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News - On my Own - Carpentry
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Labour News.

On my Own - Carpentry

In this new section “On my own” we seek to highlight the experiences of persons who have chosen to rely on their skills and talents in order to make their own livelihood, as opposed to seeking employment in an already established entity.

Everyday, most of us come in to contact with, or make use of an item constructed by a carpenter/joiner, such as stairs, doors, shelves, cupboards or even houses. Yet we often take for granted the skill and effort required for making such items. It takes more than just a hammer and some nails to be a good carpenter. One must possess traits and competencies such as strength, dexterity, creativity, numerical ability, spatial and form perception.

For this period, we focus on Mr. Terry Greenidge, a young promising tradesman with tremendous potential, who possesses an unbridled enthusiasm for his work. He has been a carpenter for the past five years. I recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with him about his experiences in making it on his own.

Ministry of Labour (MLS): How were you first introduced to carpentry?

Greenidge: About seven years ago, I was working on a site as a labourer and I saw some carpenters doing a roof. I approached them and started talking to them about their job. They told me what it was like, the experiences they had and the kind of money they made.

MLS: What then inspired you, or gave you the drive to become a carpenter?

Greenidge: I did not like the way labourers were being treated in comparison with tradesmen. They (tradesmen) got more respect from the employer. I made up my mind that I wanted to be more than a labourer.


MLS: How were you able to turn this desire into a reality?

Grrenidge: After talking to the guys at the site, one day I saw a Barbados Vocational Training Board (BVTB) advertisement on television. I went down to their headquarters, collected an application form and filled it out. My first choice was Roof Construction and my second choice was Tiling.  About a month later I got a call to come in for an interview. I was accepted into the programme for my first choice and was asked to turn up at one of the training sites.   

MLS: How long was the course?

Greenidge: The course was for 6 months, five days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and along with the roof construction, we also covered door making.

MLS: I see you working on some cupboards here. Where did you learn to make those?

Greenidge: I learnt how to make cupboards on the job. I was taught by a fellow carpenter. He saw me doing a roof one day and we started talking, he asked for a hand doing some cupboard work. I agreed to help him out and I caught on pretty fast.

MLS: Do you remember your first official job? And what was that experience like?

Greenidge: My first job was roof construction. At first I was very nervous but I had some actual work experience from my days at BVTB. The instructor would take the better students on weekend jobs and I was one of them.  So by the time this job came along I had gained some confidence but as with doing anything for the first time without supervision, it’s only normal to be a bit nervous.  

MLS: What type of jobs do you do? And how do you go about getting a job?

Greenidge: Roof construction, cupboard and shelf-building, hanging doors and repairs. Normally it’s through a referral from someone I previously worked for, mainly through word of mouth.


MLS: Can you efficiently work on more than one major project simultaneously? (e.g working on 2 different houses at the same time?)

Greenidge: Yes, it can be really stressful and it means working late into the night. Sometimes I would work during the day at one site then go over to another site and work through the evening into the night. When there is plenty of work to be done, it can be hectic. Then on other occasions it can be really slow.

MLS: Do you find that in certain months you are in demand more than others? If so, what are the busiest months?

Greenidge: Definitely. The busiest months are November and December. Everybody wants their house to look nice for Christmas. There were several times when I worked up to 11:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. People just want a job done so everything can be perfect for Christmas.


MLS: What are the hours like for a carpenter/joiner?

Greenidge: There is no specific time frame for work in a job like mine. Whenever I feel like that’s it for the day....... that’s it. Some days I work from 7 a.m. straight through to 2 a.m. the following morning. I would then get back up at 7a.m.

MLS: Those hours may scare away some of the youngsters.

Greenidge: It is all in the mind, it can be a challenge but when you are getting paid, it’s worth it.

MLS: How much creativity goes into your work? Or is a shelf just a shelf?

Greenidge: Every job is different. Someone may see a design they like in a magazine or elsewhere and in order to make it work you have to be changing this and changing that to suit the setting. Mostly though, I find that people like a lot of style. As much style as they can get, they want. Some people leave it up to you to create the design, while others prefer to use their own.

MLS: Where do you get your ideas from?

Greenidge: I mainly get my ideas from previous jobs or I might see a design that I like somewhere. It’s a challenge to make something that you saw but have never made before. Or sometimes I may see a particular design someone else made and say to myself “well, I think I can make that a little better” and I would try to improve on it.

MLS: How do you determine the amount to charge for a job?

Greenidge: It depends on several factors, take a roof for example: the size of the roof, type of material and the type of design all factor into the amount to be charged. For example, using green heart or purple heart would be more expensive than using pine. In terms of design, hills & valleys would be more expensive than a gable roof.  But for cupboards we usually charge by cubic feet.

MLS: Do you plan to teach or pass on your knowledge to the younger ones?

Greenidge: Well I tried that before but it did not work out. I took out a youngster with me a few times but I would have to be constantly supervising him. On one occasion we worked the whole day together. The following day I had to be at another site so I asked him to turn up the next day and finish the job; but he never did. He would work under my supervision but if I am not there he would not show up. It appeared to me as if he lacked confidence in himself.

MLS: If it wasn’t carpentry what other job would you be doing?

Greenidge: That’s a hard one. My father was a mechanic and I tried it for a little while but I wasn’t really interested, plus I didn’t like the grease. I also did a course at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Poytechnic in auto body repair; that wasn’t for me either. I don’t think I would ever change from carpentry, I would try other things but carpentry would always be my main focus. I love it.


MLS: Thank you very much for your time Mr. Greenidge. It was very nice talking to you.

Greenidge: Thank you

Published: Sunday, 14th May, 2006


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