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Journeyman Carpenter Talk with Bobby Hakkarainen
Bobby Hakkarainen lives and works in Vancouver, British Columbia. After spending many years working on high-rise buildings, Bobby transitioned to apply his trade in a successful career on the sets of television and film. Bobby loves his career and offers honest advice to those considering carpentry. If you have time, listen to the full episode to hear stories about working on the sets of both television and film.
Carpenters construct, erect, install, maintain and repair structures and components of structures made of wood, wood substitutes, lightweight steel and other materials. They are employed by construction companies, carpentry contractors, and maintenance departments of factories, plants and other establishments, or they may be self-employed.
The outlook for carpenters in the region is good. An aging workforce, new housing and renovation projects, and mass timber construction projects will drive the need for skilled workers.
Completion of secondary school is usually required.
Completion of a three- to four-year apprenticeship program or A combination of over four years of work experience in the trade and some high school, college or industry courses in carpentry is usually required to be eligible for trade certification.
Trade certification for carpenters is compulsory in Quebec and available, but voluntary, in all other provinces and the territories.
Trade certification for framers is available, but voluntary, in Saskatchewan.
Red Seal endorsement is also available to qualified carpenters upon successful completion of the interprovincial Red Seal examination.
$63,791.00 – Median earnings
$43,159.00 – $85,092.00 – Earning range
(Visit the jobbank.gc.ca Canadian Website For Most Recent Numbers)
Full Length Episode:
Complete Episode Transcript
Today’s guest is Bobby Hakkarainen.
Here’s our Job Talk with a Journeyman Carpenter.
Welcome to the Job Talk Podcast.
Where we talk to people who love their jobs.
Our guests open up about their challenges surprises and secrets to success in their industries.
Through conversation we explore their careers past work experiences and the education that got them to where they are now.
So I want to take you back to when you were graduating from Grade 12 High School.
I want to hear your story starting from the next day.
And then as you progressed to the career that you’re into now, it would be a lie if I told you I graduated, though so to all your millions of listeners, I’ll say that I never really got past grade nine.
And they asked me not to come back to school Yeah.
So my dad, he, he he said, well, you’re not going to sit on your hands.
So he said, you know, the academic school wasn’t for me.
So he pushed me to go into trades.
And at the time, there was a trades program, an apprenticeship program for carpentry, maybe carpentry at like woodworking joinery in high school.
And and I worked with my father on weekends, growing up and made money.
He was a contract framer.
So I took the he sponsored me as a journeyman, and I became his apprentice and I started going to KLO, and I went there for two terms, and I did them back to back.
And and then I with that program, you go to school for eight weeks, and then the rest of the year, you learn and then you go back to school for eight weeks, and then you continue to learn and hopefully you’re doing different things for each year.
KLO just for our listeners that don’t know, that’s in Colonia.
Is it a trade? Is it a trade school or is it. Yeah.
So there’s two There’s a there’s the Okanagan University, and then there’s the KLO Campus.
It’s part of Okanagan University.
So did my first two years there.
And then I moved to Vancouver and I did my last two years at BCIT.
When you were doing your apprenticeship or the schooling at KLO, are you enjoying it? And do you find that it’s coming easier to you say, than when you’re studying something that maybe you weren’t interested in? I know I didn’t like it at all.
So you didn’t like it a lot? No, no, I didn’t like going to school at all.
School wasn’t wasn’t for me.
I’d never really succeed in a classroom environment, but I knew that I needed to to get this diploma.
And so I buckled down and I did what I had to do to to get it.
And I’ve always struggled at school ever since I was like young.
And so I think I get diagnosed with ADHD.
In high school.
So that was a big benefit to know that it was a struggle for me.
And I was encouraged to ask for help, which was maybe the greatest thing for me to learn was to ask for help was okay.
So when I was going to trade school, I would ask for help and I excelled more at the demonstrations, the actual building portions of it than, say, the academic portions of it.
But to be honest, I didn’t enjoy going to school at all.
Did you continue to work for your dad after you received your ticket? No.
So I learned from for the first two years And then when I moved to Vancouver, I started doing high rise construction.
So came here.
And there was then there was high rises going up everywhere so on paper, yeah, my dad was my journeyman and signed for me to go to school every year.
But I wasn’t learning under him.
And that’s pretty that’s pretty normal.
And actually, the teachers and instructors would would also encourage you if because if you have one in and they’re just doing interior finishing and that’s all you’re going to learn, they encourage you to go out and and and experience some other types of construction.
And there’s so many types.
Did you jump in with a fairly large company or was it a smaller firm you were working for? We had a large site down on the waterfront in Vancouver, Coal Harbor, and it must been like 500, 500 guys there.
Well, how nervous are you when you’re walking up to your first construction gig? Your first job are you nervous? What’s your personality like, Bobby? Well, I am confident, but, you know, as a young man of I think I was 20 or 19 years old, you know, it was I was scared.
But, you know, you’re walking into a room full of men, you know, hard men.
And when in construction, you know, there’s a lot of these guys had gotten out of jail and you sit in the coffee room with them and you have lunch with them and it’s they push you.
And but I think you know, if you show up and you work hard, you know, you respect is earned and you had to earn respect.
And one of your questions actually you said, if I worked for my father again and I did actually after we did.
Yeah, we did a after I came down and worked high rise and I did my first two years my last two years of apprenticeship, my father and I went to Japan and we built houses in Japan for a year.
How do you find yourself in a situation where you can go experience Japan and build houses? Was that something your dad had set up? Yeah.
So I think my dad you know, as any parent, I think most they want to see their kids succeed.
And I think, you know, parents, you know, expect you when we get into when we start becoming young adults, you know, they keep an eye on us from a distance.
And I think he was he was keeping an eye on me and letting me grow.
But he knew that I needed a jump.
I needed some money to get going, to invest in myself, invest in my career or whatever it was.
So he lined up a guy had a contract in Japan and he asked he lined up a crew and he took me there.
And I don’t think my dad needed to go make money there.
But what he wanted to do is you want to be a good parent.
And what that was, was taking me there and maybe doing some more teaching and more Give me some more skills not only in construction, but life skills, and give me a base of money that I could start, you know, investing.
And you guys were in Japan for a full calendar year? No, not a full calendar year.
Yeah, but yeah.
Did you have a shot at picking up the language at all or.
Yeah, I did enough to pick up some girls and find out where the local pub was and that sort of thing.
Was it was it just you and your dad as the like the Canadian crew or did you know there was.
Yeah, he took a couple other guys with us.
No one other guy. And there was two other guys there.
The five of us living in a house there in Japan.
And we would show up to to a cul de sac and it was just foundations like 30 foundations.
And it was like, I’m from B.C.
and there’s a little town in British Columbia outside a seminar called Canoe and you may be familiar with it.
And they they make of a lumber mill there.
And in this cul de sac in Japan, there would be containers dropped off and you’d open them up and all the lumber would be stamped, you know, Canoe B.C.
And we’d just start we’d start building we built Canadian homes there.
So 16 inches on center and.
Yeah, yeah. Is it much different? The construction process in Japan than it is in Canada or were you Guys doing kind of the same thing that you did in Canada? Just in Japan.
We built Canadian homes there.
I guess there was some guy who built some Canadian style homes there, and there was an earthquake and they lasted.
And yeah, they’re much cheaper much faster to build a house in like four days.
Yeah. Two, three guys.
I mean, smaller homes, obviously a little like letter 1800 square feet.
1200 square feet.
And the lumber that’s sent over to Japan, is it pristine? I you know, yeah, I know.
No, it would be, you know, there was there’s a finger joint which they call when they make a stud.
It’s not the full length.
And they just joined the the studs like this.
There was some of that that came over and you guys from the ground up, you guys did everything with the construction of the homes.
No, the foundations were there.
So the concrete was put in.
Yeah, it was just a little crawl space.
And everyone got along for the year and the time spent over in Japan, you know, good experience. No, no.
It just send a couple of guys home.
There was some boozing going on and, you know, my father ran a pretty tight ship.
And, you know, especially when you’re over, it was like camp life.
And, you know, you can’t you have to you got to pull the line there and you know, you have to we all got to be going in the same direction.
Otherwise it doesn’t work.
We were all there to make money.
Okay. But okay, you’re there to make money.
But you you had an opportunity to experience the culture in Japan, I’m assuming, right? Yeah, I did. And did.
Can you think of any memories of what stands out from your time in Japan when you weren’t working? Yeah…
we took a weekend off it.
We went to Tokyo, so we took a train.
We were in a small little village and we took a train in and, you know, a couple of guys on the crew that were blond who were on the train, and they’re like, these trains are packed.
And you just see this blond head sticking above the crowd.
And these are white folks.
We’d come find us out and like, What are you doing here? And we’re like, Oh, yeah, we’re going to Tokyo.
And they would give us a bit of a where to go and stuff.
So we saw we went to this station.
I think it should be a station, and you may be familiar with it.
Saw it on, you know, TikToks or Instagrams or something where like the intersection, it’s like 10,000 people.
2 minutes later, 10,000 people like just changing and just had some great pictures there.
And, you know, it was, it was the prime.
Like I was in really good shape, real young really good shape.
And it’s hard.
We worked I think we did the first three months straight without a day off 15 hour days like I mean I worked as hard as I’d probably ever worked in my life and it really made me into a man for sure.
What an experience that your your skill in life took you to Japan to live for a year.
That’s impressive. Yeah.
So you spent you had your experience in Japan.
Did you move back to Vancouver, British Columbia? Yeah, I did.
I came back and I was still pretty young at an apartment here.
A buddy of mine sublet an apartment of mine.
I came back and came in and opened the key and sat down on the couch and turned on the TV.
And I was like, Oh, it’s a little different in here.
And then I made it went made a sandwich and I was looking around and said, and I’m looking for the ball game on TV and I’m eating a sandwich.
And I’m like, see, like, there’s like the doily ducks on the wall wallpaper.
And I get up and I go, What the fuck is going on here? And sorry if I swore.
And I go, I go in the bedroom and it’s all women’s clothes, and I realize he doesn’t live here anymore.
Oh, and I’m in somebody else’s apartment and put the sandwich I was making back, and they take my sandwich and I lock the door and leave.
And I guess when I was gone, he had been kicked out, so I had no place to live in Vancouver.
So I moved back to Armstrong and I moved back with my parents and during that, I met my wife back in Vernon, and I started work with my father a little bit again.
And then I decided to move back to the city.
So I moved back to Vancouver, and started working in high rise again.
And it was it was good money.
It was it was it was good money.
So when you’re working on a high rise or what are you doing? What are your what is your job when you’re working on a high rise is it dry wall? What’s happening? So we make it pretty much formwork.
So we would create forms out of wood for the concrete to go into.
The concrete gets poured the next day.
We take the forms off and then we put in some tables and make the deck and then they pour concrete on the deck and then we put those paint.
Then we move up to the next floor and then we build the vertical, vertical forms and fill them full of concrete, strip them bring the tables up, build another floor for that floor.
And just so was a week on each floor.
So, you know, these high rises are 30, 20, 30 stories 40 stories.
So, you know, in each it’s like, you know, each, each floor is about a week.
So you could imagine you’re there for a year and that’s when you get out of the parkade, which is probably the most grueling part of, of any build the dirtiest the wettest.
And it was, it was cold, hard work because it doesn’t snow here in Vancouver, but you get up high and you get wet and then the wind starts blowing and it’s, it’s cold and it rains here for like six months straight.
So, you know, you have it’s it’s hard.
It’s hard work. And I got tired of it.
Well, I don’t want to hear any of your complaining about the temperature in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Yeah, I understand. Yes.
In that I experienced -30 Celsius on a routine basis.
Oh, my goodness.
I couldn’t So I want to get into what you’re doing now because I think you mentioned that, that you work in television and film.
Is that correct? Yeah. Okay. So yeah, yeah.
I don’t want to fast forward too quickly into it, but so you did high rise work for a number of years.
How to talk about how you got into what you’re doing now maybe.
So I did high rise for two years, maybe ten years, and then I got into some residential work also and I won.
I, if I look back on it now, Kim, I think I was depressed.
Yeah, and I was depressed for a few years, was starting to have my kids were starting to be born and I didn’t like what I was doing.
I didn’t, I didn’t enjoy it.
It was too it was hard for one.
And I just I don’t know, I just didn’t have the confidence that I could do anything else.
And it was like the money was good, but I just didn’t have the confidence to go out and find something that really appealed to me.
And so I took jobs, construction jobs, houses and some Low-rise residential townhouses.
And at that time there was a lot of the leaky condos.
So I did a lot of that.
And then a friend of mine told me that I should come work with him and he works in film and I was hemming and hawing and I pushed it aside a few times, but then I had another, another child and I was like, I need to I need to get going here.
And my wife at the time, she, she loved me very deeply and she encouraged me.
She knew I wasn’t happy.
And she said, you should change what you’re doing.
So I took a chance on film and I’ve been there for 18 years and it’s the best job I’ve ever had in my life.
And I love my job.
It gives me so much.
It gave me so much confidence and direction.
And the people I was able to work with and meet were so encouraging and intelligent and creative and it’s really gave me something to be proud of, a career to be proud of.
Wow. We won’t talk about specifics as in like the name of the company that you work for, but maybe we can talk about is it a large company that you work for? So I work for a production company, but in any film worker in film works for the union So international trade and technicians union, I don’t even know what the acronym stands for, but I’m 18 years old.
I’ve got all kinds of 15 year old pens and ten, ten year pens.
But it’s a huge union it’s got tens of thousands of of technicians from grips lighting set decoration Make-Up hair props paint and the biggest brands of that union would be the construction part which I started in. Yeah there’s so many questions I want to ask you about it.
Could you tell us a little bit about your day to day work and gosh, is that even possible or is every day different for it? I do pre-production, so they’re based on ten to 12 hour days.
Production when they’re shooting can be up to 18 hours a day, minimum 12 hour days.
So I get to work.
I usually go to the studio or where there are the shot at 7:00 and we’d finish at 5:30 and we have two 15 minute breaks and a half hour lunch in the middle.
There I remember the first day I showed up on my very first day and they were, there’s this old guy out front and he’s like, I was like, Hey, I’m in the right place.
He’s like, Oh yeah.
He says Oh, inside there’s some coffee and donuts and get yourself settled.
And I was like, What? The coffee and donuts.
So I, you know, I was like, I knew I was in the right place.
And then but so we would, you know, gather and there’s a there’s a construction coordinator at the top.
This is the construction department construction coordinator, maybe one or two foremen and various leads.
So when I started, I was just I was just a date call so the union would dispatch me.
And if they liked me, they would keep me.
But you had to have so many days to get into the union. So it took me a while to get in to me about three years to get to become a member.
And once I did, I never looked back. And so I just started moving up.
The first thing I did is I became an on-set carpenter.
So they asked somebody, we need somebody to work on set.
Tonight, which is a carpenter to make saves.
If this set like one of the gags was somebody was smashing the door through the door with an ax.
I would I would have to be there to swamp the doors out.
So I worked on it.
One of the local TV shows called Supernatural for five years on set, and those were long days, but I made a lot of money and I learned a lot.
I learned everything about film different, all the different departments.
And so I did that for five years, but was really, really tough on my body, on my marriage, on my family, so I left that and I just became working back in pre-production, and then I became a lead and for a few years, and then I became foreman, and then I was a coordinator for a few shows.
And now in the present moment, I’ve been on the show for five years and I’m the location foreman, so that means that I would go on locations I’m looking across the street at a school right now, and so if we were to shoot at this school, maybe we’d do a couple scenes inside and it didn’t want the classroom to be so big or they didn’t want to see the chalkboards I would have to build.
The designer would draw up something like, Can we cover these chalkboards up? I would say, sure.
And I tell them how we would do it.
And then I’d submit a budget for what it would cost and then he would say, Oh, okay, can you make it cheaper? Or Can we add this to another budget? And then it would go to a final budget and then if it was approved, we would go there the following week for that episode or and we’d have a couple of days to prep it.
They would shoot it and then we would take it down.
And that just repeats itself over and over again.
Can you talk about some of the specific films or television shows that you’ve worked on, or is that highly confidential? Is it? No, it’s cool. I’d love to.
Thanks for asking, Kim. What are what are some of the highlights, Bobby, from your show you like? I mean, the highlight I what I love about my career is the people I work with like they’re so awesome.
Like, everybody is just awesome.
And it’s like, you know, and sometimes I do hirings and I will choose somebody who has a good attitude over somebody who has skill.
I mean, we have to have so many people with skill, but I’d rather choose people with with great attitudes because we get put in positions that you’re together for weeks and months on end.
So I did a show called The Interview Once with Seth Rogen and James Franco, and I had the opportunity to be on set there, but also do some of the pre-production.
And we did some really zany things like we had to it wasn’t felt like it was based in North Korea.
And some of the sculptors made these giant, like, giant like as large as trees, sculptures of Kim Jong Il and these other dictators.
And we had to put them downtown in Robson Square in these fountains.
And people everywhere and walking around, and we erected these giant sculptures and there was no mistaking they were like North Korean, like killers and we’re putting up sculptures of them, and people would walk by and they’d be like, What’s going on here? And me and my buddies, we had nothing else to do.
So we would be like, Yeah, and we work for the city of Vancouver.
And Gregor Robertson wants some more diversification around the city.
So these have been don’t ask guys but we have we’re trying to put these up and people lose their minds.
And just like I can watching, you know, people’s reactions to this and you know, and I think when traveling all over for that show, all over Vancouver in the Lower Mainland, and it was it was at such a rapid pace of setting things up and taking them down.
And I think the responsibility that was put on my shoulders was really was really cool.
And that’s one thing about locations. It’s like it filmed the next day and they pay us, they pay the production crew 6 minutes in six minute intervals.
So if and it’s like, I don’t know, I’m guessing it’s $100,000 like every 6 minutes or something like crazy like that.
So if I’m late or something that I build is not ready, like we all get fired, right? So there’s a lot of stress on me, but I kind of I kind of like enjoy that pressure.
But it was fun. That show was particularly fun.
And being on set and listening to Seth Rogen and and I forget Adam Goldberg was one of his writers.
They’re both local guys here, and they are.
And just letting them, like, freestyle back and forth, like trying to throw lines to each other and you got to witness that.
Do you do you know them personally? Did you did you develop any kind of relationship with with those two? Oh, no.
I worked with Seth Rogen a couple of times.
But on that show, it’s we do have a wrap party, but on the show he had a pre-party and we went to Benny’s Pub and he was in the pub and he was like he could buy drinks for everybody.
That was on the show.
And he was just outside smoking weed, like out in front of like the, the, the corner store.
And this is like his old neighborhood and he’s just like smoked weed for like 4 hours.
And I was like, I don’t, I didn’t smoke weed too much at that point in my life.
And I was like, Fuck this, man, I’m going down and smoke a joint.
Seth Rogen know I don’t care.
So I just went and hung up the phone and it’s like, super chill.
And then I was like, I got to high and I was like, I’m going to say something stupid.
So I it’s like paranoid.
So him and Adam Goldberg, I don’t know.
That’s kind of a story I have that that’s funny.
I’m sure there’s a few dozen more over 18 years and lots of different stories, but that’s a fun one.
Are you surprised where your carpentry ticket has led you to…
Are there any surprises around with that you’re working on in film and television? Yeah. Is that surprising to you? I’m surprised I’m surprised that I’m as successful as I am.
You know, if I was look back, I didn’t think I’d make it this far.
And I’m really successful and in my personal life and financially and career wise.
And I think it’s all due to having a positive attitude and, you know, listening, listening and taking taking the opportunities when they were given to me.
And a lot of it is is like some courage, some courage to put myself into areas that I was uncomfortable in and taking a chance to fail.
I think, you know, those those are some things that that got me where I am at a hard work, hard work, and and taking some risks and knowing that you can fail and it’s going to be okay.
What do you love specifically about being, you know, in carpentry, working in film and television? I love I love I love going to work with my hands.
I love like being a carpenter.
And that keeps me in shape.
And I love the men.
I love the men.
I really do like the people.
I’m surrounded with that I get to go to work with.
And I love I love how the men challenge each other.
We challenge each other to be better and we support each other at the same time.
And we’re in tune to each other to know when we’re having a bad day and we don’t have it today.
And a love like that will be on a project.
And it’s like, all our minds are on this project and we’ve put, you know, tens of thousands of dollars into it and and thousands of man hours, and somebody will walk in and go, We’re not using that anymore.
You can put that in the garbage and we literally have to be like, Okay.
And they have a brand new direction for us to go into and we have to be able to turn like a 90 degree turn in the middle of the day and forget what all this love and passion we put into something and get that same passion and turn it around.
And you can see some of the men are having a hard time coming to jump on board on this new project and to see guys support each other and, and say, hey, you know, like, you know, forget about that.
We got this.
And, and getting them, getting them started and getting them engaged in a small project until they’re engaged in the full project.
I like the inner workings of, of that.
I love the dynamics of my crew.
What kind of advice could you give a person that is considering getting their carpentry ticket before they even start like they’re thinking about it? What kind of advice could you give to that that person? Well, I would say your body is going to break down on you.
If you go into construction, your body’s going to break.
So you have in your twenties, you’ll be lifting everything and you need to not lift you.
You’re not invincible construction.
You will lift shit you never thought you had to lift and you will lift things that you have to lift because you’ll die if you don’t lift them because it’ll crush you.
You’re going to be in spots where you’re, you’re you have you? I almost died.
I remember once when I was 20, I almost died.
I was fell off a building and you and there’s been other points in my life where I’ve almost I could say probably three times in my career I’ve almost died or been paralyzed after I wouldn’t be the same human.
And that’s going to happen to you work in construction and especially if you want to be if you want to accelerate or you want to you know, like we work with machines that are with your arm off, you know, your fingers.
You know I work with guys, you know like that’s right and you know, you got to be careful.
So I my advice is pace yourself and have a plan where if you’re going to do if you’re going to learn and do you know, there’s a time where you can really make do you need your body to advance yourself? But, you know, be careful with your body.
Be really, really careful with your body and your older career.
When you get in your forties, maybe you’re late thirties where you have the the the wisdom and you have the the knowledge to start your own company and you can start to be a boss.
You know, that’s where you want to get to, to preserve your body.
Otherwise, your body’s going to you’re going to walk funny.
You’re not going to sleep right? You’re boxing or hurt, you know, like you’re going to your body won’t your body’s not meant to do this.
So stay in shape and you better be ready to work, because if you don’t work, you’re going to get called out.
And if you can’t it if you can’t work, then this is not for you, construction.
Not for you.
You know it’s not for you.
Go do something else.
Construction is a I think it’s a real something to really be proud of.
Yeah, that is a great statement.
Construction is something to be very proud of.
I totally especially carpentry, you know, like, it’s, it’s an honorable trade, man.
I feel proud about who I like.
I’m, I’m, I’m building something for my daughter.
I build a suite for my daughter, and I’m building the kitchen and I’m drywall in the walls.
And, you know, I built a sauna.
You know, my friends come to the sauna and like, it’s I’m really proud of what I can do.
And it gives me confidence as a human.
I did that, and we need things like that. In our life.
Things that we can be proud of makes us feel good.
That is excellent advice.
And you know what, Bobby I’ve taken up a lot of your time today.
We’re going to leave it at that.
So I just want to I want to thank you for coming on this very humble podcast.
I totally appreciate the time that you spent with us today.
Good-luck kids, eat your vitamins!