Pursuing an electrical career in construction has become a popular choice today. As a matter of fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the electrical technician field will grow by 8% between 2019 and 2029, with about a 62,200 numeric change in employment.
If you are one aspiring electrician, the ultimate goal is to take the state exam to get an electrician license. But you can’t just walk into a trade school pass and go out on the field. Experience is a must if you want to succeed in this field.
The electrical trade deals with complicated problems, complex systems, and intricate solutions– that’s why it requires highly qualified and skilled workers. But mere formal education is not enough. Aspiring electrical tradespeople need sufficient hands-on experience before they can call themselves electricians.
That’s where electrical apprenticeships come in.
What is an “electrical apprenticeship”?
In essence, apprenticeships are paid training to work alongside masters of the trade to learn the methods, sharpen their skills, and get the first-hand experience to build their career as an electrician or electrical technician.
Today, electrical apprenticeship programs are more structured and regulated, with 8,000 to 10,000 hours on-the-job training and 500 to 1,000 hours of formal classroom lectures– all in all 4-5 years of the program.
However, you can opt to earn the classroom hours and get an electrician diploma or associate degree program beforehand, rather than doing that in the program. Then, you can focus on the physical work during the apprenticeship.
Duties of an Electrical Apprentice
While under the program, electrical apprentices work closely with a licensed electrician to learn the craft. During the training, the professional will become your employer, educator, and mentor.
With that said, apprentices are not there to act as their mentor’s personal assistant, fulfilling menial tasks. Because they are being paid, they will need to do their part in assisting in and working for the duration of the electrical contracts. While their responsibilities vary depending on the type of project (i.e., general contracting or small-time house calls), they include:
● Reading, understanding, and interpreting drawings, schematics, blueprints, as well as electric code specifications for both commercial and residential installations of electrical equipment;
● Installing electrical circuits, such as switches, conduits, panels, and protecting devices;
● Installing, replacing, or repairing systems, parts, and equipment, including:
● Electrical wiring
● Switch boxes
● Hydraulic and gas electrical controls
● Alternative electrical parts
● Testing electrical components and equipment for continuity, current, resistance, and voltage; and
● Testing and performing preventive maintenance on electrical systems, including power distribution equipment.
In addition to those, you must have to work at a specific standard, which includes:
● Understanding the trade’s language, terms, and skills connected with the duties and tools;
● Producing work that not only meets the National Electrical Code but also quality and quantity that meets or exceeds your mentor’s standards;
● Keeping tools and equipment in good working condition; and
● Abiding by all industry, employer, and company policies, safety standards, and procedures.
Qualities An Electrician Should Have
Even if you’re still an electrician in the making, you need to have these traits. If you want to be successful in this trade, you have to embody what it means to be an electrician.
Dependability is essential not only to customers but employers, as well. Although employers can use a construction crew scheduling software to keep their staff in line, they’ll need electricians who will show up on time and deliver quality work.
2. Good communicator
Communication in construction is vital– both speaking and listening skills need to be sharp. You will need to succinctly convey your message to the client in a way they will understand. On the same note, you’ll need to listen and understand the client’s side to avoid any miscommunication.
First of all, punctuality is a sign of professionalism. You don’t want your clients thinking badly of you because you showed up late to the appointment. Wake up early, get all your tools and equipment ready, and mentally prepare yourself for the day.
In line with that, wise time management is a skill all tradespeople should have. There will be times when you’ll have multiple jobs to go to in one day. So, learn to be organized with your things and your time.
4. Attention to detail
As said before, the electrical field deals with complex systems and problems and requires complex solutions. Having a keen eye is crucial in this line of work because missing just a hairline of detail could not only cost you your credibility but could endanger your life and the lives of the people involved.
5. Mechanical aptitude and problem-solving skills
These are obvious and critical traits electricians must possess. They will frequently be working with systems, machines, equipment, and tools essential to their job. So, having the innate ability to understand the technical aspect of the job is a must. Moreover, they should be prepared to face any technical problem.
How to become an Electrical Apprentice
While apprenticeships are integral in an electrician’s career, they are only a part of it. There are several steps you have to accomplish to be a part of this trade fully.
1. Consider taking a pre-apprenticeship course in a vocational college or trade school.
As mentioned previously, you can get an electrician diploma or associate degree and finish the classroom requirement hours before the actual apprenticeship. It’s easier to learn the trade basics when your time isn’t split between formal education and worrying about pleasing your mentor.
Aside from focusing on the essentials, being this accomplished will set you apart from the competition. With the foundational expertise you gained, you’ll have the advantage of a head start on people applying for the same program. When it’s time for you to work hands-on, you’ll have to apply what you learned instead of learning along the way.
2. Get all your requirements in order
Apprenticeship programs have a specific list of requirements you need to fulfil before applying and getting in. You must:
● Be at least 18 years old, but some programs accept students as young as 16 years old;
● Have graduated high school with a diploma or hold a GED certification;
● Own a valid driver’s license and have reliable transportation accessible;
If you are still in high school and want to be an electrician, focus on particular subjects like English, Math, and Physics. As electricians will be dealing with people, English will help develop communication skills. Physics and Math, specifically Trigonometry and Algebra, are vital in the trade as electricians deal with measuring and calculating certain things like wiring lengths, the angle of a circuit, and the force of an electrical current.
For adults who could not finish high school, they can earn their GED or high school diploma online.
3. Apply for an apprenticeship
There are several avenues you can look for electrical apprenticeship programs.
● Online job boards or websites;
● Classified ads in newspapers;
Even though you might find an opening, the application process requires you to pass a basic aptitude test, mainly concerning math and reading comprehension. Also, you will need to pass a drug screen and sit down for a personal interview. Most importantly, you will have to prove your skill of mechanical aptitude.
In some states, like Texas and California, you’re required to register as an electrical apprentice before you are allowed to work on actual jobs. Depending on the state, requirements vary, so do your research. But generally, it only involves filling out a form and paying a small fee.
4. Complete the apprenticeship program
This is the bulk of your training. As most of the important things have already been discussed, some benefits of electrical apprenticeships include;
● Earning while learning. As apprentices get paid while they learn, their salary increases the more training they receive.
● They will receive quality training because they will be working closely with master electricians, providing them with focused supervision and guidance.
● They’ll have a chance of being absorbed or employed by their mentors when they complete the program.
5. Get licensed or certified in your state
To be able actually to work as an electrician, you will need to be licensed or certified. Requirements will depend on the state, so check on what your state asks of you.
Also, being certified or licensed ensures clients that you are qualified and skilled. With that, they will trust you to be their electrician.
Tips on being an Electrical Apprentice
With all that, let’s end with a few tips to help you have a successful career in the electrical trade.
● Have your own set of tools
● Be punctual
● Be organized
● Be familiar with the National Electrical Code.
● Be prepared to do the dirty work.
● Be open and tap into everybody’s mind.
● Be careful and know your limits.