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Electricians install, alter, repair and maintain electrical systems designed to provide heat, light, power, control, signal or fire alarm for all types of buildings, structures and premises. In general, electricians:

  • read and interpret electrical, mechanical and architectural drawings and electrical code specifications to determine wiring layouts,
  • cut, thread, bend, assemble and install conduits and other types of electrical conductor enclosures and fittings,
  • pull wire or cables through conduits and holes in walls and floors,
  • position, maintain and install distribution and control equipment such as switches, relays, circuit breaker panels and fuse enclosures,
  • install, replace, maintain and repair electrical systems and related electrical equipment,
    install data cabling,
  • splice, join and connect wire to form circuits,
  • test circuits to ensure integrity and safety, and
    install and maintain fibre optic systems.

Some electricians specialize in specific types of installations: residential (housing developments), commercial (office buildings), institutional (hospitals), or industrial (plants, factories).

Furthermore, electricians may be involved in construction or maintenance, or do a variety of electrical work. Electricians usually work a 40-hour, five-day week plus overtime when required. Some electrical work, especially in construction may be seasonal or temporary in nature. Working conditions can change dramatically from one job to another, varying from indoors in clean conditions to outdoors on scaffolding, to indoors in cramped conditions. Although there is some risk of injury from electrical shock, a qualified electrician is trained to recognize potentially dangerous situations and to deal with them in a safe manner. An electrician may be required to lift equipment and supplies weighing from 11 to 25 kilograms.

To be successful in their trade, electricians need: good communication and reading skills, ability in mathematics, mechanical ability, strength and manual dexterity, the ability to distinguish colours to work with colour-coded wiring, the ability to work at heights, the ability to get along well with co-workers, a willingness to keep up with new developments in the field, creating new ways of doing things, doing very precise work expertly, working at a variety of exciting tasks, and having the assurance of a job at a reasonable pay.

Those who install or maintain equipment in existing homes or businesses also must be neat, friendly and able to deal with customers courteously.

In Alberta, the Apprenticeship and Industry Training Act requires that anyone working as an electrician be a certified journeyman or a registered apprentice. To enter the Electrician Apprenticeship Program, the applicant must have at least a passing mark in Mathematics 23, or equivalent (or pass an entrance exam), and find an appropriate employer who is willing to hire and train an apprentice. Most employers prefer to hire high school graduates. Courses in English, mathematics and physics are particularly important.

The term of apprenticeship is four periods (years) of on-the-job training and technical training in a classroom. Each of the first three periods requires a minimum of 1500 hours of on-the-job training and eight weeks of classroom training. The fourth period requires a minimum of 1350 hours of on-the-job training and 12 weeks of classroom training. An applicant who has successfully completed some accredited or related courses of study or work experience, and has the employer's recommendation, can apply for credit toward the apprenticeship requirements.

Human Resources Development Canada may provide income support for apprentices attending classroom training. For more detailed information, contact your local Canada Employment Centre.

Apprentice electricians earn at least 50 percent of the journeyman wage rate in their place of employment in the first year, 60 percent in the second, 70 percent in the third, and 80 percent in the fourth year. Journeyman wage rates vary, but generally range from $17 to $24 an hour plus benefits.


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