand work, then you have to consider the relationship between skill levels and speed. and again although that improves with practice, do you have the time to wait?

the other thing is the work ethic. lots of us who have not worked with our hands for profit for a time, may not work hard enough :?

also lots of the young polish chippies have more hand skills than our local kids :?

it is i agree laudible to offer the chance, but i think it will be harder to achieve than you would hope. mind you given that the only jobs for people of a certain age, which seems to be about 40, are call centre ones, many might be prepared to give up on the money to get the satisfaction.

i would think you may need to think more about what you are considering offering, and then make a more defined proposal for people to consider and comment further on.

good luck.

the strange thing is with the diversity of wealth now apparent in the uk, there is more chance for a few people to make decent money from certain hand skills.but whether the market is as big as we would like :? i mean for years my old man made tiny amounts as a stone mason, now my cousin who followed the family trade, makes decent money, but for how long?

thing is how do you devine someones reputation under stress???

paul :wink:
 

mr

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Scrit":21bigo88 said:
A while back Byron Black (I think) started a thread about switching careers. I'm now trying to find out what sort of people would consider a career change into professional woodworking, what they'd expect form the job (financially and otherwise) and what sort of skills they think they could bring to the table.
q1 what sort of people? Well I would consider it. What sort of person am I ? University graduate. Well traveled, well read, grew up abroad (in the middle east - have a background of sitting on the knees of the great and good as a child) have spent the last twenty years self employed in ( and made a good living in) a business where you are only as good as your last gig. I took time out 4 years ago on the birth of my son and now hes heading off to school so I need to go back to the mill.

q2 what do I expect from such a switch? Probably not the same as I want. I expect to be required to go back to working for a no nowt numpty for pennies. The problem is in subjugating 30 years worth of life and business experience into a different trade where you have to admit to knowing nothing but being subservient to someone who might have written the bible but hasn't got the same range of life experience (possibly). So expectation in the truest sense of the word is low although hopes and requirements are not. In cash terms what would I expect? Hmmm well what do you want me to do? For my level of expertise and commitment in butchering wood and mdf / ply panels combined with what I need to pay bills(off the top of my head) in the region of £20K which alas is not sufficient on its own to make me make the change.

q3 skills to the table? Exemplary client handling skills, ability to continue the job undeterred in times of stress and/or personal danger, dedication to the final product. (I may be dripping blood from my crevices but the show will happen on time and on budget) 20 years worth of business skills gleaned from hanging around captains of (international) industry & commerce. Last and by no means least the ability to live in each others pockets with your colleagues until the job is done and still get the call to do the same thing next week. Yada yada yada.
This is not a job application cos theres only the one industry that I really fit into but I hope i answered your three questions. Im not sure that I have more to say in public but I'm open to a private discussion if required.

Cheers Mike
 

mr

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Just trying to answer the questions sir :)
Cheers Mike
 

Johnboy

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I would consider it. My background is in mechanical engineering, 4 year apprenticeship with Ford's and HNC. Spent most of my time contracting in the Auto industry as a design engineer/draughtsman. Worked in South Africa, USA, Turkey, Germany and UK.

What would I expect?

Salary. Enough to live on to start which would be 16000+/annum.
From the job. Start at the bottom and let my work do the talking. Hopefully job satisfaction.

What could I bring?

Experience of dealing with people at all levels, hard worker, reliable, good manners, prepared to undertake any task.

All a bit academic though as at 53 I don't suppose any one would take me on.

John
 

Scrit

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So far the input has been very interesting. I'm not sure that a bench hand or installer really needs customer-facing skills in quite the same way that a site or workshop manager does (it's normal to try to channel most customer contacts through a single i/c to avoid communications problems).

I suppose the biggest stumbling block is possibly financial. In this part of the world (Manchester) a bench-hand joiner earns £8.50 and £11/hour (circa £16.5k to £25k) pre-tax and without overtime or bonuses. That's for a guy who's spent two or more years at college gaining at least one C&G (level 2), although some more specialised jobs do pay more and in most good employers there should be some sort of bonus scheme as well. The difficulty is knowing where to pitch a wage level for a starter with limited experience and no formal training. Obviously there's a need to pay a living wage, however businesses aren't charities, either.

One of the plus points of age/maturity is that it is less likely that paternity leave will be requested (potentially a big problem for small employers), also older employees do tend to be more punctual and generally more reliable than youngsters with less "sickies" in general. I do wonder how older people would feel about being mentored by someone younger, say in their mid to late 20s?

Before anyone asks I'm in my 50s and I see some value in cross-training older job changers

Scrit
 

Green

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I am actually thinking about a change at the moment. I did a useless apprenticeship and have been drifting about for the last ten+ years doing everything from installing curtain walling to sign making.
I have the ability to turn my hand to anything but never really had a path that I wanted to follow until now.
At 32 I would definitely be prepared to re-train even if it meant I had to do a second apprenticeship.

Cheers
 

engineer one

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scrit i don't think anyone in this forum minds being mentored, otherwise we would not ask such stupid questions at a time :?

i think the problem for many of us older ones is the way in which we are treated. so many of the youngsters have knowledge without experience, and have what i guess is called an anger management problem. they tend to demand without actually explaining, where as we generally ask questions and want to understand why.

i think if you are setting up such a scheme, then the success really depends upon the way in which you treat the mentors and how you back them up. indeed might they not feel intimidated by their own lack of life skills???

you like me had your early education at school at a time when there were plenty of jobs to go to, so we learnt "proper hedjumication" and our teachers were often ex servicemen who had a number of extra skills.
they chose to teach and were happy to offer their skills. later teachers became much more "airy fairy" and we all know how we feel about teaching standards now when many of the kids we know cannot do the 3 "r's" properly.

being mentored requires the mentor to have a special skill, do you have the time to ensure that happens?? i remember that all my apprentice trainers in the workshop were skilled men who had a teaching skill, but in the factory often like all youngsters i thought many of the guys i was an "improver" with were complete pr*ts. they knew things but could not impart the knowledge.

anyone who is of a certain age, and has tried to get different work these days knows how difficult it is to get the interview let alone the job when often all you have is life skills, and not any paperwork.

good luck with your search


paul :wink:
 

Scrit

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engineer one":1nd27rrd said:
I think if you are setting up such a scheme, then the success really depends upon the way in which you treat the mentors and how you back them up. Indeed might they not feel intimidated by their own lack of life skills???
Thank you for raising that issue. As I stated at the beginning I'm not actually looking to recruit at this time - what I'm doing is trying to see how feasible it would be to bring into a business people who have a non-traditional backgrounds. This is because there are major difficulties trying to recruit the right calibre of young starters and I'm trying to find the "lateral solution". Is it just me or does anyone else feel the urge to scream at times? :oops:

engineer one":1nd27rrd said:
Being mentored requires the mentor to have a special skill, do you have the time to ensure that happens??
That's another major issue. In small businesses where everyone wears several hats finding the time out of your 60 to 80 hour week to mentor a starter can be very hard. Personally, I've had the experience of trying to teach a mature friend about kitchen fitting - that went disasterously wrong because all he could think about at the time was getting a nice warm, well-paid office job with a suit........ Sadly he came with his own baggage which included ridiculously high initial income expectations and a rather condescending attitude towards "the trades". Needless to say he didn't last long and is now an ex-friend :cry:

engineer one":1nd27rrd said:
I remember that all my apprentice trainers in the workshop were skilled men who had a teaching skill, but in the factory often like all youngsters I thought many of the guys...... I was..... with were complete pr*ts. They knew things but could not impart the knowledge.
That's the crux of the matter. What makes a good mentor? Is it worthwhile putting a starter with an improver to see how the job is done then having another person as mentor?

Scrit
 

johnnyb

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i am alittleconfused as to what this thread is about. i am a french polisher(wood finisher) and work nearly exclusively for insurance companies. many french polishers become so to practice an old and dying art/ trade. they will hand polish any item that comes through the door. taking great care and time to do a job they will be proud of. many coursesare aimed toward this field. it is the same mindset i work in as a hobby woodworker. unfortuneatly wood finishing is more a science than an art and speed is vital. spray guns rule supreme. even shellac antique finishes are sprayed and only hand finished. the chemicals, stains, strippers are generally unpleasant to work with particularly on a daily basis. the difficulty is finding somebody that understands these issues and will not be disilusioned because he is taking part in an industrial process not a work of art.
 

ByronBlack

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Scrit, to answer your question of what makes a good mentor:

In my field (optics), the best mentors to me have been older, wiser and more patient people. Some younger techs that i've worked with have had the knowledge, but were too impatient, or had too much of an ego to be able to mentor/teach correctly.

I find younger people with knowledge/skills tend to guard these and are unwilling to share; I assume this is because of the dog-eat-dog society we are currently in where everyone is out for themselves (* not true across the entire country though, there are always exceptions!)

An older person in my eye's automatically gains more respect from me as I know they are time-served, they have been there, done it, got the t-shirt. It also strikes me (In my experiences only) that older mentor's/teachers gain enjoyment and fulfillment by teaching - especially if the person they are mentoring goes on to do well and pays attention with no ego getting in the way.

I'm currently mentoring a 15 year old lad who I took on from being with me during his Trident work-experience, he's now a regular staturday boy, and has starting working a few days during the week when on his holidays from school. He's great, he listens, he understands that i'm experienced in the field, and he regularly asks questions to clarify what I ask of him.
 
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