The Job and What's Involved

Shopfitters create the interiors of shops and stores of all sizes and types, from small corner shops to department stores. They also build and install shopfronts and entrances, and construct and install exterior and interior fittings for other buildings such as banks, offices, hotels, restaurants and bars.

Shopfitters survey and measure the area in which they are going to work. Depending on the shopfitting company, they may prepare design drawings for submission to the client or work from the client's own designs. These may have been produced by an architect or interior design company.

Based on the agreed designs, shopfitters machine, assemble and finish the joinery and metalwork needed for the job and arrange deliveries to the site. They install all the components on site. In some cases, they may be responsible for the whole project and give instructions to the various subcontractors involved in plastering, floor laying, heating, lighting and so on.

A shopfitter is likely to specialise in one or more aspects of the job:

Metal Fabricators cut, shape, weld and finish the metal parts of shopfittings and shopfronts.

Wood Machinists operate computer-controlled machines and provide sized components for shopfitting joiners.

Shopfitting Joiners work in the joinery workshop, making and assembling a wide variety of different items used in shops, offices, hotels and restaurants.

Shopfitting Fixers work on site assembling the components made by joiners, machinists and fabricators

Setters Out produce accurate, scaled drawings of a job, ranging from plan layouts and elevations to cutting lists of materials and orders for bought-in materials, itemising everything needed as single components and producing information for site construction staff, workshop staff and subcontractors

Estimators survey and measure the job, and prepare tenders for submission to clients.

Site Foremen are responsible for running and co-ordinating all activities on site, including subcontract works.

Shopfitters use a wide range of tools, depending on their trade. These might include saws, hammers, planes, chisels, screwdrivers, set squares and measuring tapes. They also use power tools, such as drills, saws and planers, and large workshop-based fabrication machinery.

The basic working week is usually around 40 hours, but overtime is often available. In some cases, it may be necessary to work through the night and at weekends, especially for refits where work needs to be carried out when the premises are closed.

Shopfitters work either in an office, a workshop, a machine shop or a paint shop. They may also have to travel to work on site.

Working with timber creates dust, although workshops have extraction systems.

Joiners, machinists and metal fabricators may need to wear safety equipment, such as safety helmets and protective footwear. They may also use goggles and ear defenders.

Working on site may also mean being away from home for varying periods of time.

The job usually involves lifting and bending.

The minimum starting salary for an apprentice may be around £9,000 a year whereas qualified shopfitters may earn from around £16,000 to £24,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Most new shopfitters work with specialist shopfitting companies as joiners, wood machinists, or metal and aluminium fabricators.

Construction is the largest industry in the UK, employing around two million people, though the recession has led to a decline in projects.

Vacancies can be found in the local press, Jobcentre Plus offices and Connexions centres.

Education and Training

Entry may be as a trainee shopfitting joiner, wood machinist, or metal and aluminium fabricator. Some employers may ask for GCSE's in English, maths, design and technology or a science subject, or equivalent qualifications.

Vocational qualifications in construction are available in some schools and colleges. These provide an introduction to the industry and a foundation for further training. They include:

  • GCSE's in construction and in construction and the built environment.
  • The Diploma in construction and the built environment.
  • ConstructionSkills foundation certificate in building and craft occupations.
  • BTEC certificates and diplomas in construction.
  • City & Guilds (C&G) qualifications in woodworking, carpentry and joinery and construction skills.

One of the main routes into the job is on the Construction Apprenticeship Scheme (CAS), a two-year programme to NVQ Level 2, then a further one-year advanced programme to achieve an NVQ or Diploma at Level 3. To apply, entrants need to find an employer who will sponsor them to complete an apprenticeship. There is also an assessment test. There is no upper age limit for the scheme.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training takes place on the job, learning practical skills and working towards qualifications. There may also be day or block release to college or a training centre.

Shopfitters working on all major construction sites need to have a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card. These are used in the construction industry to demonstrate that the card holder has been trained in health and safety and is competent in a particular occupation, or is working towards becoming competent.

Unqualified shopfitters and those who have re-entered the industry after time away may work towards a qualification through ConstructionSkills' On-Site Assessment and Training (OSAT) programme or Experienced Worker Practical Assessment (EWPA) route. These programmes turn a worker's existing skills and experience into a nationally recognised qualification such as an NVQ.

Shopfitting students are also eligible to join the National Association of Shopfitters, which offers training opportunities.

Experienced shopfitters who meet the eligibility requirements may apply to become a master shopfitter through the Institute of Carpenters.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A shopfitter should:

  • Have good practical and hand skills.
  • Be able to take accurate measurements and calculate quantities of materials.
  • Be able to concentrate on the job and have an eye for detail.
  • Be able to use tools safely and accurately.
  • Be able to read and understand clients' drawings and requirements.
  • Be able to work with computers.
  • Be reasonably fit.
  • Be able to work well as part of a team.
  • Be aware of risks and safety issues.

Your Long Term Prospects

Shopfitters may progress to a supervisory or managerial role, or transfer from the workshop to working on site.

Some specialise in a particular skill or client area, such as restaurants or offices.

With experience, some shopfitters set up their own business.

Get Further Information

Bircham Newton, King's Lynn PE31 6RH
Tel: 01485 577577

The Institute of Carpenters,
Third Floor D, Carpenters' Hall,
1 Throgmorton Avenue, London EC2N 2BY
Tel: 020 7256 2700

National Association of Shopfitters, NAS House,
411 Limpsfield Road, Warlingham CR6 9HA
Tel: 01883 624961

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