Entry level trades adjacent jobs for a teen
February 10, 2019 2:28 PM   Subscribe

My 16 year old is looking for a part time job. She's interested in the trades and has a flexible schedule. She doesn't drive. Ideas?

She's homeschooled so schedule is flexible. Is taking carpentry at community college. Has inquired with a number of local furniture makers with some interest but so far no success. Are there trades-related or trades-adjacent jobs she should think about? She can't drive so working for a residential contractor seems challenging. She's quite flexible and may just get a job in retail if this doesn't work out but would be cool to find something in her area of interest. In my ideal world there would also be the opportunity to connect with other kids her age but that's a major long shot. We're in the SF Bay Area FWIW.
posted by latkes to Work & Money (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What about a local makerspace that provides access to carpentry shops, 3D printers, screen printing, and other small projects that could potentially connect her with curious and creative folk of all ages, as well as young artists, musicians, wood workers, and the like? I'm not anywhere near the SF Bay Area so have no helpful suggestions, but perhaps other MeFites could chime in.
posted by nathaole at 2:32 PM on February 10, 2019

Picture framing requires skills overlapping with carpentry, and retail outlets are placed in malls.
posted by kandinski at 2:39 PM on February 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

I worked for a contractor in the East Bay without a car for a while - I did eventually need to buy a vehicle but it's often not that big a deal if you can find the right person.

Get her into a class at CCSF! There's a whole construction trades program - most of the students will be a little older than her, but she'll meet people and have a fast track to getting jobs. The student body is way more diverse than what she'll find in a makerspace, and it's college credits. Since she's a teenager and in school it will be a much more familiar and more pleasant route than trying to get on construction jobs right away.
posted by aspersioncast at 2:46 PM on February 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

Be aware that her access to power tools like power saws may be restricted because she's under 18. This might or might not be significant to potential employers.
posted by citygirl at 2:55 PM on February 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Maybe try a sign shop? She'll get to work around laser cutters and CNC machines, which as a teenager she'd be more likely to be allowed to use over table saws and bandsaws.

Maybe a frame shop as well.

I would expect working at a woodshop or construction site she wouldn't be much more than a gopher due to site/shop safety issues.
posted by bondcliff at 3:19 PM on February 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Actually, contractors are often used to dealing with laborers/entry-level workers who can't drive for reasons of DWI or poverty. there are many contractors whose laborers start the day at the boss's house or the office or whatever, and get taken to the job site, wherever it is that week. It's a pain in the ass for employers, but it happens all the time locally.
Good entry-level workers who are actually interested in the trade are extremely valuable to us, so there are plenty of contractors who would hire her in that capacity and deal with the transportation hassle.
posted by twoplussix at 4:10 PM on February 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'm being too lazy to private message you but- I run a very informal meetup group of women in the trades (mostly SF and East Bay people) , and I bet we could help find a good employer for her.
posted by twoplussix at 4:12 PM on February 10, 2019 [8 favorites]

As a teenager, I did some part-time work for a developer cousin, cleaning up jobsites and generally assisting him as he went around to his various sites. If you have family in the trades, definitely ask them.

You could also help her contact other female tradespeople in your area, explaining who she is, what her experience levels and interests are (it's OK if she has no skills yet, but be honest) and asking if they would be interested in taking her on as a part-time assistant. It wouldn't pay much at first but if she wants to make a serious go of it in the trades, that's how you start.

Also, put it out to your network—friends, coworkers, church members, whatever—that your daughter is interested in learning a trade and would be excited to have some part-time assistant work if anybody knows of a tradesperson who might be willing to take her on. You may get a bite.

It's not the end of the world if she doesn't have her own vehicle, by the way. That's pretty common among entry-level assistant tradespeople. She'd need to find someone who was willing to pick her up and drop her off, which narrows her options but certainly does not close all doors.

It will take some legwork (especially because she may prefer to work under a woman and women are scarce in the trades, though definitely not absent and I imagine they look out for each other) but she can find a job. You can help her.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:01 PM on February 10, 2019

My sister worked at an upholstery shop in high school, just to throw another trade-adjacent idea out there.
posted by padraigin at 8:02 PM on February 10, 2019

I'm going to address timber working and furniture making, given that's what she's looking at and that's my bag.

I was the shop boy in a reasonably large cabinet making/custom furniture factory from 16 years old. In the last two years of school I'd come in at least on Saturday mornings to clean and then do whatever labouring needed doing, which often included timber machining, helping the senior tradespeople etc, etc. They didn't baby me, clean meant clean. It was hard, dirty work, I'd often be inside machines, inside the dust collector and whatever else. Holidays I'd work full time.

It was hugely beneficial to me and I've worked with timber on and off ever since. At the moment it's my life again. So it's hard to over-estimate the start it gave me. If she can find somewhere that will let her have a go at anything and not just push a broom she'd learn a heap.

That was nearly 25 years ago and even then there were women in the field, now it's better again. Timber working is not a place where she'll find herself the only female, though that's still possible in individual shops.

On the downside, timber working is not necessarily a good strategic choice of trade. It's badly paid, almost at the bottom of the heap. You'll probably always be able to find work, but you earn more money driving an excavator. It's a profession for the heart, which is where I've always headed, but she'd need to be aware and comfortable with that. Carpentry, as opposed to cabinet making, may be a better bet commercially depending on the circumstances in your area. I know less about that.

There are heaps more dangerous fields to work in but it can be an area where things like the adherence to restrictions on 16 year olds using five horsepower ripsaws are, shall we say, rubbery. I think it's an area worse in this regard than many others. That was my experience, which I don't regret, but make sure the person running the show is going to look after her to a level appropriate to her maturity and ability, regardless of their adherence to the law. Walk out of places where they don't wear earmuffs, think safety is for wimps or anything along those lines. I'd like my hearing back and that bullshit I do regret.
posted by deadwax at 2:06 AM on February 11, 2019

If we're talking strategic choices, around here it's the plumbers who make the most money, hands down.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:24 AM on February 11, 2019

A summary of California's Child Labor Laws.

That will give you an idea of what kind of jobs she can't legally perform until she's eighteen. That's pretty much everything in construction, and most jobs involving machinery are restricted to adults as well.
posted by Lunaloon at 5:36 AM on February 11, 2019

My husband is a plumber, and the shops he's worked in have occasionally employed high school kids part time for cleaning the shop, sorting parts, or doing random office work a few days a week. From what I understand, there's a huge lack of tradespeople in big parts of the country, so a small shop might be pretty interested in helping an interested kid to learn the business with the hopes they will get an apprentice when they've graduated high school.
posted by little king trashmouth at 7:23 AM on February 11, 2019

Don't be surprised if this type of job (part time assistant to an independent tradesperson) is paid in cash under the table. Especially if her hours are pretty limited, that's the way these kinds of jobs frequently work. That's certainly the case in the Northeast anyway.

There's a big difference between what is technically allowed and what is frequently done in practice. Don't assume that just because she gets taken on it will actually be an official and legal arrangement, or that her duties will be restricted only to things people of her are are permitted to do.

People's advice in this thread about labor and safety laws are well intentioned, but the reality is that it's still kind of a Wild West out there in a lot of ways. Just be aware of that and make your decisions accordingly. I know when I first started, it was cash under the table and I did whatever tasks my cousin thought I could handle. Times have changed some, but not that much.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:30 AM on February 11, 2019

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