Do you hate the idea of a desk job? Are you detail-oriented and able to work well under pressure? Then perhaps a career as an electrician is for you!
In order to shed some light on this energizing trade, Youthink caught up with Ashley Gallon, a NAIT student who is currently completing her third period in the electrician apprenticeship program. Ashley is employed at Victory Rig Equipment in Nisku, Alberta, a company that builds oil rigs.
So how did Ashley get to where she is, and what advice does she have to offer students interested in following in her footsteps? Fortunately for Youthink readers, the busy apprentice took time out of her schedule to enlighten us on her career.
YT: In general, what are an electrician’s responsibilities?
AG: It is an electrician’s responsibility to install the electrical wiring of buildings, lighting, power supply to stationary machines and related equipment. As well, they may be employed to maintain and fix existing electrical equipment or install new electrical components.
YT: What training is necessary to be an electrician?
AG: To achieve your journey status as an electrician [meaning you have completed your apprenticeship], you must have four years of training. Each year requires around 1500 hours of on-the-job training, two months of schooling and a government test. From there, you may go on to acquire your Red Seal certification, which allows you to work nearly Canada wide.
YT: What is the salary range for an electrician?
AG: The journey wage varies greatly from company to company and from residential, commercial and industrial jobs. Average residential journey wage is about $28 per hour, commercial is $32 per hour and industrial is $38 per hour.
YT: What are the risks in your field?
AG: The largest hazard is the electricity itself. You cannot see it and in any amount, it can be deadly. As an apprentice, you are not meant to be working on energized equipment. Even as journeyperson, you should never work on live equipment – it’s never worth the risk.
YT: What challenges do you face being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field?
AG: To make your way in the industry, you have to become one of the guys. I was a bit of a tomboy growing up and am able to joke and work well with the men. You can find yourself changing job sites often and working outdoors at times, so things such as staying warm and having bathroom facilities can be unpredictable. I find the biggest difficulty for me is often I am physically unable to do some things required of me, which men who weigh 30 pounds more and are five inches taller have no problem doing. So I suppose the challenge is swallowing my pride and asking for help, or using my imagination and finding another method of completing the task.
YT: What traits must an individual possess to be a successful electrician?
AG: Attention to detail is a definitely an asset. Most of the work we do is hidden in the walls, but what is visible is often required to be uniform and immaculate. It is important for an electrician to be able to work efficiently, be able to ask questions, learn from mistakes and deal well with pressure.
YT: What advice would you give a high-school student looking to become an electrician?
AG: Employers would be more likely to hire someone with a bit of knowledge than a person who is green. There are pre-employment courses available that show you the basics of electrical installations. Often there are jobs for electrical parts drivers or electrician helpers, which will help to familiarize you with electrical equipment and parts. You can also help yourself by buying books from hardware stores on wiring homes. Any education or skills you can acquire which would make you more valuable than the next person is an asset.