Apprentice needing advice - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 28 Old 12-05-2018, 09:16 PM Thread Starter
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Apprentice needing advice

Hello,

Summary: I am seeking advice from someone regarding my pay and what is normal to expect for someone of my experience.

About a year and half ago, I got a fantastic job working as an apprentice for a small, custom staircase shop. A couple employees have come and gone, but I have been there the longest, and have learned tons. My two other coworkers joined us a couple months ago, and my position has unofficially evolved into assistant shop manager. My boss gives me the low down on each job, and its my job to make sure the other two employees have a task to do if one hasn't already been assigned. I am trained to use CAD to extract measurements of his drawings and to write up how much board feet we need to order. I am comfortable working/maintaining a table saw, bandsaw, planer, router, joiner, shaper, chisels, and handsaws. I can make my own jigs if I need to and can make a traditional staircase with ease, as well as custom trim, framing, curved handrails, curved/elliptical forms, and some other obscure small details.

I have never worked in an environment were you negotiate pay, and I don't know anyone who has worked in a shop like this to give me advice for what is normal for an apprentice. I love this job a lot and hope to stay with them for at least 5-10 more years, if not eventually buy the company when he retires if possible. I know that I am valued in this company, and I think it is time to ask for a raise, but I'm sure there are better ways than others to negotiate.

I make 15$/hr.

I appreciate any advice.
Thank you.
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post #2 of 28 Old 12-05-2018, 10:22 PM
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I recently visited a very high end custom shop where they make dinning chairs that run almost $3000 each and they have a six month waiting list. They also do custom work where the owner is extremely adept at taking on challenges few others would attempt.

Most of their employees are hired from a local Woodworking school and are younger employees. The wages are low, the turnover is high, but the employees gain amazing skills. I think you are in the same type of business. They just canít afford to pay more and stay in business because costs are high and competition from mass produced imported products keeps margins low.











In woodworking there is always more then one way to accomplish something.
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post #3 of 28 Old 12-05-2018, 11:00 PM
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I don't see how any of us can answer that question. Wages vary wildly around the country. Just keep in mind that woodworking has never been a high paying job. In recent years though fewer and fewer people are getting into it so there is bound to be a shortage of people soon which would help with the wages. I had to become self employed to make a living doing woodworking.
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post #4 of 28 Old 12-06-2018, 01:44 AM
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There must be jobs advertised in your area, Check the ads and see what people are being paid for team leader, cad designer, skilled machinists, anything that resembles your job. If you are waaaay below those, then you cut out the ads and leave them laying on your bosses desk.
If they are not too far away from your pay, and you enjoy your work (which believe me, counts for a LOT!) then with a smile on your face ask what the xmas bonus will be this year because you want to take your SO away on holiday.

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post #5 of 28 Old 12-06-2018, 09:34 AM
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Steve has a good idea- where do you live? Cost of living? What do the classified ads show for skilled workers as carpenters, welders, machinists, etc. Benefits paid or shared? Some jobs might be union scale, too.


A living income is $10 more than what you are making now.- Dad

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post #6 of 28 Old 12-06-2018, 11:05 AM
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Congratulations! You are becoming skilled enough that you have attained this new level of anxiety enjoyed by novice journeyman. And Steve is right - not knowing you really, we can't answer this definitely.
You alone have to Guage your worth, and either take the leap, or wait. As was also advised, make an informed decision, not an emotional one.

My father gave me one good piece of advice on this: there's no backing out of this kind of deal. If you ask for a raise, you'd better be prepared for unforseen consequences. He may accept ( congrats!) But he may let you go, just for asking.
He might also just say no. Then what? If you stay, you have taught him that you may lack conviction, or are easily manipulated with money. Then what?
The point is, make your decision thoughtfully. No emotions. This kind of thing is often a game changer. And only you know your situation is and what this job means to you. So only you can answer this question.

This isn't meant to be a dark reply. Just a realistic one. This was great advice for me from my Dad. I've had to use it a couple of times in the past.

And, after all, forewarned is fore armed! Good luck,

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post #7 of 28 Old 12-06-2018, 11:14 AM
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Completely disagree with this comment. "Then what? If you stay, you have taught him that you may lack conviction, or are easily manipulated with money. Then what?"


If you do not ask he/she may think you lack ambition/conviction(whatever that is). He may think that you are just an everyday journeyman what does not value his/her skills and is easily satisfied with current conditions.


A boss at/in a business that is worth staying with will not see negative aspects of asking for a raise. That is unless your succeeding actions make that observation apparent.


I make this comment from the perspective of having been a business owner for 18 years. I was also a military officer for 23 years before that and so see the world from the eyes of management.


Do not just sit passively and hope somebody will do something for you without you asking. It may happen, but it is always best to be involved.



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post #8 of 28 Old 12-06-2018, 11:14 AM
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Not sure of your location, but at first glance you seem underpaid based on what you have descibed you are capable of. But we also don't know what your total comp package looks like.

A pay raise discussion is a negotiation, the more substance you bring to the discussion, the better off your chances of success.

Talk about turn over and what it has cost the owner, talk about any way you have saved the owner money. The owner is all about revenue and profit, if you can show you have contributed in some way to both, then it makes the conversation go better. Be prepared for a no, don't get mad about it, view it as an opportunity to discuss what the road to the raise looks like, and what you need to do to get there.

If all else fails, and there is no raise, and you think you are worth more, then go look for a new opportunity.

I've made that decision more than once in the past.
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post #9 of 28 Old 12-06-2018, 11:36 AM
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Shootsumm gets what I'm saying.

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post #10 of 28 Old 12-06-2018, 01:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by t.carpenter00 View Post
make an informed decision, not an emotional one.
Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeC View Post
If you do not ask he/she may think you lack ambition/conviction(whatever that is).
both good points

if all else fails, best way to get ahead and at the same time make more money, is to change jobs
i worked construction all my life, some years i'd have 10 w-2 forms at tax time
i never had an issue with quitting for self betterment
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post #11 of 28 Old 12-06-2018, 01:56 PM
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Yew, it all depends on what part of the country or state you live in. $15 a hour in some states are good and some states it bad mainly depends on the cost of living in your area. You been there a year and half go discuss it with him.
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post #12 of 28 Old 12-06-2018, 02:42 PM
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From my experience as an apprentice you start out at a lower wage and as you put in your time your wage increases accordingly until you reach journeyman status and are then compensated as such.

It seems your employer has invested quite a bit in you and feels comfortable giving you responsibility, the question is, if you walked out could either of the other two workers step in and replace you? If not there is a good chance you would either get a raise or a promise of one in the near future depending on the financial state of the company.

I would talk to your employer, explain to him in a nice way that you believe you should be further compensated for what you bring to the company. He can either make you an offer or explain why it is not possible, from that you will then at least know where you stand.
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post #13 of 28 Old 12-06-2018, 03:04 PM
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I agree with most of the comments here. You are the master of your own future.
Seems like you have a good relationship with the boss and have progressed well past the apprentice stage.
I think if he is smart, he will recognize your loyalty and the way that he's been able to depend on you.

A win/win would be for him to compensate you based on your skill, loyalty and importance to the company.

A win for you would be that if he isn't smart and doesn't recognize the aforementioned facts, you have
enough skill and experience to get a job elsewhere.

Good luck.
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post #14 of 28 Old 12-06-2018, 03:42 PM
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Wow, dude!
You couldn't pay a job advisor and get better advice than you got today!
You guys are all awesome...

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post #15 of 28 Old 12-06-2018, 04:49 PM
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I live in the southeast and we have all ways been on the lower end of the wage scale. With that said I know guys who work in local cabinet shops, not high end shops just run of the mill shops, who make what you do or more. Now with that said you seem to have some thing they dont which is an environment which desires quality and not quantity first. At least thats what I gathered from your post.
From your description you work in a privately owned shop and apparantly have a good relationship with the owner. If he/she is the approachable sort why not go to them and discuss this? The worst thing that can happen is you learn they dont value you as much as you want them to and its time to look for a new job. Heck from your job description you have a marketable skill set. Good luck with it!!

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post #16 of 28 Old 12-06-2018, 10:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Neul View Post
Wages vary wildly around the country. Just keep in mind that woodworking has never been a high paying job.
I agree that wages do vary widely around the country. In Tennessee I was amazed to see the difference from west to east Tennessee. The pay in West Tennessee was almost 2 times as much as East Tennessee.

Respectfully, I do disagree that woodworking has never been a very high paying job though. Maybe high pay for you is different from what I think high pay is.
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post #17 of 28 Old 12-07-2018, 09:31 AM
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I'll just give you this motivation:



An entry-level low-skill warehouse job pays almost as much as you get in the staircase shop. I know this because my daughter earns $14.75/hour at a Nordstrom distribution center working summers and breaks during college. She pulls items from shelves for online orders. The daughter of a coworker of mine just got a college-Christmas-break job sorting boxes at the UPS terminal at the airport at $14.50/hour.
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post #18 of 28 Old 12-07-2018, 12:37 PM
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I recall getting $2.25 per hour in the 60s. I was you-know-what in high cotton then!
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post #19 of 28 Old 12-07-2018, 10:18 PM
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You've been given some great advice so far. Ask your boss for a few minutes and be prepared to question him about your future in his business. Even if you get a raise, is it what you need? Will you get normal COLA raises in the future? Why does he go through help quickly? Step away and ask yourself these questions. If what you describe is true, then he should be happy to hold on to you. If he can't commit to a progressive wage schedule, then accept that his business model is based on paying help not so much. Either way, you've learned.

Be aware that stairbuilding is a niche and skills don't automatically transfer to commercial woodshops. Learn as much as you can, CAD and CNC knowledge is real valuable. Take classes in each if you can. Know that the best time to look for work is when you are working.
Save a few months salary if you can so that you can move for a better job. Go online to seek job opportunities just for the sake of learning what professionals are looking for.

I could be off base here, but $15 per hour is just not acceptable most anywhere in the US. Otherwise you'd need to look for another trade

Good luck and keep growing.
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post #20 of 28 Old 12-08-2018, 02:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Pineknot_86 View Post
I recall getting $2.25 per hour in the 60s. I was you-know-what in high cotton then!
You were really doing good back then, I was making $1.00 and hour back then, while working in a blueprint company running blue lines and blue prints.

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