Electrician Apprenticeship

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  • Jun 23rd, 2012 7:15 pm
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Mar 29, 2007
492 posts

Electrician Apprenticeship

I was just wondering if anyone on here is an electrician, or have any tips to help me in becoming an electrician. Is it better to find a company to apprentice for first, or should I take one of the 1-year apprenticeship prep courses that some colleges offer? I'm very serious about moving into this career path and any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
4 replies
Feb 4, 2009
67 posts
If you want to be a Unionized electrician in the IBEW, the Union will pay for your schooling.
Each branch holds (for the most part) an annual aptitude test - which is very general, mostly math and logic, nothing you wouldn't have seen in high school. If you have the right last name or did extremely well on the test you will get an interview. Charm them in your interview and you will get an apprenticeship. They pay for all the training, schooling, qualifications. You start at $16/hr I believe and after 5 years (determined in hours) you write the licensing exam and become certified and make around $40/hr. I believe. The electrical union is also known for their 36 hr. weeks.
Penalty Box
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Jan 7, 2011
1458 posts
The electrical pre-apprenticeship programs are fine but somewhat redundant, you will have 5 years and formal trade schooling - plenty of time to learn the fundamentals, you're as apt to spend your first year cleaning job sites and sorting material as anything. If you are technical minded and keen on the spending some time in college before you start, you might want to take a look at Instrumentation and Control as a trade instead of Electrician.

There are other things you should do though that will really help your resume. Try to include some of the common certifications needed on job sites - Having an up to date Whmis, Fall Arrest, Elevated platform, Fork Lift, First Aid/CPR and Zoom Boom tickets will put you at a huge advantage. Make sure you mention you know your crane signals, how to drive a stick, own tools and PPE - emphasize that you are "ready to go". Construction sector hiring is all too often done in a panic.

Don't waste your time in the residential sector. Period.

25 years ago I would have told you Industrial Electrician was the way to go but with no end to the collapse of manufacturing in Canada I can't recommend it.

IBEW is obviously the ideal start but very hard to get in - something you can do though is get the phone number of the job dispatch lines for the closest locals and listen diligently - the best time to be standing in a local office looking for work is during summer shutdowns and you know they haven't filled calls for a week - EXACTLY how I ended up with my last apprentice. Also typically most locals have 3 days to fill a call at which point a contractor can hire off the street - a good time to be standing in THEIR lobby - with your "ready to go" resume and work boots on.

More likely though you will end up starting with a non-union contractor - some are actually really good employers - others..... Just make damn sure they register you - if you don't have contract papers your not an apprentice, end of discussion. Spending 2 years doing hard labour for menial wages and finding out it was for nothing is horrible - and it happens way too often - make sure it does not happen to you.

Best of luck.
Jr. Member
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Jun 22, 2012
119 posts
I live in Vancouver and applied at the union hall, IBEW 213, and wrote a test, went for an interview and got in. Took the pre-app course at the union hall (roughly $5000), and you do 10 week paid work experience, and then you start on your apprenticeship. You get a guaranteed pay raise every six months until you get your ticket which will be close to $40/hour. You go to school three more times for 10 weeks each time.

I recommend it, I went to school with non union sparkys and they all whined and worried about asking their employer about getting a raise when they went back to work - plus their wage is far far less, they have less benefits, its far less safe, unreliable amount of work, and in the union you have a pretty big body of people looking out for each other to some degree. For me it was a no brainer.

Hope that helps! :)
Dec 29, 2011
420 posts
I am copy and pasting a post i made over at electriciantalk dot com. If you are serious you should go over there. Lots of information for someone looking to break into the trade.

"Having gone through this thread I'll add my .02. Pre-employment is quite frankly a joke. For a few reason.

1. For one thing (in sask) it really under prepares you for 2nd year schooling. I'm getting the impression in other provinces you can get credit for second year as well? Here you can't. So you go through 1st year schooling in 6months as opposed to the usual 8 weeks. The pace is slow and when you go back for second year you are thrown for a loop at how fast you are expected to learn the material. Which can lead to feeling lost in class and that produces poor marks.

2. I've worked for a few contractors now both union and private. They do NOT like to hire "preemies". Here is their reasoning. You are taught techniques that, quite frankly we don't want. From my experience I have to re-teach these kids on how to put on marettes, how to do joints, how to feed wire and take off the outer sheath of armoured cable. I believe most companies want a "clean slate" with their new hires. That way we can teach you the basics ourselves and how WE want things done.

3. Essentially pre-employment or not, for the first 6 weeks you will be a material mule. Meaning you are going to get the stuff I need to do the job. I don't care if you got pre-employment or not. To me a 1st year is a 1st year.

3. You don't come into the job with an attitude. Thinking you are somehow more experienced than other apprentices. I've seen in a bunch of times. Granted that could just be the way these kids are and would think this regardless of pre-employment, perhaps. But if a new hire shows me that attitude with comments like, "well why do you do it like that, because in pre-employement . . . . ."

4. The waiting list. In Sask (if you aren't female or a minority) you have to wait 4 years to get into the Moose Jaw course and 2.5 years to get into the PA course. Maybe it is less than that in Manitoba, not sure.

Having said that. If you can't find a job right away. My advice is to get a job at an electrical wholesaler like an Eecol or Westco. At least there you will be around the material we Journeyman use everyday. It would be a HUGE benefit to learn about the tools, terminology and the vast array of products we use. Not to mention to get a grasp of the cost associated with the work. I've worked with new guys who have come from 6months to a year at a wholesaler and my lord what a world of difference that can make.

Bottom line, like you said the biggest asset is a mechanical ability, willingness to learn (even from people much younger than you) and the ability to problem solve. Most importantly leave the attitude at home!

Lastly I'll touch on the whole Union vs. non-union topic. Of course always a very intense one in my experience. I did my entire apprenticeship with a private contractor, since then I have been with union companies.

This is coming strictly from my personal experience. I wouldn't have changed where I apprenticed for anything! Private is a great place to learn the trade, better than a union hall imo. To me you are exposed to a lot of different aspects of the trade. You work with people who WANT to teach you. I found that with private it feels more like a team environment with everyone there for a common goal. With union, my experience is that everyone is more concerned with 'self preservation' than teaching apprentices.

Secondly (at least in Sask) all unions are strictly industrial. I would recommend you work for a commercial electrical contractor. Commercial electrical to me is where you will gain the most exposure to the many different facets of the trade. You will work with an array of different voltages, systems and material. As opposed to industrial or residential. You do NOT want to get pigeonholed with a limited skillset.

Lastly with a private contractor you aren't traveling all over Canada. You will most likely stay within your city or close to it. Because let's be honest when you work for a union you are working for a middleman. You are NOT working for a company. You work for people who need guys for a set amount of time. With the hall you always run the risk of getting laid off. Layoffs are not fun, especially for an apprentice. In my experience if you are good at your job a private contractor will do everything they can to keep you steadily employed.

BUT. As a journeyman the private contractors cannot touch the benefits or pay of a union. The main reason I went union is because of the pension program plain and simple. I wanted to secure my retirement. The wages are roughly 4 dollars an hour more, you have the security of a pension, power tools are provided, in my case clothing was provided, overtime is double time not time and a half, some offer sick days, etc. There are a lot of benefits. To each their own though.

So. Footnotes.

Can't find an apprenticeship right away, work for a wholesaler until something comes up.

Stay away from pre-employement.

If you can, work for a commercial contractor for the greatest exposure to the diversity of this trade.

Congrats and I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I did. The trades are SUCH a great career choice. You will have skills that are in high demand and INCREASING. A job that pays over $70000 a year. A career that when you finish your training you will have zero debt! I am very happy that I made the switch and I'm sure you will be to."