Conover Workshops: Apprentices

The Conover Workshops
Apprentice Program

In late 1995 we decided to pilot test an apprenticeship program. In the 18th and 19th century, craftsmen routinely took on apprentices who spent five to seven years learning the trade with the master. The apprentice virtually became a member of the master’s family. When the system worked, it worked well, but many apprentices also ran away (Ben Franklin for one). In the first years an apprentice cleaned the shop and resawed and planed boards for the master and the more experienced apprentices. Today this work is better done by vacuum cleaners, power saws, jointers and planers. Therefore, much less time is necessary in a modern apprentice program.

Our first victim was John DeGirolamo who worked with Ernie Conover during the Winter of 1995/96. They were surprised by the similarities to accounts of 18th Century apprenticeships they had read about. John became a member of the Conover family and to quote Shakespeare, “leaving was such sweet sorrow.” The experience was so positive for both John and Ernie that they set down some guidelines to formalize an apprenticeship program at Conover Workshops. Rule number one is that any future apprentice, and the Conovers, have personalities that mesh.

Further guidelines (there is only one rule) for the program are as follows:

  • Apprenticeships are for a finite length of time ranging from a minimumof three months to a maximum of six months.
  • Apprenticeships are project and goal oriented. For example, John and Ernie built a Shaker kitchen (the result is now Kitchen Cabinet Construction). A personal project or two should also be included.
  • Apprentice and Ernie will agree on projects and goals in writing at the beginning of the apprenticeship.
  • Apprentice must be punctual and keep hours mutually agreed upon.
  • Apprentice is responsible for his or her own transportation, room and board.
  • Apprentice must audit all Conover Workshops course during the tenure of his or her apprenticeship.
  • Apprentice is responsible for shop clean up, machine/tool maintenance and helping with lunch (when workshops are in session) during the tenure of his or her apprenticeship.
  • Once accepted by the initial screening committee, all candidates are required to have taken Handtool Joinery before further consideration of suitability for the program can be made.

Interested in Participating in the Program?

We are accepting resumes for our apprentice program. Send your resume and a short letter stating why you would like to be accepted into the program to:

Conover Workshops Apprentice Program
P.O. Box 679
Parkman, Ohio 44080-0679

The information may also be emailed to erconover@conoverworkshops.com. No phone calls please!