What is an Electrician Apprenticeship?
An Electrician Apprenticeship program is specifically designed to help a new electrician understand the electrical field quicker and easier. The goals are to help you learn the technical and electrical code (i.e. the laws surrounding working with electricity) side of becoming an electrician. The program also shows you the best practices to perform a certain task, for example, bending pipe or pulling wire. In an apprenticeship program, you will experience a classroom setting where you will learn about the national electrical code and you will spend some time in the field gaining valuable hands-on training in performing the electrical tasks efficiently and safely.
The Electrician Apprenticeship program will be taught in two different settings. The first will be in a classroom set up like a college class. You will be educated on how to use the National Electrical Code to search and locate specific codes to help you perform your job properly. As an electrician, it is your responsibility to make sure the work you perform will pass the code’s standards.
Never do a job halfway because you will be liable for the work forever!
The best skill I have learned in my years relating to the national electrical code is the art of mastering the Index. You will find that when you start to read the code that it’s pretty much in a different language. The code is written by lawyers who have their own language to themselves. In addition, there are many exceptions listed in the codes. The code is well over 1,000 pages long! You and everyone else included will never know the entire code. The key is to master the art of searching for what specific code you are looking for. The weather that be how high should you install a disconnect switch, what size wire do you need for the service of a 200amp residential home, or can I install a single pole breaker in a panel with a high leg phase? These are common questions in the electrical field you could encounter. You are not required to memorize the whole document, just know how to use it effectively.
In the classroom setting, you will also learn about the math calculations required in the electrical industry. Majority of the time in the real world you will receive a set of plans that have been laid out by an Electrical engineer and will already show you what size wire and equipment are required. There are instances when you are working in the service department that you will be required to perform certain calculations.
For example, you may need to size the conductors of a 100 amp 480volt receptacle that is 250ft away from the panel. The calculation steps would be to find the ambient temperature, voltage drop, current carrying conductors, determine the size according to 310.16 (2008 code), and finally determine the conduit size. All these are just a fraction of what you will learn in the classroom. Check out these electricians books for a good head start on classroom learning.
Here is a small list of Electrical Calculations you will learn:
- Voltage Drop
- Current Carrying Conductors
- Ambient Temperature
- Box Fill Calculations
- Conduit Fill Calculations
- Transformer Sizing
- Equipment Sizing
- Grounding Electrode
- Equipment Ground Sizing
- Motor Calculations
- Soft Starter Calculations
- Overload Calculations
- Breaker Sizing
- Service Entrance Sizing
- Residential Service Sizing
- And much more!
This list above is just a fraction of the calculations you will need to learn for your job. Like everything in this world, you will probably not use this information unless you are designing electrical systems – but it’s good to make sure you at least learn the process of how to do it. I am currently an Estimator for my company and I rarely have to use any of these calculations. When you plan on taking your Journeyman’s Test or Master’s Test you will be required to know these calculations inside and out. When I took my Journeyman’s and Master’s test about 20% of my questions had to do with electrical calculations.
The second setting will be in the field with real trade tools and materials. The instructor will show you real-life examples of a typical work day for an electrician. This is the FUN part. No more boring classroom where you are fighting to not fall asleep. If you’re like me you enjoy working with your hands. Here you will learn all of the techniques to the electrical field. You will learn how to bend pipe, install boxes, wire panels, maybe install a propane generator, and much more.
The instructors themselves have been in the field for a long time and know the ropes. Make sure you pay close attention to learn secret short cuts to help make your job easier. You will also learn about the materials used. I know when I first started I had a hard time learning the different trade names and nicknames for certain tools.
You have likely heard of side cutters referred to as Dikes, plies referred to as Klein’s, and wire nuts as B-caps? What about couplings and connectors? 1900 box and j-box? Plaster ring? Romex? MC? Receptacle? 1/0 or 2/0? Myers Hub? Gutter? Rigid? EMT? Single Pole, threeway, and four-way… That is just the start! Confused yet?
Trust me it takes a long time to remember all of the trade names and nicknames for materials. It can be a pain at first because you have to ask a lot of questions and I think you are a pest to your Journeyman. Best Advice: ASK ASK ASK. Don’t be afraid. If you don’t know just ask. Better that than bringing the wrong materials, and making an even bigger fool of yourself. You might find it useful to look over a list of electrical tools and equipment before you start to get yourself familiar with the terminology.
Best Electrician Apprenticeship Program
The Independent Electrical Contractors
I am a little biased when it comes to this apprenticeship program. I have personally sent many of my starting employees who are making a career change to the electrical industry through this program and have had great success. This program offers a classroom setting with hands-on training. A great benefit to this program is that while you are enrolled and let’s say the company you work for has a layoff and you are the unfortunate recipient, IEC will help you obtain another job that day with a contractor in the IEC network. That is AMAZING JOB SECURITY! You don’t have to worry about job loss.
Independent Electrical Contractor highlights:
- Students work full time while attending class one night a week
- You are supervised by a Journeyman electrician
- A Master Electrician teaches your nightly classes
- Wages shall increase regularly while enrolled in the program.
- Graduating students may receive up to 37 college credit hours.
- Scholarship funds are available to graduates on a limited basis to continue your education.
This is just some highlights – you can read more on an electrician’s job description if you’re interested. Honestly though, the best way to learn the trade is to just start working. Just jump in with both feet and test the waters to make sure this career path is written for you. Once you start working you will most likely be paired up with a journeyman electrician or a seasoned apprentice electrician.
It will be difficult at first because in the industry everyone has strict deadlines to get work completed. Therefore it makes it difficult sometimes to stop and teach. That’s why I recommend an electrical apprenticeship program where you can learn in your own time. It can be hard work at times, but once you’re qualified you’ll be well paid for your work (find out how much electricians make).
Please contact me with any recommendations you have if apprenticeship programs you are a part of or have been to. I would enjoy hearing about your experience.