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September 29, 2020

 

Electrician Apprenticeship: Everything You Need to Know

Electrician apprenticeships represent a crucial step to obtaining a license. Find out how to get started in the field.

If a career as an electrician is calling your name, your ultimate goal is clear: you need to earn a Journeyman’s license by taking a state exam. But you can’t just study hard, take the test, and start working in the field. You need to already have about 4-5 years of experience (the precise requirements vary by state) before you’ll even get approval to take the exam. 

At first this may seem like overkill, but in the end going through this rigamarole is incredibly valuable process that will supplement your formal education and give you the confidence to tackle numerous jobs on your own. As your skills develop, you’ll have a chance to work on more and more challenging projects until you can literally do it all. You can even develop a specialty or learn how the business runs behind the scenes. The success of your apprenticeship largely depends on what you make of it.

An electrician apprenticeship means paid experience and training.

If you’re a little worried that you’ll be doing grunt work for free as an apprentice, know that electrician apprenticeships are paid opportunities. However, because you’re working an entry-level position, you can expect entry-level pay. Once you earn your Journeyman’s license, you’ll have some leverage to negotiate a raise or apply to better-paying positions at other companies. 

You’ll also get on-the-job training that’s impossible to learn in textbooks. Formal schooling can teach you concepts and individual procedures, but field experience will teach you how to handle the entire workflow of a job, including getting dispatched, arriving at the location, troubleshooting any problems, remaining alert for safety issues, cleaning up the site, interacting with the customer, and closing out the job.

You’ll probably still need to enroll in trade school.

In addition to the on-the-job training you’ll receive, it’s wise to enroll in a trade school in order to learn the science and mathematics of electrical work. In fact, your state may shorten the required length of your apprenticeship if you also complete a certain amount of schooling. 

Handling trade school and an apprenticeship means you’ll work a full-time job while attending class. It’s a lot to handle, but your school and your employer should understand the importance of working together to create a schedule that’s appropriate for you. Remember, you won’t be the first electrician apprentice to have scheduling conflicts!

Increasing Your Chances of Acceptance

You’ll need to put your best foot forward when applying to apprenticeships. There are other up-and-coming electricians also hoping to land an apprenticeship. Which one should be hired? 

To stand out as a candidate, try to show your commitment to the field. It’s helpful if you already have a few classes under your belt. What else can you bring to the table? Are you used to working in the field or being on your feet throughout the day? Identify your strengths and highlight them in your application.

Another way to stand out in your application and to learn about apprenticeship opportunities is to join a national organization like the National Electrical Contractors Association and get involved with your local chapter. Your trade school should also help you network, but it will ultimately be your responsibility to choose which apprenticeships to apply for.

You’ll need your own basic tools and gear.

Once you are accepted into an apprenticeship, ask what kind of gear and tools you’ll need to bring to the job. You may get a grace period in which you’ll be loaned some equipment, but many mentors will expect you to have your own toolkit and personal protective equipment. Having your own gear will allow you to work more efficiently and comfortably. It also forces you to keep track of and care for everything you use.

Finding the Right Mentor

As you apply to apprenticeships, you might be tempted to apply to every single one and to accept the first one you’re offered. After all, it’s a competitive industry! But keep in mind that you’ll have a better apprenticeship experience if you get along with the people you’re working with. 

As an apprentice, you’ll perform all electrical tasks under the supervision of a licensed electrician. However, it’s your responsibility to speak up if you have questions or need extra guidance. In this sense, you don’t just want a supervisor; you want a mentor and a teacher. Research the companies offering apprenticeships before you apply. In the interview, be prepared to ask questions, not just to answer them. 

Of course, your first few weeks as an apprentice may feel awkward. If you keep your chin up, always show an interest in learning, and remain ready to lend a hand in any circumstance, you’ll soon earn respect even as a newcomer.