As there are quite a few local construction apprenticeships still available with start dates in September, we thought you might appreciate an overview of the different trades, the sort of people these trades are suited to, as well as a look at one of the leading apprenticeship companies in the region, On Site Bristol. We’ll start with an overview of some of the key trades and what they all do –


Bricklayers build the interior and exterior walls of buildings; the types of work include cutting bricks using hammers, chisels or portable power tools, laying bricks in courses, spreading mortar with trowels and checking that the wall is straight and level. It takes 2 – 3 years to qualify.


Often carpenters specialise in one particular area – for example, they may be specialists in fitting joists, roofing and stud partitioning (first fix) or hanging doors, door frames (architraves) and window frames (second fix). Other tasks include building the roofs or fitting a staircase, skirting boards or installing a kitchen. It takes 2 – 3 years to qualify.

Bench Joiner

Joiners work with timber in a workshop using drawings to produce complex wood products like bespoke window frames and doors using specialist woodworking machines to exact specifications. Joiners also make specialist staircases, hand rails and fitted furniture. They also prepare and assemble other wood fixtures such as doors and windows, as well as creating fitted furniture such as wardrobes. It takes 2 – 3 years to qualify.


A Plasterer will work on anything from new-build housing, commercial developments to major restoration projects. There are two main types of work: Solid plastering – Applying wet finishes to walls, ceilings etc using hand tools or spraying equipment to level and protect surfaces. Fibrous plastering – Making ornamental plasterwork, such as cornices and architraves from plaster and short fibres. It takes 2 – 3 years to qualify.

Painting & Decorator

You will be involved with tasks such as painting, cutting in, masking out areas, stripping and preparing surfaces as well as measuring, cutting and hanging wallpaper. The work can be done indoors or outdoors, so you should be prepared to brave the weather and travel to different sites. It involves working at heights, bending, kneeling, crouching etc. It’s not all about big jobs either – you’ll get the chance to show off your artistic skills as well. It takes 2 – 3 years to qualify.


Electricians inspect, test and install wiring systems and equipment to approved standards. They need a full understanding of the maths and science involved as well as the day to day practical skills of the trade. The type of work they do depends on their specialist training and experience; it could involve work indoors in a customer’s house, in a factory, office or workshop, or outdoors on a building site. Typical tasks could include running cables, wiring switches and consumer units to working on larger commercial equipment. It takes 4 years to qualify


Plumbers work with pipes – that includes installing and repairing water supplies to bathrooms and kitchens and making provision for the waste bathroom and water products to be removed to the main drain. Sometimes they might have to sort out problems with drainage systems and, on occasion, work with sheet lead on roofing work, guttering and drainpipes. Plumbers use a variety of skills, tools and materials, and it is possible to specialise in particular areas of plumbing work. If they are a qualified central heating engineer, for example, Plumbers are also trained in the safe use of gas and gas appliances and work with heating systems, installing boilers, pipe work and radiators in houses and offices. It takes 2 – 4 years to qualify.

Who are construction apprenticeships suited to?

Practical – These apprenticeships would generally suit someone who is naturally practical and enjoys working with their hands. Ideally, they should also be methodical and careful, with an eye for detail and a great finish to their work.

Physical – For most of the trades, it helps if they are happy to work outdoors and if they have a good head for heights. Some can also be quite physical, so good fitness is often important.

Problem solvers – Overall, construction apprentices often need to be ready to fix things and to solve problems.

Flexible – They should also be able to learn from their mistakes, adapting to new challenges and types of work.

Customer Service – And it helps to be punctual, clean and tidy as well as a good listener, polite and well-mannered around customers.

So, what is different about On Site Bristol?

On Site Bristol is part of Bristol City Council, but acts as a broker for students, employers and training companies/colleges. All applicants are considered for positions within the Council trade teams as well as with other employers working in the local area. And On Site acts as a ‘one-stop shop’; taking care of training, funding and general support.

Finding an employer – On Site Bristol encourage all construction applicants to do their own job search to secure an employer, although do provide individual advice and guidance to support with this if needed. Once you have passed your assessment and interview, On Site will then start to share your details with potential employers as they work with the Council and many hundreds of other employers across Bristol.

Finding a training company – Once an employer has been found (whether by On Site Bristol or directly by you) On Site can then swing into action and arrange a college or other training place for you. And if you are unable to find an employer having passed your assessment and interview, talk to On Site about how they can still help.

And finally, …

The Apprenticeships with On Site Bristol start in September each year, but they are recruiting from December the previous year. They have several employers still with vacancies so would encourage anyone thinking about this as their next step to get in touch to find out more. Details on the construction pages.

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