Carpenter to Site Supervisor: When opportunity knocks

Everyone remembers their first time. First time securing the opportunity to kick-start their career that is, and in this case, I am talking about going from Carpenter to Site Supervisor for the first time.

Working in construction recruitment I am often engaged by companies to help find them experienced Site Supervisors in Melbourne. Those with two plus years’ site supervising experience is often the requirement or unicorns in a candidate short market.

From that, I often receive calls/ emails/ applications from carpenters who are hungry to get their start as a Site Supervisor, and from time to time I will have junior roles available. And it’s probably no surprise that junior Site Supervisor roles are competitive.

Anyway, one of the most rewarding parts of my role is when the stars align and I am able to get carpenters their chance to become a Site Supervisor.


Here is a list of things that are common from the people that I have helped make the transition from Carpenter to Supervisor:

Firstly, successful candidates all generally demonstrate:

  • Being a trade qualified, and well-rounded carpenter who has done their time in the trade working across residential/ commercial
  • Strong technical building knowledge in either residential or commercial construction
  • An ability to read and interpret plans
  • Some exposure working on new build projects
  • Some experience in a Leading Hand or Working Foreman capacity
  • Understanding that they might have to take an initial hit in salary to get the opportunity to become a Site Supervisor compared to what they could earn if they continued to be a subcontractor carpenter

In addition, most also demonstrate:

  • Completion of further education generally a Certificate IV or Diploma in Building and Construction. This is highly regarded by potential employers
  • Experience running their own business, or being a part of a business, where they have managed/ worked across multiple jobs at once
  • A project list of what they have worked on eg values, build type, role
  • An understanding of what a Site Supervisor does and confidence that they can step into such a role

Added bonuses to all of the above:

  • End to end supervising experience on a job
  • A network of trades


Here are examples of candidates that I have been able to get their first Site Supervisor role:

  • Carpenter to Volume Supervisor: the candidate was 31, and a fully qualified candidate who had been running their own successful business for the past 10 years serving the framing requirements for volume builders. He had 6 employees and was overseeing 4 different jobs at a time. He had also done his certificate IV and Diploma in Building, AND had taken it upon himself to ask one of the supervisors on a site where he was framing if he could follow him around for a day. He prepped himself as much as he could. He was realistic about his salary expectations to get the position ($75k + Super + Car). He smashed his interview, got the role, and 8 months later is absolutely thriving in the beast that can be volume building.
  • Labour Hire Carpenter to Site Supervisor: this by far is the most common way of introducing carpenters to Supervising opportunities due to our large base of Melbourne’s best commercial, high end, and apartment builders. Well-rounded carpenters get introduced to such builders and are able to show their technical ability and nature on site. Going the extra mile and doing the simple signs such as running a clean worksite, will get noticed by the SM who in sense reports back to us, and their Construction Manager. Good feedback leads to talks starting, opening up possible Leading Hand, Working Foreman, or Supervisor opportunities with the company. These sorts of outcomes happen often. Labour Hire presents a great opportunity to get in front of the best builders.
  • Carpenter to Commercial Foreperson: The candidate was 33 and had done their time as a chippy and had operated their own successful business for the past 8 years where he had serviced owner/builders. He worked on a range of new build projects and was able to produce a list of such projects which builders love to see. Because he had worked on medium density developments he was able to make the move to a small commercial apartment builder. Had done his certificate IV in Building, was extremely driven. He was used to earning a nice wage, however, took $90k + Super for the opportunity.

If you would like to discuss becoming a Site Supervisor or are a Carpenter looking for work through our labour hire division please call 03 9377 5800.

Advice and Tips

Matt Johns

Matt Johns

Matt is the Team Leader for JV’s permanent recruitment division, specializing in Residential and Commercial Construction. He has 6 years of experience in permanent recruitment, prior to this, utilised his HR degree in State Government.

Recent Articles

Why gender diversity matters

Did you know that only 12% of the construction workforce is made up of women? ...

Read the full article

6 Ways to create a mentally healthy workplace

The way construction employees think and feel at work can vastly impact ...

Read the full article

Top tips for acing your online interview

Now is a more important time than ever to dust off your resume and prepare for ...

Read the full article