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#48343 02/09/05 08:16 PM
Joined: Sep 2004
Posts: 19
johnb Offline OP
I'm trying to decide if getting into the electrical apprentice program would be a good move. I passed the aptitude test and am waiting for my interview. Here in NJ I think the pay starts at 15 and change an hour. I currently work as a systems support specialist in the financial field. LAN/WAN etc.. I think I can survive making this amount for about a year or so as my wife works but is there enough work out there? I know people that have worked in this field for years and make great money. They have never been out of work. They tell me the people not working are the people that don't deserve to or don't want to. I'm a good worker with a good work ethic and from what i'm told I won't have a problem but I still worry that this might not be the right move. I know what the work involves and don't have a problem with it but being out of work scares me. I make great money now but I'm burned out with my field. Is being a union electrician a good career move. I just turned 40 and don't even know if they will accept me for an apprentice position but if they do can I make a living at it?.

#48344 02/09/05 09:01 PM
Joined: Feb 2004
Posts: 75
If it were me, I wouldn't start an apprentcieship at the age of 40. Typically the apprentices do the bulk of the hard labor Crawling, digging, carrying bundles of pipe, packing tools around etc. As having work goes. Out here in California they can't find skilled people fast enough to staff jobs. Even during the recession we managed to stay busy. Around here you have to be pretty darn useless to be unemployed as an electrician.

#48345 02/09/05 09:39 PM
Joined: Nov 2004
Posts: 138
you will definately be able to make a living at it. also, if you join a union you will be guaranteed to be out of work at some point. but from what i hear the pay in the union is better, so i suppose it offsets being out of work in the long run.union is more commercial/industrial and non-union is more residential(but not strictly..depends on the contractor) i hear the benifits are good in the union, too. the union isn't for me though, because i am half way(4000 hours) towards my journeyman's license in CT, and as far as I know, if i enetered the union right now, i would have to start over, and go through their program(which from what i've heard is excellent...probably better than the one i'm in right now)..also, i do some work from my boss's freind who has about 30 years in the union..maybe more, and he says that he will receive a check for the rest of his life after he retires for more than he is making right now...that's what he said anyway. also, you will probably be doing some traveling in the union vs.
if you go non-union, you can find a company that is close to you. good luck, i love my work and havn't missed a day since i started. i am a non-union apprentice.

#48346 02/09/05 10:36 PM
Joined: May 2003
Posts: 2,876
Happy Birthday e57 Offline
Now lets get this right, you're a 40 year old IT support/office jockey looking to take a cut in pay to enter the world of manual labor? Are you feeling ok?

Don't get me wrong, I love my Trade! I just cant see anyone starting at forty. Unless they moved from a simular trade, Like HVAC, or at least contruction.

As far as out of work goes, you would lack two items to maintain over slow times, experiance and seniority.

Now without POO-POO-POin' all over the whole idea... I do have a a suggestion:

You take you experiance with finance, and IT/LAN/WAN and Systems Support, tie them together tightly with some research on Bidding Programs and Project Management Programs. Learn a little bit about Commercial phone systems. Buy a PDA, if you don't already have one. Get a shiny white hard-hat to conviently leave on your dashboard. Top that off with some OSHA seminars in Vegas. And BINGO, you can be a "Project Manager" on the Tel/Data side of the Biz. Further down the line you can venture into Electrical, if you really want to diversify.

Rare to get laid off, good pay, and don't have to crawl through insulation, or play soap monkey to some 24 year old, 1st year JM put in charge of you.

Wow, I just might do it myself....

Mark Heller
"Well - I oughta....." -Jackie Gleason
#48347 02/09/05 11:32 PM
Joined: Sep 2004
Posts: 19
johnb Offline OP
I appreciate all the advice. I don't mind dirty work at all. I just want to know how the work outlook is for the near future. I have worked many projects with union electricians and telldata and know exactly what the work is like. I also see what some of the workers are like and those are the ones complaining about being laid off alot. I know a few people who are decent electricians and have a good work ethic and haven't been laid off in 10 years. My current job is high stress and alot of after hours stuff. Are all layoffs based on seniority? I thought it was how good of a worker you are.

#48348 02/09/05 11:56 PM
Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 914
John, this is a very touchy subject. Union vs. Non-union. As a disclaimer I run a non-union shop and have never been in the union. Around here most shops are non-union. I have an ex-employee who went union, he says the union will pay something like $25/hr after a time and he is happy with the training. I also have union guys calling my shop all the time trying to get out because they only work 50% of the year. Our non-union shop never works less than 40 hours/week, every week, but we don't pay as much. I guess it all depends on what you want.

I also don't know if I would start this field at 40, in fact at 35 I wouldn't go back in the field if I had to get a job again.

#48349 02/10/05 01:26 AM
Joined: May 2003
Posts: 2,876
Happy Birthday e57 Offline
My current job is high stress and alot of after hours stuff.

So is my job! (I'm a Field Sup., which is made up position somewhere between Foreman, and PM.)I got 4 different fast-track TI's going, and 4 dead-lines that all fall with-in a week of each other. (3000 - 30,000sq') All are behind, and I could use 15 more guys. RIGHT NOW! Labor pool has run out. One job has more than 8000' of conduit on it, all surface run, and the Arch's don't like the way you run it half the time. Want me to try to hide itMissing 70 light fixtures and have inpection next thursday. Engineer re-worked the entire FLS and handed it to me on last monday.

[i]HIGH STRESS?!!?[i] I drink 64 oz. of black coffee a day! [Linked Image] Just to stay in the game.... (six days a week lately.)

Naaaa Sorry Chief, there aren't many low stress jobs left. Even the low stress ones eventually lead to high stress ones.

Mark Heller
"Well - I oughta....." -Jackie Gleason
#48350 02/10/05 06:50 PM
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 507
I think that I can relate to your situation. I have a BS in electronics and worked for 12 years as an engineer for various manufacturers.

I too was burned out and when I lost my job I had to make a choice. Localy all the demand was for tradesmen. If I wanted to stay in engineering I was going to have to relocate again.

I chose to go to work for a local contractor. Because of my education the state let me take my journeymans test right away. I've been doing it for the past 10 years now and I still like it.

I've never been in the union but I do have relatives who are union. Biggest difference is that the union pays better and has good benefits. My company pays toward medical, but if I'm disabled I'm just SOL. The other thing is that with the union you have to go to where the work is, frequent moves seem to be the norm, but that may vary depending upon your location.

Good luck with whatever you decide.


#48351 02/11/05 01:02 AM
Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,644
I came into this business from the computer hardware trade. In the late 70s it became clear computers were becoming black boxes that were going to be high volume, low margin (throw them away when they break) and IBM decided the real money was going to be services, one of which was contracting all the things that go into building a computer room. I went through the whole training process and actually built a couple, then they stopped doing that. I decided the construction part was a lot more interesting than the actual computer and I went this way. I never looked back.
I think the realway to make money is to be a contractor but when you are the business part is really more important than the wire part to your success.

Greg Fretwell

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