So, you’ve maybe decided to pursue the career path of an electrician. By all accounts this is a great career opportunity, that will provide you with a future-proof job with multiple options for working in different industries. However, you may want to know about your first year as an electrician’s apprentice. There will be many new things to learn and you may also want to know what to expect.
An electrician apprentice should expect to have a steep learning curve over the next few years. The most difficult part of an electrician’s apprenticeship will typically be within the first year. Here you will get to learn the most important aspects of being in the electrical trade as an apprentice.
In this article, I will outline 5 important things an electrician’s apprentice will get to know and should expect. This article is meant to help you to be prepared for what’s coming in particularly the first year, as you begin working in the trade as an apprentice.
What an Electrician Apprentice Should Expect
Before your apprenticeship begins, you will most likely want to know what to expect. The first 365 days will for many new apprentices be defining whether or not, this is the trade that they want to continue to pursue. I have myself seen apprentices come and go, and have noticed some things, that either make or break them in the first year.
1. The Reality of Doing Physical Work
One of the things, that shouldn’t come as the biggest surprise is the fact, that an electrician does physical work. And sometimes quite extensive and demanding physical work. In the first couple of weeks and months, the reality of this slowly starts to sink in. Some will love this part of being an electrician’s apprentice, and others figure out, that this part of the job just isn’t for them.
When I first started out as an apprentice, I arrived from previously working in different kinds of office jobs. The physical part was actually one of the reasons why I wanted to pursue a career in the trades. Working in an office was slowly but surely melting my face-off, as I longed for any type of physical activity. By the time, the workday was over, no energy was left, and the next day with sedentary job assignments continued.
The reverse thing happened when I started out as an apprentice. At first, the amount of physical activity actually humbled me to a certain extent, which took some getting used to. A few weeks in, the reality of doing physical work actually started to make me more energized during and after the workday. So my humble advice would be to grind through the first few months until your body starts to adapt and get used to doing physical work. This part takes longer for others, but at some point, your body and mind will adapt.
2. Getting Comfortable With Electrical Tools
The tools in your toolbag are your most important asset as an electrician’s apprentice. An electrician has many different kinds of tools for various job assignments during a typical day. And some are more advanced than others. For you, as an apprentice, you should focus on getting to know the most basic tools that include the following:
- Voltage tester
- Wire stripping tools
- Screwdrivers and pliers
- Level measurement tools
- Yardstick or measuring tape
- Electrical tape
These different kinds of tools are the most basic ones, which are being further described in this article – explaining the most essential tools for an electrician’s apprentice. But, not all electricians use the same tools, as each individual has certain preferences and habits.
The focus for you as an apprentice is to find out, which tools you feel the most comfortable with. For example, how you strip a wire, can be done in many different ways. The most effective way for doing this particular task will be revealed to you, as you get further experienced. Being comfortable with the right tools also helps you to work more effectively.
3. Working Safely With Electricity
Starting out as an apprentice you will most likely be observing an electrician, while he or she is working closely with electricity. The focus, for you, should be to learn as much as you can about the various safety protocols involved with doing electrical work. Although slowly but surely, you will also be working independently with assignments, where electricity is involved.
It is therefore important to get a thorough understanding of the safety guidelines, you will learn in electrical trade school and working closely with a journeyman. For you as an electricians apprentice, here are some general and helpful tips for staying safe in your first year:
- Learn the proper way to test for voltage.
- Try not to touch any non-insulated wire (even though the power is turned off).
- Ask for help, if the assignments are too complex.
- Ask more questions than you think.
- Insist on not installing electrical components with the power not turned off.
- Notice if the journeyman you are working with does not respect the danger of electricity and get reassigned with another electrician, if that is the case.
If you would want to get a further introduction to staying safe as an electrician, I would recommend you go read this article, which explains some specific tools and safety protocols.
4. Dealing With Journeymen
In your first year as an apprentice, you will most likely get paired up with the same journeyman. This can either turn out to be a great relationship or something completely different. Not all electricians are obviously the same, and they expect different things from their apprentices. I have seen apprentices getting paired up with electricians who by no means should have the responsibility to train or guide an apprentice. I have even seen apprentices turning down the trade as a whole because they felt uncomfortable with their experience with a difficult and demanding journeyman.
You need to feel comfortable with the one, you will work with. Because most likely you will work together for a long time. You might think, that you have no say in that, but you really do. You are both a present and a future asset for your employer, and they also want you to succeed. And working with a toxic colleague will not benefit you in getting the proper experience in working as an electrician. And you might also learn to wrong approaches to for example the safety involved in electrical work.
In my own experience, I have worked with both some bad apples and some really terrific and awesome electricians. Working closely together many hours a day has to be both productive and enjoyable. You need to be able to trust your instinct and insist on learning, as that in the end also is your responsibility.
Also Read: Is being an electrician stressful?
5. Doing Trivial Work
Yes, you will have to sweep the floor. And yes you might be asked to do some other “trivial” work. But this is also a big part of being both an apprentice and an electrician. Although I called them trivial, they are actually an equally important part of the daily life of an electrician. These different kinds of work tasks will involve one or more of the following:
- Cleaning up af work site.
- Unpacking materials.
- Disposal of trash and waste materials.
Your job as an electrician apprentice will involve related tasks. Although they can seem boring at times, they will make a workday become much more satisfying. An electrician apprentice (and an electrician) should focus on staying organized while also contributing to doing the trivial work in order to have a smooth operating workday.
What to Expect in the Following Years to Come
In the following years, an electrician’s apprentice will obviously get more experienced and will also learn more advanced types of electrical work. The still most important part of the job is to learn the safety guidelines involved in installing, testing and maintaining. Some other thing to expect is to have more responsibilities in job assignments.
As the year’s pass, your employer will be also able to trust you with tasks that a first-year apprentice will and should be trusted with. This is the part of the journey of an electrician’s apprentice that can be the most exciting and satisfying, as you get to show what you are capable of. Focusing on becoming a great apprentice will also gain respect from employers and journeymen, who will appreciate this type of apprentice.
Every electrician was an apprentice once, and they have therefore also been in your shoes at a time in their lives. Your colleagues are there to help you, although by being prepared and knowing what to expect, your time as an apprentice can get easier. I hope this article has been helpful and I bid you a great apprenticeship as you become a part of the electrical trade.