Onyinye Ubah

The atmosphere changed into a mild shock and surprises. The silence that lasted only a split second before their voices burst out into a loud cheer. This happened on my first day at work. My boss had asked me to sketch the design for a kitchen cabinet so he could write dimensions on it. I got a pen and a jotter and began sketching. I never knew my drawing was perfectly in 3D. Everyone was amazed at how I was able to do it on my first attempt as an apprentice at the carpenter’s shop. During their cheering, they all agreed that my dexterity runs in the blood; after all, I was the boss’s son.

Prior to that day, I walked up to my father to announce my new found love for carpentry. Deep down, I was still sceptical of that decision. A part of me wanted to explore that path and the other part of me was surging with fears. My father accepted me as an apprentice. The next day when we got to his workshop, I was introduced as the new apprentice.

I became a carpenter through a design that made me feel worthy to learn the trade. It was a decision I made when things started changing rapidly in life. I had to make some critical decisions and being a carpenter was one of them.

On taking that decision, I was inspired and very motivated to learn the trade. It was not cumbersome learning it because the traits were already in me and I had to unlock it. The unlocking is never ending. Having a strong desire for growth and input, I still dedicate my time and resources to learn and discover new methods and trends in the business. I learn new skills from experts in the trade who I’ve come in contact with or worked with in one capacity or another. YouTube videos are not left out in polishing my skills.

Currently, I am a graduate of Bosch Capacity Training. It is a partnership between Bosch Power Tools Nigeria and Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) joint PPP initiative for skill enhancement program to help, strengthen and upgrade our carpentry skills. I have also completed training with OPL Academy that help in shaping my professional ethics .

However, the societal perception of my decision was rather disturbing. They felt I made a wrong decision considering the fact I had just finished secondary school and yet to gain a University degree and all.

In Nigeria, carpentry is for the brave of heart considering an environment where we lack adequate training programs for up skilling and unavailability of well seasoned wood for construction. There have been times I felt like giving up especially in a setting where we continuously battle the perception of being seen as not good enough and being treated with little or no trust. Hence, I arm myself with these five standards: Coordination, meticulous planning and perfect execution, power tools, safety kits and good customer relations.

In line with changing the narratives, I am working on some programs where Nigerians are taught how to make money off carpentry without being a carpenter.

It’s been 3 years in the trade as a young and freelance carpenter who is continuously making deliberate effort to change the face and societal perception of carpenters in Nigeria. 

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