On becoming an electrician

whoo

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I have a relative, a young man in his late 20s, who wants to become an electrician. He's looking at tech scools as well as apprenticeship opportunities. I'm hoping to find him some books or online resources that will help him. He has no tradeskill experience. He is a hard worker.

I'm less interested in reference books on ohm's law and more interested in "the path to become a good electrician" kind of resources.

I'm hoping one of our master tradesmen would like to provide some resources, recommendations, and tips. Anything productive is appreciated!
 
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kegkilla

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An apprenticeship is much preferable to going the tech school route as it's basically an invitation into the guild, but also much more selective. Given that he's late 20's, he's going to need a recent employment record demonstrating that he's a highly dependable employee to be considered for an apprenticeship. If he doesn't have that, he'll probably need to go through a trade school.
 
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kegkilla

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Thank you :)
No problem. I'd add that it really doesn't matter in the least what his recent employment is/was as long as he was a good and reliable employee. If he was working McDonalds and has a supervisor who will vouch that he was on time for every shift and worked hard on the job, that's huge in the selection process. This is a line of work that really doesn't have much room for being late or calling out, and by far the biggest problem they have with new employees is reliability.
 

whoo

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This is very helpful. Luckily, I believe he fits the mold in that hes only had 2 jobs in 10 years both doing the same work. I don't know what his boss would say, but I think he's the reliable type.

Thanks again!
 
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Goatface

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one of my friend's son is doing an apprenticeship program through local community college. last i talked him, it was like 3 days work/2 days classes. iirc in his state it was free for him as he doesn't have a degree in anything. 2 year program and all work and class time count towards his license.
 
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LachiusTZ

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Little brother is doing this, on his third year now? So should be licensed in another year or so.

He just got a job on a crew and started working
 
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LachiusTZ

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Thanks for the replies, gents! This is very encouraging for him :)

Might as well add, he has lived on the road the past year, has changed employers 4 times, and now is making good money going from site to site. Next step for him is really good money, or good money and stable location.
 

lurkingdirk

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My nephew is en route to this. He worked in construction for one employer throughout high school, and took a year off to work full time after high school. His employer will sing his praises like you wouldn't believe, my nephew is a good, dependable, hard, smart worker. He applied to a tech college to start the process of becoming a fully licensed electrician, and upon his being accepted he started receiving offers from various companies who said they would provide a mentor for him to apprentice with upon the completion of his two year degree. Big starting salary also promised while apprenticing. He had to commit to working five years with the company when he was all done. This kid is 20 and he's already got his career set. There's such a shortage of trades workers.
 

Bandwagon

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I have a relative, a young man in his late 20s, who wants to become an electrician. He's looking at tech scools as well as apprenticeship opportunities. I'm hoping to find him some books or online resources that will help him. He has no tradeskill experience. He is a hard worker.

I'm less interested in reference books on ohm's law and more interested in "the path to become a good electrician" kind of resources.

I'm hoping one of our master tradesmen would like to provide some resources, recommendations, and tips. Anything productive is appreciated!
I was in the apprenticeship program in Oregon when the housing market took a shit around 08/09.

I had just gotten out of the military and wanted to go back to my home town. I got some job offers when I got out that were in IT, but they were in Seattle or San Fran and wasn't interested in living there. I found a job at a manufactured homes plant doing roofing that was enough to pay rent and pay for school. I was also in a boxing club and the coach was really starting to ride my ass because I was always late because the roofers were always some of the last people out of the plant, so I asked the foreman if there was another position I could work that would let me get out right at 4 every day. He liked me and ended up putting me on the finish electrical crew (with zero experience). Took me about a 3 days to learn how to wire plugs, light fixtures and 3-way switches, which covered most of what I was doing. I started taking pre-reqs for the apprenticeship program, learning the (really basic) formulas for amount of wires in different boxes, writing them out on the drywall as I was working to practice, etc. By the time I applied for the apprenticeship program, the housing market was starting to decline.

The apprenticeship program had 88 people in it in my cycle and we're all ranked when the list comes out, and employers are required to hire in order of ranking. I ended up being ranked #2 or #3 and got 3 job offers within about a week. Went to work for one guy + 1 journeyman for 6 months. They were F'ing awesome and I loved working with them, but they were based 45 minutes away and the winter drive wasn't worth it. Really bummed all of us out, but I couldn't do that drive into the mountains twice a day. Went to work for a local guy + 2 journeyman after that. A Cali asshole, redneck drunk and redneck nerd, but they were fine overall. After about a year, work was really slowing down and I took a job in IT because the owner said he would pay for my school. The Electrician laid off both journeyman about 2 months later.


That whole story probably wasn't necessary, but I just wanted to explain the path that I took and that the entire time I worked in this field (about 2 years, maybe a little more), all I ever did was "home runs" (connecting circuits back to the panel where the master electrician works up the panel), outlets, switches, fixtures, etc. Really basic stuff. Anyone that graduated high school should be able to learn the basics in under a week, the rest is just learning how your boss likes to complete jobs. Ex: Outlets will be level, faceplates will be flush with both screws aligned vertically, home runs will always be parallel and never stacked, etc.

It's a trade job. In my experience, most of the tradesman aren't going to give a shit about some "fancy college boy" coming in and knowing ohm's law. They're going to tell him to shut the fuck up and go run that 14g through the attic. The best tip I could give would be to go find someone looking for a wire monkey or a basement bitch, say "yes sir" a lot, and spend a few years working up to getting respect.
 
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Sanrith Descartes

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If he has the brainpower have him make a plan to take some business classes or get a business degree while he does this. The ultimate goal of learning a trade like electrician is to not be a worker but be an owner. I have seen legions of skilled tradesman try and fail to be entrepreneurs not because they didn't know their trade but because they knew shit about owning and running a business.

I did low voltage work for years. It isnt rocket science. The good thing about the math side (like ohms law) is it explains why you dont run high current through shitty 20 gauge wire. Yes you can just read a little cheat sheet to size your wire, but knowing the why of how things work is never a bad thing.
 
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whoo

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If he has the brainpower have him make a plan to take some business classes or get a business degree while he does this. The ultimate goal of learning a trade like electrician is to not be a worker but be an owner. I have seen legions of skilled tradesman try and fail to be entrepreneurs not because they didn't know their trade but because they knew shit about owning and running a business.

I did low voltage work for years. It isnt rocket science. The good thing about the math side (like ohms law) is it explains why you dont run high current through shitty 20 gauge wire. Yes you can just read a little cheat sheet to size your wire, but knowing the why of how things work is never a bad thing.

Thanks! I've given him this advice as well. I appreciate your reply. This is very helpful!
 

Nate

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My little brother tried college for a few years, it didn’t really work out for him (he was in the engineering program and just wasn’t mature enough to handle the workload at 18-21). He dropped out at 22 and joined the electricians guild as an apprentice.

He loves it. You get paid during the whole apprenticeship (not great money, but I think he’s at 17-18/hr going into his third year, and he can count on a minimum 50 hour work week with paid overtime and sometimes double time). Like someone else mentioned, they rank the apprentices. I know he is very close to the top of his rankings and it netted him a multi year job at a new hospital that’s being built.

IMO the way that makes the most sense is through the local union hall. It’s 5 years to become a journeyman, but it’s a paid apprenticeship and at the end you are guaranteed close to $30/hr. They get good benefits and regularly renegotiate for better pay. Like a degree, once you become a journeyman, it’s something that can never be taken away.

Circa 2000 high school guidance counselors made a big push to send every kid to college. “Just get a degree!” they said. Twenty years later and we have a bunch of twats with art history degrees and no practical skills. Meanwhile the trades have an ever aging work force and there is real need for skilled labor. It’s a very respectable career and one that will pay much better than many liberal arts degrees, especially if you’re good at your craft and reliable. If you do end up going out on your own, six figures+ is definitely on the table if you can manage the business side of things.
 

Sanrith Descartes

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Thanks! I've given him this advice as well. I appreciate your reply. This is very helpful!
True story. Best friend's cousin is a cop. Working toward retirement. Met a guy who was a great hvac guy but was struggling and about to go bankrupt with his HVAC business. The cop is a smart guy with a degree. Offered to buy the guy's business for pennies with the deal that the guy goes back to just being the field tech. Done deal. The cop makes an easy couple hundred k a year just doing the books and running the admin side of the company. HVAC guy still does 95% of what he did before when he owned it.
 

Sanrith Descartes

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My little brother tried college for a few years, it didn’t really work out for him (he was in the engineering program and just wasn’t mature enough to handle the workload at 18-21). He dropped out at 22 and joined the electricians guild as an apprentice.

He loves it. You get paid during the whole apprenticeship (not great money, but I think he’s at 17-18/hr going into his third year, and he can count on a minimum 50 hour work week with paid overtime and sometimes double time). Like someone else mentioned, they rank the apprentices. I know he is very close to the top of his rankings and it netted him a multi year job at a new hospital that’s being built.

IMO the way that makes the most sense is through the local union hall. It’s 5 years to become a journeyman, but it’s a paid apprenticeship and at the end you are guaranteed close to $30/hr. They get good benefits and regularly renegotiate for better pay. Like a degree, once you become a journeyman, it’s something that can never be taken away.

Circa 2000 high school guidance counselors made a big push to send every kid to college. “Just get a degree!” they said. Twenty years later and we have a bunch of twats with art history degrees and no practical skills. Meanwhile the trades have an ever aging work force and there is real need for skilled labor. It’s a very respectable career and one that will pay much better than many liberal arts degrees, especially if you’re good at your craft and reliable. If you do end up going out on your own, six figures+ is definitely on the table if you can manage the business side of things.
I employee welders (amongst other things). Trying to find a quality welder is balls squared. You are spot on.
 

Erronius

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I have a relative, a young man in his late 20s, who wants to become an electrician. He's looking at tech scools as well as apprenticeship opportunities. I'm hoping to find him some books or online resources that will help him. He has no tradeskill experience. He is a hard worker.

I'm less interested in reference books on ohm's law and more interested in "the path to become a good electrician" kind of resources.

I'm hoping one of our master tradesmen would like to provide some resources, recommendations, and tips. Anything productive is appreciated!
IBEW is a good place to start, if you can get in. You can try applying at a JATC (it's like $20 to take the test?) and hope you get called back for an interview, and then hired.

It's going to mostly be new-work though, especially as an apprentice. Which was something I always hated personally. And you can get pigeon-holed doing that stuff, if you aren't careful. But the apprenticeship programs are good overall. I've known some people who traveled a ton doing IBEW work and made good money, but they all complained that it was hard to have a life doing that. I've also known folks who refused to travel, stayed local, and had to sign the books a lot.

If you do the 5, you can turn out and then things could change. Personally I'd knuckle down and finish the apprenticeship, and then take stock. If you don't like doing new work, you can start looking at maintenance and service gigs. The bad thing there is, it can be a big adjustment going from more construction, to more maintenance.

You don't have to start out union. But I'd be careful about trying to avoid the fly-by-night shadetree non-union shops. There's decent non-union places that will do bigger jobs and might be willing to hire, but I'd generally avoid any employer with less than 30-40 people unless you know someone.

Tech schools can be good, depending. But I don't think people should look at it from an "Apprenticeship vs Trade School" viewpoint either. An apprenticeship is going to give you a far different experience from a tech school, and vice versa. At least with an apprenticeship...that comes with steady work as well. A program at a school is fine...but most people can't just afford to do full-time trade/tech school for two years w/o working, so they do 2 classes a semester while working full time elsewhere.

I'd say try for an IBEW apprenticeship first. If that doesn't happen, try to find a job that might hire as maintenance or has different maintenance departments, and do the tech school at night. Even if it is working production or as an operator in a plant. Once you get courses under your belt, you might be able to get over to maintenance and end up doing electrical for work while taking those courses.

With no experience, I honestly don't know what resources would help. Being new is rough, and there's a lot to learn like how not to kink conduit, don't loan out your tools, which parts of the NEC you're actually going to need, wtf linesman's pliers are, how scissor lifts are not ATVs and no you can not make it over that 3" drop. You'll mount boxes until you want to cry...and then you'll mount more boxes. There's the 'ghetto' way to do most anything, and then there's the right way. You'll learn from Bob that you can cut hairs/strands to 'make' cables fit into lugs, and then you'll learn that there's a lot of fucking idiots out there and to never listen to Bob. There will be an enormous amount of scutwork before being ready to take on learning anything additional, and you only learn that stuff by doing it.

I will say that I wish I could have been able to use my phone and Google any questions I had, when I was starting out. The Mike Holt forums are a decent resource, and his textbooks aren't bad. His code-change stuff is excellent, but that's probably not beginner friendly. Mostly if I'm stumped and I'm too lazy to open a book, I'll google and read any results from his forums, if they pop up.


I don't think there's really any resources I could point out that would be worth anything to someone who hasn't started yet. But that changes if/when he starts somewhere and starts running into stuff and getting experience.
 

whoo

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Erronius Erronius thank you so much for taking the time to make such a lengthy reply. I really appreciate this perspective and I'll share it with him in the morning!