Kaihanga Taonga a-Whare
This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Joiners use timber and board products to make fittings such as cabinets, doors, window frames and stairs.
Joiners usually earn
$17-$30 per hour
Source: Census 2013, and Careers New Zealand research, 2016.
Pay for joiners varies depending on skills and experience.
- Joinery apprentices may start on the training minimum wage, with their pay increasing as they gain skills and qualifications.
- Joiners usually earn $17 to $24 an hour.
- Experienced or qualified joiners can earn $25 to $30 an hour or more.
Sources: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2013 Census information' (prepared for Careers New Zealand); and Careers New Zealand research, 2016.
- PAYE.net.nz website – use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Joiners may do some or all of the following:
- discuss clients' requirements and provide quotes
- draw diagrams and plans for clients
- measure, cut, assemble, sand and finish materials (usually timber) to make items such as cabinets, doors, window frames and stairs
- fit finished products in clients' homes or businesses
- run their own businesses.
Skills and knowledge
Joiners need to have:
- woodworking and machinery skills
- knowledge of how different timbers respond to being cut, glued, filed and sanded
- the ability to read plans and understand technical drawings
- knowledge of health and safety procedures and first aid
- skill in caring for joinery equipment
- basic maths skills.
Computer skills are helpful to calculate specifications and costs, or create designs. Business skills are useful for joiners who run their own business.
- usually work regular hours, but may have to work longer hours to meet deadlines
- work in small joinery workshops or large furniture and fittings factories where conditions can be noisy and dusty
- may travel to homes or construction sites to take measurements or install finished products.
What's the job really like?
Every piece of work is a new experience
"I like working with timber and seeing a piece come together from the raw material to the finished product," says joiner Phil Schwartfeger.
"Because I'm still learning, every piece I work on is a new experience. Nine times out of 10 you work on a piece from beginning to end. For instance, at the end of last year I made a round window, which I've never done before – it was a whole new experience and a whole new skill I now have."
Phil says starting an apprenticeship straight out of school has meant he has gone down a different path to most of his friends, but he has no regrets.
"I've got a nine-month-old son now, so I'll be here for a while. Most of my mates have gone overseas but it doesn't bother me. They're all coming home now that the economy's not doing so well."
Bevan finds out what it takes to be a joiner – 5.49 mins. (Video courtesy of the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation)
Clinton: Well whacking nails in wood doesn’t cut it in the world of joinery, Bevan. So to learn some of the varied skills used to make kitchen cabinets, windows and doors we’re sending you to two different workshops. Dave Cunningham has 28 years' experience at MJN McNaughton's and he’ll be teaching Bevan to make an exterior window sash. But first, we’ll meet Matthew Heaney; he was an award-winning apprentice, who is now a foreman at Pakuranga Joinery and Cabinetry.
Bevan: Hey, how’s it going?
Matthew: Hi I’m Matt. I work at Pakuranga Joinery, I’ve been out of my apprenticeship for about three years now. Now I’m the foreman.
Matthew: When I tell people that I’m a joiner, they're like "huh?" They don’t know what a joiner is.
Dave: Joinery is a necessity in every house. It’s your windows, it’s your doors. Joinery goes through to kitchen cabinet work.
Matthew: OK, this is what we’re going to be making today. It’s a small custom laundry unit. It’s made of white Melteca and it will show you the basic skills for doing cabinetry.
Clinton: So what does it take to be a good joinery apprentice?
Dave: You need to be fairly co-ordinated with what you’re doing, you need good skills in maths – there’s a lot of measuring. You need to be 100% accurate – if you’re not accurate, you get yourself into big trouble.
Matthew: Right, this is the edge-banding machine, it basically applies the edge tape to the board.
Clinton: Most cabinetry uses a laminate wood surface that is easy to keep clean, but outdoor joinery is a different story.
Dave: This is cedar. It’s a Californian cedar, it’s all imported and we use it for timber joinery because of its stability. It’s a perfect timber for making joinery out of. It has nice straight grains…
Dave: Right Bevan, what we’re going to do is we’re going to start making a sash and we’re going to go through a couple of styles. So we’ll put the earmuffs on and we’ll get cracking…
Dave: You do need good hand skills. There’s a lot of hand work to be done in joinery. There’s a lot of work with a hammer, a lot of work with a chisel, a lot of hand sanding, a lot of hand finishing.
Clinton: Modern joiners use a range of power tools to help their accuracy. But that doesn’t make up for attention to detail.
Matthew: This is the hinge-boring machine. It basically drills the holes for the hinge... and then presses the hinge into place.
Bevan: Just like that, eh?
Clinton: Apprentices need to construct a number of models to pass the block courses. They can also enter the custom wood competition, where you make a model out of one sheet of custom wood.
Matthew: I built this model of the spitfire here. The prize money can be quite good.
Bevan: Competitions sound real interesting. I think it would be so much fun to do something like he’s done.
Dave: From joinery you can go through into building, you can go through into boat making, cabinet making. If you want to go overseas and get on to a building site, any builder would be more than happy to have a joiner.
Bevan: Did it!
Matthew: All right, we’ll put the doors on now and make sure it all fits. Put the front part on first and then they just click.
Matthew: So this is the final product here, it’s looking pretty good. I think you’ll go far in the joinery line of work.
Dave: In this day and age where houses are all architecturally designed and architecturally built, joinery has actually become part of the furniture. It has to blend into the whole house.
Dave: The glue we used is called urea formaldehyde. You get plenty of glue on it…
Clinton: Bevan and Dave are finally putting their window sash together, but there isn’t a nail in sight.
Dave: Across the tenon, right back into the scribe…
Bevan: Is this a really strong glue is it?
Dave: Yep, it’s waterproof.
Clinton: The key to joinery is the use of tight mortars and tenon joints and glue, so there is no need for Bevan to hammer anything.
Dave: Just scribe back... fairly straight... 400 millimetres, we're going to overhang 100. This is the outside of the sash and this is the glass rebate that we talked about, so when the glass sits in here it sits flat and the putty goes up from that edge down on to the glass.
Matthew: He did really well for his first day in the cabinetmaking shop. He’s made a good job of the final product, he did really well. We’re really pleased.
Dave: I think Bevan has done extremely well, actually. He seems to ask the right questions at the right time, which is always a really good indication that he’s keen and that he’s switched on. I think that if he decided he wanted to pursue joinery or cabinet work that he could make a go of it.
Bevan: The machinery that some of the guys have got and what they use and the finish they get on the product is amazing. I really can see myself doing it one day.
Clinton: You can choose from a range of joinery apprenticeships that focus either on kitchen, window or door manufacture, stair construction or you can combine them into a longer craftsperson apprenticeship. Course costs range from $3,000 to $5,000, a cost that is normally shared between the employer and the apprentice. A fully qualified joiner can earn between $17 and $25 an hour, with the upper limit much higher for those who become self-employed or move on to management roles.
Clinton: Now could a career in the joinery industry be for you?
There are no entry requirements to work as a joiner. However, many employers prefer to hire joiners who are working towards, or have, a qualification.
To become a qualified joiner you need to complete an apprenticeship and gain a National Certificate in Joinery (Level 3 or 4). The Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) oversees joinery apprenticeships.
- Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) website - information about joinery apprenticeships
There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a joiner. However, NCEA Level 2 English, maths, digital and visual communication and technology are useful.
Year 11 and 12 students can learn more about the construction industry and gain relevant skills by doing a National Certificate in Building, Construction and Allied Trades (Level 1 and 2) through the BConstructive programme.
For Year 11 to 13 students, the Gateway programme run by the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) is a good way to gain industry experience.
- BConstructive website - information on the BConstructive programme
- Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) website - information on the Gateway programme
Joiners need to be:
- alert and safety-conscious when using tools and machinery
- accurate, with an eye for detail
- able to visualise a finished product
- able to follow instructions
- good at problem solving.
Useful experience for joiners includes:
- carpentry or other building work
- interpreting or creating technical plans.
Joiners need to have steady hands and good hand-eye co-ordination. They need to be reasonably fit and strong, as there may be some heavy lifting required.
If joiners have asthma they need to have medication to control it, as wood dust may affect them.
Interested in exploring this job further?
Careers New Zealand is working with the New Zealand Institute of Building (NZIOB) to investigate the demand for a matchmaking scheme to help secondary school students easily explore jobs in the construction sector. To help us understand the demand for this proposed scheme, please take part in the two-minute survey.
Find out more about training
- Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO)
- 0800 422 486 – email@example.com – www.bcito.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Chances of getting a job as a joiner are good due to:
- a building and construction boom that is predicted to extend until the end of 2021
- the extra 22,000 houses that are needed over the next 10 years in Auckland
- building work needed to upgrade leaky homes and earthquake-prone buildings
- the Christchurch rebuild, which is predicted to extend until at least the end of 2017. As a result, joiner appears on Immigration New Zealand's Canterbury skill shortage list of occupations in shortage during the rebuild of the region.
Like many building jobs, this role can be affected by economic conditions. A downturn in the economy could lower the demand for joiners.
Most joiners work for small joinery businesses
There are large joinery businesses but most joiners work for small firms that have between one and nine employees. About 10% of joiners are self-employed.
- BRANZ and Pacifecon, 'National Construction Pipeline Report 4', July 2016, (www.branz.co.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Canterbury Skill Shortage List', accessed July 2016, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- McClintock, J, operations manager, Certified Builders Association, Careers New Zealand interview, June 2016.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
Progression and specialisations
Joiners may move into boat building or cabinet making. They may also set up their own businesses.
Joiners may specialise in a particular type of joinery such as doors, window frames or stairs.
Last updated 11 July 2017