My Career Path
1. How did you get started in this job?
I was helping a friend with a job. He is an electrician. I found it very hands-on and quite different from the work I'd been doing. I was able to use my technical skills and visualize things in 3-D, quite a change from working in a lab.
2. What were you doing before you started the electricians apprenticeship?
I have a master's degree in physics from UBC and I was working in a research lab at the university. I didn't enjoy the report writing and all the paperwork I was having to do. Working as an electrician was a real change, though I must say my math and writing skills, and my technical knowledge, have given me the confidence to quickly figure out new technologies. That continues to help me in this job.
3. If you knew then what you know about your job now, would you have done anything differently?
I started the career later in life and by the time I started the apprenticeship, I felt I'd learned to make good decisions. I really valued the schooling. I might have been able to get around it, but I also know that once you start working it’s re ally hard to go back to school. You just can't afford it.
4. What would you say to someone starting out in this career today?
When you're starting out, get the best schooling you can. It'll be hard to go back and the education really lets you tune up your math skills for the context of the work. I also see a lot of people in this trade who don't have good writing skills. Even though I'm not crazy about writing, being able to write up a design and cost quotes really helps. If you want to get into supervisory work, it will be important to express yourself clearly in writing. Also it's important to learn all you can from some of the other trades. Cross-trade training can be really helpful. Electrical work very often resembles construction carpentry.
5. Where do you see yourself going with this job in the future?
You know, I'm not too sure. I haven't thought too much about it because I'm still focused on the trade. Computerized control systems are becoming more common. I think that with my technical training and willingness to figure new things out, my future in this career might have some bright spots in those areas.
6. What are some of the main forces of change in the industry right now? How will those affect you?
The main thing that's happening in the industry is the trend toward specialization in areas of the trade. It might not affect people who already have a wide range of experience in the trade, but it might mean new electricians have a hard time learning some of the different areas of the trade. That will make it harder for them to solve some of the problems encountered in this job. It will be possible to learn new technologies, such as computerized controls, through specialized training, and that will be an exciting opportunity.
A typical workday
||Annacis Island, B.C.- We have a big job today. We've been working on rerouting some of the power controls for the Annacis Island sewage treatment plant. Often on these big sites the power can't be shut down because of the critical machinery being operated, so we have to work quickly and to a plan.
||We've mapped out the power supplies. One of the relays on high load kept tripping the thermal shutdowns, which are the fuses that respond to higher-than-correct heat and shut out the offending power supply. Now we must run new conduit, which requires us to install armoured Teck cable between two junctions.
||We've switched a few of the wires. The work schedule requires that we switch the power supply back on at 11:00 am. The pumps can only be off for four hours before they lose their prime. We've worked hard so now we'll take a break for lunch.
||The power supply is back on and it's time to resume the rewiring. The connections have to be wired and immersed in quick-set epoxy. I wear Nitrile gloves to do this task.
||Those connections look good so we'll run some system checks because we're almost done.
||We plug a laptop into the digital power switch controller and run some circuit testing routines. Everything looks good and its time to turn the power back on. Mission accomplished.