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Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 18
I was curious at what age you guys or gals became apprentices in the electrical trade? i am curious to hear as i know you will have some guys who started very young and others who made a career change later in life. what was the hardest part about your apprenticeship?


Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8,423
Likes: 3
My career as an Electrician was a second thought.
I started off as a Paid Fire-Fighter here in NZ.
I went straight from Secondary school into the New Zealand Fire Service, after 5 years service, I had a bad accident that found me Medically-Boarded.
At the age of 23 I needed to find a new way to earn a living and fast.
I moved away from the town where I was living and got a job with the local PoCo as an apprentice Line Mechanic.
Believe me, this was not easy, I basically tried to sell myself to everyone in town at the time, I even offered to work for free, just for the experience.
I went all over town here, handing out my CV, no-one called.
Just when I thought it was a stupid move shifting to Ashburton, I got a call from the then Lines supervisor at Electricity Ashburton, when can you sit your medical?.
Oddly enough, after Bob called a few others also called.
You just can't win mate!
It never rains but it pours.

Joined: Nov 2006
Posts: 348
ITO Offline
I am a 4th generation electrician and contractor, as long as I can remember as a kid we used to all sit around the dinner table and count fixtures and devices for estimates, while my mother and grand mother extended totals.

The old man let me start sweeping out the warehouse at 11, after 5 year of weekends and summers in the warehouse he put me in the field digging ditches and hauling 4” rigid and other back breaking work. When I was 18 the union brushed me off and I was too proud to use my family connections so I went back to school for a while, then started my own business later. 10-years of blazing trails that had already been blazed made me realize my family connections were not such a bad thing after all, and went back to work for the old man. He is gone now and my kids now help me take off plans.

101° Rx = + /_\
Joined: Apr 2006
Posts: 233
A quick career breakdown

1980 From school to apprenticeship “Electrical Fitter” Kincardine power station, Scottish Power
1984 Apprenticeship over station closing transferred to Glasgow retrained as “Electrical fitter Distribution” Scottish Power
1985 Then went into telecoms remote switching and signalling still with Scottish Power
1989 Life went to pot bar manager London
1990 Came home to “mummy” worked for numerous small electrical contractors, new builds, rewires, industrial, contract work
1992 Prison Officer (needed job security) Scottish Prison Service
1998 Prison Officer electrician security systems (back to telecoms stuff)
2000-Present : Prison Officer instructor teaching inmates about basic electrical theory

So I have had breaks from the trade but keep going back to it and to be honest "Still learning" and enjoying it

der Großvater
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 1,803
pressed button too early!
It's 6AM in deepest France; Need coffee!

Last edited by Alan Belson; 07/26/07 12:14 AM.

Wood work but can't!
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 1,803
Ah! That's better! 16, apprenticeships back then [‘59] were 5 years. I won’t bore you with my resumé, but I worked my way up from making the tea, drilling holes in toothbrush handles, machinist, fitter, draftsman, to Engineer in a Government Plant. All my qualifications were gained by part time study, apart from my 20 yard swimming certificate, [ I started at the top and worked my way down! ]. Retired at age 50 after Gulf War I and have only worked for ‘her indoors’ since, the best boss I ever had, [ I never got to sleep with any of the others! ] Moved to France 7 years ago. Will go back to the UK eventually, but only in a box!

Wood work but can't!
Joined: Mar 2004
Posts: 193
I was 26 when I started. It has been a hard uphill battle and don't think I could do it today if I wanted to. The hardest part was the decrease in pay. I was operating heavy equipment and was working around 50-60 hours a week @ $14.50/hr. I started this as a first year apprentice working 40 hours a week @11.25/hr. That was a drastic decrease in pay and it hurt for a long while. Now I make more than I did then and it has really paid off with knowledge.

I just don't think I would do it again because I wouldn't know better and with the increase in gas prices it would really throw me off.

Good thread. Really made me think.

"If common sense was common, everyone would have it"-not sure, someone here

Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8,423
Likes: 3
I'd like to add to my above post,
I started off as an Adult apprentice, which to a certain extent, earned me a wee bit of "respect" with my new co-workers, I was not some new boy fresh out of school, the fact that I had a heap of vehicle licences also helped.

But one thing that ALL apprentices are met with, was to hit me really hard, the wages.
I ended up flatting here in Ashburton for the first few years I was here.
Having luxuries like a car, just didn't happen.
This was in a time where apprentices could be paid less than minimum wage, because they were under a training scheme.
In my first year, I earned NZ$3.60 an hour, this was a humungous shock from the NZ$15.50 I had been earning as a Paid Senior Fire-fighter.
But no point in moaning, I was glad to be working again.
Things did get better, the work got steadily better as I learned new skills and I was really fitting in with the crowd at work.

Back then, you had to go away to the Polytechnic in Timaru once a year for a month on your Block course, this was more a pain in the backside really as half the time the tutor (who had been teaching basic electrical skills to people that couldn't find a job, was more often than not, burned out) and he would often ask the students to help teach the class, this isn't nearly as dangerous as it sounds, in fact I picked up more on the basics of Electricity this way than reading any book or watching a video about it.
You were constantly watching your class-mates to see if they would screw up!

I personally miss my days as an apprentice, they were good days.
My advice to anyone looking to get into this trade, please by all means, have a go, if you have the intuition to be a good worker and don't mind a few of the more menial tasks, like sweeping floors and so-forth, you may just fit in.
In closing, I will say that age is no barrier, if you have good eye-hand co-ordination and are good with tools and have an eye for detail, we need you!.

Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 1,803
There would seem to be some fundamental differences between apprenticeships in the US vs Britain and her ex Colonies and Dominions.

In Britain in the past one was ‘indentured’ at an early age, perhaps 12 or 13, to a Master, who became in loco parentis. These apprenticeships lasted 7 years, that is until one reached the age of majority, at 21.
No salary, just board and lodging. Many apprentices were chained to their benches to stop them running away in the 18C, but that was banned in 1947. [ joke laugh ].
Of course, these apprenticeships were actually slavery in real terms- and many ‘indentured’ boys wound up in the colonies as unpaid labor....
Fifty years before I was indentured, one’s parents paid the Master to train you! You got paid zilch.
By the time I was apprenticed we at least got paid something.
I started on 4s3d per hour = £8 10s 0d a week, say US $17 at today’s rate, and finished on £14 10s 0d a week, but my employer was of a generous disposition. I gave Ma about 2/3rds of my take home and still managed to run a series of large motorcycles and assorted girlfriends.
Once out of my time however, my pay shot up to £26 a week, which was a very good pay-packet in the mid sixties.
I just dug out my Deed of Apprenticeship indentures. [ no, not my false teeth!].
It says I shall
“Faithfully serve the Master, his secrets keep and his lawful commands obey;
Do no damage to the Master nor his Goods…
Not waste the Goods of the Master….nor absent myself from the Master’s Service without leave.
In all things behave myself as a Faithful Apprentice towards the Master and others having authority over me."

It also says my mother had to pay ‘nil’ for my training!
The years served had dropped to 5 - the official UK school leaving age being raised to 16.
In the eighties the terms dropped to 3 years. How anyone was supposed to get a Full Tech Cert or an HNC in 3 years is beyond me.

How does it work in America?


Wood work but can't!
Joined: Nov 2006
Posts: 348
ITO Offline
I do not believe the apprenticeship programs for the building trades are given enough respect and credibility in the US as they should get, and we shoot ourselves in the foot with our own labor laws.

We pretend to educate our children in public schools while simultaneously preaching how important college is, which for the most part a vast majority of our kids will not attend. I have actually overheard a woman telling her kids if they don’t study real hard and go to college or they will end up as a “construction worker”.

Twenty five years ago the IBEW apprenticeship program rejected way more young men than they accepted, now they actively recruit in local high schools and job fairs and are lucky to get a handful of boys who are interested, and of that group only about 25% are keepers.

My oldest boy has ZERO interest in being a “construction worker”, and lacks the discipline to go to college. He says he wants to “work with computers”, hell I know more about computer science than he does.

Culturally the building trades are taking some hard hits, and if you think that is bad the plumbers have it a lot worse.

101° Rx = + /_\
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