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Old 12-11-2016, 01:49 AM   #1
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Default Problems with non-union route?

So I'm trying to assess different options for becoming a licensed electrician, specifically a contractor.

I'm currently working for an EC, and have put in about 1700 hours with him on w-2, (before that I worked under the table with him, and 1099 with another guy for a while. So I've got about 2000 more hours undocumented).

Our plan is for me to put in my 8000 with him (3 more years...) and then sit for the test and become an EC. (In NC you aren't a Master electrician until you get 14000 hours, but you can start contracting residential at 8000 under a limited license) I am currently making $18/hr. He buys 80% of my tools, gives me 5 paid days off a year. Doesn't cover gas. No health. It's a small business and I'm his first formal employee. I'm going up to $19/hr at the beginning of the year. I am getting good training and handling a lot of responsibility. I think I am underpaid for the amount I handle, but well paid for the level of training that I'm at.

What are the risks or drawbacks to doing it this way? Are there better ways to work towards a license?
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Old 12-11-2016, 02:30 AM   #2
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That's hard for me to say. What are your other options? Can you make more with better benefits(any) somewhere else, closer, less travel, better conditions etc? Only you can answer that.
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Old 12-11-2016, 07:10 AM   #3
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Matt,
The easy answer is that if you have ambitions to be a contractor, the fast track is to just get your hours in and take the exam.

On the other hand, if you have the opportunity to get into a union apprenticeship program, dont miss that opportunity. You won't regret the time spent there.

I can tell you for a fact that it takes very little expertise to become a contractor. I have a couple of friends that worked inside an office and took the very complicated Florida exam and passed. Never spent a day in the field.
If they showed up with tools on one of my jobs, they would be gone in seconds. Nothing personal, they are just not electricians, they are CONTRACTORS. Don't confuse on with the other.

One the other hand, I have met some really talented electricians that only had field experience, no formal training or license. Our trade is all about how to apply yourself. My ignorant contractor friends have six figure jobs, my good unlicensed friend is happy to make less than half that.

I dont know what the moral of my story is except that there come a time, about 3 years into the trade, when you think you have it all figured out. Enjoy that time. Its at about 5 years you realize how little you know and at about 10 years in the trade to be completely horrified of your ignorance.

The next 20 need to be our peak producing years. You become extremely valuable in the trade and will run our jobs.

At about 30 years, you cant believe how much the trade has changed and wonder if you can remain relevant.
At 40 years, everything hurts and you are looking for a place to hide until you retire.
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Old 12-11-2016, 07:21 AM   #4
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I dont know what the moral of my story is except that there come a time, about 3 years into the trade, when you think you have it all figured out. Enjoy that time. Its at about 5 years you realize how little you know and at about 10 years in the trade to be completely horrified of your ignorance.

The next 20 need to be our peak producing years. You become extremely valuable in the trade and will run our jobs.

At about 30 years, you cant believe how much the trade has changed and wonder if you can remain relevant.
At 40 years, everything hurts and you are looking for a place to hide until you retire.
Nail Head Sundude ....I feel more like a pirate than an electrician these days ...

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Old 12-11-2016, 08:23 AM   #5
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It never hurts to look....but if the guys is giving you the hours on W-2 you need to take you test....your license will open up doors for you as an contractor or with better employers.

I would look, but at this time you have a bird in hand. Especially if this guy is teaching you what he knows...I learned the trade working from an owner operator, it was better than any apprenticeship.

As far as union apprenticeship, regionally your in North Carolina...i don't think the rates for Union are that great there...in my area its really good pay.
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Last edited by Tonedeaf; 12-11-2016 at 08:29 AM.
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Old 12-11-2016, 08:24 AM   #6
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There's a lot of bosses out there that are really hard to work with/for.
Be careful not to look a gift horse in the mouth.
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Old 12-17-2016, 12:43 PM   #7
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You have almost 2 years experience and making $19/hr is not bad.
Local 248 & 342 in NC only pay $23.85 for a journeyman.
That's 80% union scale under 2 years.

Your boss is charging many more times per hour and you feel cheated?
There is a ton of expenses in a business.

2 years you think you have it all figured out.
There is a ton to learn and experience in the trade.

The union will train and give you experience working on jobs your current small shop doesn't do.

Last edited by active1; 12-17-2016 at 12:45 PM.
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Old 12-17-2016, 01:36 PM   #8
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1700 hours is not much. You still have a ton to learn. That being said I believe that non union is you fastest way to owning your own business.
That is the route I took but I am not saying it is the best. The only real problem with going union is that they have a great learning program but a lot of them get stuff in huge commercial jobs and miss out on the learning side because of prints and pricks for foreman. In which case they do not learn to think for themselves.
Stay where you are at if you are getting a decent mix of resi, commercial and a bit of industrial like controls and motor troubleshooting. If you are you are on your way to being something special.
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Old 12-17-2016, 01:50 PM   #9
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I would say that getting the best education for your time is the best choice. Plenty of us union guys make 6 figure incomes.
I started in the trade non-union, went to ABC school for 2 years and everything.
I applied for the IBEW apprenticeship and was accepted. I ran.
The difference was night and day.
I had to repeat 2nd year but was paid 50% more so, it was an upgrade for me.
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Old 12-17-2016, 04:57 PM   #10
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You have almost 2 years experience and making $19/hr is not bad.
Local 248 & 342 in NC only pay $23.85 for a journeyman.
That's 80% union scale under 2 years.

The union will train and give you experience working on jobs your current small shop doesn't do.
The Union will also give him 9 paid holidays, medical insurance, life insurance, and at least one retirement plan. So 80% of scale and no benefits is hardly a good thing.
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Old 12-17-2016, 05:15 PM   #11
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I think the OP has it already well planned.
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Old 12-17-2016, 08:30 PM   #12
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I worked 13 years non Union, 12 years union. If given a choice, I would do it all over again in this same order. The only difference from you to me, is that I had a formal apprenticeship through ABC. But, not to put down what you are doing, you are at minimum, learning the trade. What separates you from the rest, is you aren't some entitled relative of someone that paved your way in. They can never take that hard work or knowledge away from you. Keep on keeping on, and when the time comes doors will open up for you and you can decide which one to enter. Trust me.
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Old 12-17-2016, 08:40 PM   #13
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The Union will also give him 9 paid holidays, medical insurance, life insurance, and at least one retirement plan. So 80% of scale and no benefits is hardly a good thing.


Our local doesn't pay any holidays out. No worky no checky


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Old 12-17-2016, 08:42 PM   #14
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Our local doesn't pay any holidays out. No worky no checky


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Were they negotiated away for something else?
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Old 12-17-2016, 08:57 PM   #15
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Were they negotiated away for something else?


Not sure they were never there for as long as I was in


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Old 12-17-2016, 10:38 PM   #16
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The original poster wrote they got 5 paid days.
We don't get paid days off in our local.
At best you might get cut out a few hours early with the full day paid on a RIF.

Hard enough her to get enough work to keep up the medical insurance.
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Old 12-18-2016, 10:48 AM   #17
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The original poster wrote they got 5 paid days.
We don't get paid days off in our local.
At best you might get cut out a few hours early with the full day paid on a RIF.

Hard enough her to get enough work to keep up the medical insurance.
LV pretty feast or famine. We can't man all our jobs locally. Calling all cars.
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Old 12-18-2016, 10:49 AM   #18
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The original poster wrote they got 5 paid days.
We don't get paid days off in our local.
At best you might get cut out a few hours early with the full day paid on a RIF.

Hard enough her to get enough work to keep up the medical insurance.
LV pretty feast or famine. We can't man all our jobs locally. Calling all cars. It's cold like Canada, just no hoops to jump through.
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Old 12-18-2016, 05:43 PM   #19
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I've got 15 formal years in this trade and I still learn every day. Its amazing how multi-faceted our trade is.
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