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Old 07-04-2018, 11:58 AM   #1
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Default Career Stranded in PA

I'm not sure what to do Career wise.

I was an electrical Helper in SC for three years. I worked under a master electrician and was doing a home study course with mike holt to take the SC "journeyman exam" The shop was small, owner and 3-4 guys. We did primarily luxury Res, some commercial fire alarm sub work and commercial. I was on the same educational track as the boss's first helper who completed Master under him and moved on to a big military Sub.

My wife and I moved back to PA for family reasons. I had decided not to take the SC exam because there was no reciprocity with PA. I was making nearly as much as the senior wireman. I figured that I would take the PA. Then I got to PA and started working for another Company. Small shop. 10 guys. I got relabeled as a helper, which ok, I'm not licensed, so whatever. Now I drive my personal vehicle to jobs sometimes an hour away. I find out that PA doesn't license electricians. Just checks to make sure you have contractor insurance? However every city and township may or may not require license and some of them reciprocate and some don't.

Ok so I just need to show that I've been working under Master Electrician and go take Philly test.

But wait, my boss apparently is only a journeyman, in NJ, not PA. None of the electricians I work with are certified in anything.

Some of them have been with this guy for 20 years.

I question them on code and get screamed at. Just recently one of the 20 year vets wired a res stairway wrong. I called it, explained the code. Got reprimanded. Then I watched him run up and down the stairs to "simulate" the code. The inspector failed it and I had to go rewire it. The stair three way switched the up hall but nothing over the stairs or at the bottom of the stair.

They are getting into to some luxury homes. Which sometimes have Light control. I am certified to program Lutron devices. I also have extensive experience installing. But I got screamed at on the job site when I questioned how they were being installed by the foreman. (they were not functioning). Then I did a demonstration and wired one "three way" the other guy's way and one the correct way. Told me I was to stupid to figure out how to do it his way. (which wasn't working and took several trips to the panel and wire swapping). However I ended up installing the rest of the devices problem free.

I'm six years in the trade now. However I am 33. I still don't have a van with this company. Although now I make more than one of the guys with a van. I can't stay here. Top paid guy makes $21.

I've paid off my house. I am married and not interested in the "tramp" life with the union. I did go to Local IBEW 743 to talk options. I'm worried that I'm to old to go apprentice.

My question is I'm not sure should I try to go to school and get at least a journeyman. So many electrical contractors around me have no license. I do jobs for my contractor buddy and he says I just need to get insured and PA contractor permit and make the leap. What should I do?
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Old 07-04-2018, 12:07 PM   #2
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Let me flip this around on you. If all the stars and moons aligned, what do you want to do?
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Old 07-04-2018, 01:29 PM   #3
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You're never too old! Become an apprentice and get your J-card. My father is 65 and just enrolled back into Texas A&M. Look at age as being just a number when it comes to educating yourself. I just finished 4 years doing trade school at IEC and learned more in school than in the field. Not that I didn't learn a lot in the field, but there are things you'll never see in the field that school will teach. Get into a 4 year program, at least a third of the guys in my 4th year class were in their 30s and 40s. You're right though, don't stay with that company. I can't really talk about Unions, never been part of one. I work for a service company, their pay is really good for apprentices. Also if you go to trade school, there are mandatory raises every 1000 hours. Nice raises. I don't really have any good advice other than throwing out my 2 cents. I wish you the best of luck man!
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Old 07-04-2018, 01:53 PM   #4
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Youíre not too old to become and apprentice, and your experience would make it easier for you to get through the process. Donít turn your nose up in the union either. At your age the benefits should figure in heavily. I entered the electric field about 30ish, joined my local two years ago, and have no regrets except that I didnít do it sooner.

Theyíre right, ignore your age and past. What would you do right now if you could. Pursue it.
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Old 07-04-2018, 02:00 PM   #5
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What part of PA are you in? If you're interested in commercial service work (company truck, phone, etc, benefits) let me know.
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Old 07-04-2018, 02:43 PM   #6
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another option is organizing into the union hall as a journeyman. my advice is always try to find the best contractor union or non-union to work for, ask anyone you think that might have an idea, talk to supply house guys and ask who has there sh** together, keep an eye out for what contractors work where, go with your gut and don't be afraid to keep trying new contractors.
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Old 07-04-2018, 03:43 PM   #7
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Close your eyes, get a running start, and jump both feet right into it.
The two possible outcomes are, sink, or swim.
If you don't sink, swim like a mafka, and you'll get there.
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Old 07-04-2018, 04:45 PM   #8
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What would I do if the stars aligned? I would be on my own hunting luxury residential work. Its a totally different business model. I enjoy the lighting control. Normally a Low voltage contractor wires all the keypads and programs. Then an indoor wireman pulls all of the circuits. I want to get more familiar with Audio/visual/network and bring it all under one roof. There are too many issues with communication in lighting control when one contractor is wiring and another is programming. Electrical engineers never draw it correctly and everyone gets confused from there. Now I'm on jobs where it seems neither the electrician or A/V contractor understand the product.

Also, I hope it didn't sound like I'm turning my nose at the union. I wish I went union from the start. I think they have the best training and career ladder. I just got the feeling that I would have to travel out of my area to get work. Bunch of union guys are headed west coast for work. If I don't go solo then I will make the union switch. We've already talked about that. They are waiting to hear back.

And I am from south of Harrisburg/ Reading.
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Old 07-04-2018, 05:42 PM   #9
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if that's the path you want, most locals are not right for you. It would be totally different
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Old 07-04-2018, 06:10 PM   #10
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You can also do like Ben Gravy and post lots of video's on Youtube of you surfing on the Great Lakes. He's a millionaire now.
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Old 07-05-2018, 12:12 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Krichelderfer View Post
What would I do if the stars aligned? I would be on my own hunting luxury residential work. Its a totally different business model. I enjoy the lighting control. Normally a Low voltage contractor wires all the keypads and programs. Then an indoor wireman pulls all of the circuits. I want to get more familiar with Audio/visual/network and bring it all under one roof. There are too many issues with communication in lighting control when one contractor is wiring and another is programming. Electrical engineers never draw it correctly and everyone gets confused from there. Now I'm on jobs where it seems neither the electrician or A/V contractor understand the product.

Also, I hope it didn't sound like I'm turning my nose at the union. I wish I went union from the start. I think they have the best training and career ladder. I just got the feeling that I would have to travel out of my area to get work. Bunch of union guys are headed west coast for work. If I don't go solo then I will make the union switch. We've already talked about that. They are waiting to hear back.

And I am from south of Harrisburg/ Reading.

It sounds like you found your niche that you want to work at. You are in one of the best states to try it because of the no license thing. You can get insurance and a fictitious name and do it on the side to start, and be legal
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