If you are colour blind, chances are that a career as a electrician is not for you because wires are colour coded. However, if are good at math, able to focus well, love paying attention to detail, are a methodical and meticulous problem solver, have good hand to eye co-ordibation, believe in following rules, thrive on challenging physical labour and are a good multi-tasker, then maybe you should consider this work.
For one thing, it pays well. The minimum wage for a journeyman electrician under the Construction Wages Act in Manitoba is $31.95 an hour, but many employers pay higher than that – in Ontario, it’s even higher at $37 an hour – it all depends on demand and where the work is needed in each province. Apprentice’s wages are tied to the journeyman rate. In Manitoba, a first year apprentice might earn 13.16 per hour, but a fourth year apprentice will be pulling in $26.32.
The future for electricians is also very bright. Demand in the U.S. is predicted to grow 900% (labour study by the State of Colorado 2009) over the next few years as electrical contractors become energy contractors thanks to the emphasis on green construction. While this trend is being mandated by governments, contractors and developers also see the advantages in constructing buildings with lower operating costs.
Demand is also being driven by the trend toward electric cars – some American jurisdictions are requiring parking lots to be refitted with plug-ins to accommodate these new vehicles.
In Canada, a number of provinces are looking at banning incandescent light bulbs, just another indication of the trend toward green construction. Communications growth including video streaming is continuing to fuel demand for the installation of coaxial and fibre optic cables for high speed Internet. Demand for electricians with skills in data voice and video wiring is expected to grow 12% by 2018. Robotics and the automated manufacturing process is also driving demand. This new world of energy will want recent electrician grads with a knowledge of solar panels, wind power and biomass.
Being an electrician is not for the weak at heart. It’s a tough, demanding job that demands good physical endurance and dexterity. You may find yourself working in inclement weather under difficult conditions, on your feet for hours in an aerial basket in high winds and rain or freezing cold, in constant danger of electrical shock. Many times you will be hot, dirty, wet or cold. In addition to electric shock you are subject to falling from scaffolding, to burns and cuts and you may have to travel to distant job sites.
If all this hasn’t discouraged you, then you are a likely candidate and here’s how you go about getting to your goal.
You need anywhere from grade 10 to grade 12 depending on where you are living. The IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) demands grade 12 or equivalent with math 405 or 300, physics 40 or 300 and English 40 or 300/301 from its apprentices.
Apprenticeship entails working with or under a journeyman as well as attending classes to learn trade theory. You will need to be able to read blueprints and work with computerized tools.
Apprenticeships last four to five years and you have to find an employer who is willing to work with you through your apprenticeship. Manitoba Hydro often looks for apprentices.
In Manitoba the course is four years or 1800 hours per level. In Ontario and through the union it is five years. You can begin your apprenticeship while you are still in highschool and are 16 years of age.
If you are older and do not have all the above qualifications, you may still qualify by going through a prior learning assessment program which will take into account all prior experience and trade related activity or training.
There are very many job opportunities in the electrical trades. Everything from home construction, maintenance and renovation to work on highrises, in the oilfields, on hydro projects and in industrial settings. Electricians also have the option of setting up shop for themselves, so if you are an entrepreneur at heart, your final options may be unlimited.