need some advice from you seasoned vets who have been through it all.
I am a second year apprentice. It took me over 14 months to find my first job after finishing school. I worked full time while in school evenings and bought a house with my wife.
When I found my first job I kept my old job on the weekends to compensate for loss of salary and to have a backup plan when work gets slow.
First year was great, learned a lot, but the last year we have been off almost 4 months out of the last 9 months.
I could look for work elsewhere but from what I see its dead everywhere. I was hoping to be loyal with this company not only because its a good place to work, the work is interesting and I have learned a lot more than most of my buddies from school. Basically I am scared of getting contractors who will use me as a housekeeper/tool passer/gopher which is the case for a friend and is fed up of the trade and left.
I was also offered a year work at my last job as a maintenance electrician and the only perks are job stability, salary will be 14$ an hour less and work will consist of changing lights and adding the occasional plug and switch.
Some people have told me in the long run the stress and instability of working in construction (resi and industrial) isnt worth it and the salary is marginally more after taxes taking layoffs into consideration.
I am confused as to where my career should go and with a mortgage and baby on the way, being off 4 months a year will not only be stressful financially it delays my hours towards my apprenticeship and will take me 5-6 years to complete my 8000 hours.
I know this is a personal decision, but I would like to base it on other peoples experiences and words of wisdom who have lived through similar circumstances.
Welcome to ECN and the trade. Coming up through ranks is tough. I was laid off bit myself. With the economy the way it is, it is tough all over. What I do know is the trade has been good to me spite of the hard times. I worked odd jobs and two jobs at the same time. If you can tough it out and trully want to be an electrician, it will pay off in the long run. In your down time, hit the books and the Internet. Study, study, study. There are job services out there that can teach you how to inteview. You will have to demostrate to perspective employers why they should pick you over the hundred other applicants. Most guys have playboy and readers digest in the bathroom, I had the NEC. Each day I came home and tried to located eveything I did that day. I read books, trade mags, and with the Internet, there's so much to read and it costs so little and is easy to get.
I do not know the employment situation where you are at, chances are if it is slow for electricians, it is slow across the board. What I can tell you is start boning up on green power. That's the next boom that is coming even with the economy the way it is.
General advice is if you are in the trade just for the money, you will run yourself ragged. If you are in the trade because you enjoy the work, I suggest you keep plucking away at it. You will not be the low guy on the bottom of the pole for ever. Heck if they give you a broom to push, push it with professioalism, they will notice the good and bad attitude. I got sick and tired cleaning out service vans and sweeping the shop but they were paying me for it. When something came up, I was one of the first ones who got to go with since I was there and everyone else went home pissing about the lack of work.
First off, it sounds like you're not in an actual apprenticeship program. That should be one of your top priorities. These programs have very limited times when you can actually apply, so you better do your legwork NOW.
Book learning isn't enough; you need to make it a point to seek out various employers who work the different aspects of the trade.
Your second goal is to learn the basics of several other building trades. You need to know how to patch a roof, patch a hole in a wall, do a little painting and texturing, dig a trench without destroying the lawn, simple concrete finishing, etc. You'll want to know a little about HVAC and pumps.
It's a construction trade, after all, so you'll need to know how to cut and drill concrete; cut, bend, and tap metal; how to hang things on various surfaces.
Looking at the job ads, you'll often see someone asking for an electrician with additional skills: boilers, electronics, instrumentation, welding, EPA license, etc.
Certifications you should look to have on your resume include an EPA "universal" license, asbestos abatement, lead abatement, and the 10hr. OSHA certificate.
Industrial maintenance work is perfectly honorable, and can be a very good place to learn about motors and controls. Property / apartment maintenance can be a good place to learn about the ways buildings have been made in the past.
I went to school for 15 months or 1400 hours (applicable to apprenticeship). Then we find an employer to guarantee us 150 hours and we get hired. After said 150 hours we are official apprentices. We then work to 8000 hours (including 1400 from school) and write our exam. There is no actual apprenticeship program as in Ontario or certain other places like the us.
It would be a complete lie to say I wasn't in it for the money to a certain degree, I went to school to better myself and make a decent living. I was miserable at my last job and wasnt making a good living so I went back to school. I really enjoy my trade and spend time trying to learn as much as I can and do as much as I can on the side helping friends just so I can learn and expand my repertoire of skills.
My issue has been job stability in this trade. Quite a few people have told me how they spent 20 years going from job to job, on unemployment, etc and even though they made a decent salary, they spent so much time off they never really were able to see it.
I plan on following some industrial automation courses, but since I am on the beck and call of my boss I cant plan to go to school in the near future.
In our collective agreement construction electricians make 34 and hour, but have no job stability. Go to a hospital or government setting with great benefits and job stability we make 21 an hour and have less interesting work to do.
I have loved every minute of my 2300 hours worked so far, but sometimes I wonder if I should look for stable, but less financially rewarding and less interesting work or risk being in the fluctuating labour market.
I would say 50% of tradesmen I know make great money, have rewarding jobs and never look for work while the other 50% are always in and out of jobs, taken advantage of employers and get treated like dirt because the bosses know they can get away with it.
Its a very tough road and the decision isnt a clear cut one. I just wanted to get a feel what other electricians have been through in their careers before I make any decisions about mine.
Damn, That is one tough call you have there mate. However, one thing I know personally, is that nothing is guaranteed as far as employment is concerned in an industry such as electrical construction/repair.
Adroga, the hardest bit for you is going to be getting the rest of your hours, to make up 8000 of them. Now I'm not sure how things work in Quebec, but over here in New Zealand, I believe that of the 8000 hours required for registration, only 2-3000 are only actually "wiring time", sure you have other things like installing motors, cable tray and ladder, you name it.
If there is any advice that I can ever give ANY apprentice anywhere in the world, to save yourself a lot of hassles, in the long run keep a diary that you update every day, stating what you did that day and the materials you used when you did it.
It is no good after nearing registration, you find out that the authorities require detailed information of the work you did, when you did it, where you did it, what you used and how you used it.
Believe me, I had this problem when I applied for electrical registration, the authorities want to know that you know what you are doing and that you can give a "paper-trail" of your training. Record-keeping is a very important aspect of any tradesmans work.
All I can really say is don't lose faith in this industry, it sounds like you have the aptitude to make it in the trade.
I did 14 months as an electrical mechanic in Alberta in the late 70's. The work was very interesting and my boss was trying to convince me to also take on an electronics apprenticeship with another company. IE they would share me. The work was steady and certainly less capricious than construction but it was dirty, very dirty. I had to go on at least a weeks vacation before the black even faded from my hands, never mind the condition of my lungs. I eventually quit and moved to Victoria where I started my apprenticeship in construction. In 1982 I barely worked at all and it was rough. I went back to work about 4 weeks after my unemployment insurance expired and was working in a program to extend it and keep my apprenticeship alive. I did go back to work and since that day I was unemployed maybe 2 weeks for layoff. I am now the Chief Electrical Inspector in Victoria since October 23,09. I never really wanted to be a construction electrician so I always said I know how to do it, whenever there was a chance to do anything new. It has been a very rewarding 30 years and although I occasionally say if only I knew then what I know now I would have gone to college to learn engineering I doubt that I could be any more satisfied with my choice to work in this industry. I am never bored, there is always something new to learn and the pay is good too. In fact I probably do as well as a few of those that went to university and got a degree. As long as you find the work rewarding it is worth the uncertainties but you have to always improve and expand your skills. You will go much farther with a good work ethic and attitude than on smarts but smarts help too. Good luck