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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello EC Users,

I'm Seth and I've been lurking around the forum for a little while now, gathering information about EC and what type of people are in the trade and what type of life it would mean for me and my family.
So far, I like most of what I've seen, and this forum seems like an awesome resource for the trade.

Down to brass tacks, I grew up in as a Military Brat and was in the Army for a few years, which finally landed me in Dothan, Alabama. I have been attempting to get into the electrical trade for some time now, and with AL being a right to work state, it seems very hard to get into any type of apprenticeship. I've tried to get hired as an "electrical helper" but they want to you to have 1 or 2 years of experience to make 8 or 9 bucks an hour which is Bull to me.

I also am not sure how I feel about the Union, since my eventual goal is to break out as an Independent EC as soon as possible and start from a one man shop and go from there.

SO my main questions are, Will I be better off Union or not-union to reach my goal of EC?

Should I try to get an Electrical helper job and drudge through 8,000 hours of work to just take my journeyman's exam in AL?

Or would I be better of going to my community college's two year electrical technology program and possibly working as a helper while in school? (Which, I would think would give me more book knowledge on the trade and a good foundation to start a journey to becoming an EC.)

Sorry, this post went a little long, but I've had so many questions and been trying to start a new career for over a year and am ready to get the ball rolling now.



Thank You in advance!:thumbsup:

-Seth
 

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Hey Seth, welcome to the forums.

I recently went through an electrical tech. degree at a community college in Maine and learned a lot there. I worked as a helper for a year or so and then landed a cool job wiring automated machines. I have now switched back as a helper but am not making the wage you said by any means. I find it very fun and challenging at times, so if you like it than stick with it.

At my college that gifted 4000 hours towards tour journeyman, so you only need 4000 mar in Maine, I don't know about Alabama.

As far as a union I can't help you out there, I have no knowledge of one.
 

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I'll tell you that I've only been in the union for 1 year and I gave 13 to non union contractors. I got to see and work on a lot of really great things and I had in my opinion one of the best electricians on the west coast for my last boss/owner. The time has gone by rapidly as you know. The non union world barely provided me with wages and insurance. If I would've joined the union when I started I'd be one third the way into my retirement. If you want to run your own business one day that's great just beware theirs a lot to it and a lot of risk. Contracting is a risky business. Highs and lows just like being a employee. Who knows though you might do well. If you don't join the union make sure you get somewhere that's worth it and going somewhere with itself. When and if you start, listen before speaking, be sure of yourself before you speak. We're electricians, were genetically wired to be arrogant but that comes from listening and knowing your sh$& as well. And there's nothing saying you can't be a union contractor.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
go the junior college route look into electrical contractor and electrical motor shop and keep trying.
I will definitely look into electrical motor shop. However, if I were not to go into this trade I would be pursuing a degree in business. So, the challenge of the EC route is attractive to me and I know that it won't be a cup of tea. I know I will be working longer hours and have more responsibilities as a contractor and I know how difficult it will be to juggle those many hats. But that's what I want to do as of right now but I'm wet behind the ears as far as the trade goes and that could all change.
 

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you may need to move closer to electrical jobs, take electrical and business courses, Construction Management. keep buggin electrical contractors, electrical motor shops tell them you can work part-time sweep the floor. The VA should have some good career counselors too. volunteer at your local Habitat for Humanity, get your residential framing electrical,etc. experience. volunteer there couple times a month, you may meet contractors on that job site for work
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
you may need to move closer to electrical jobs, take electrical and business courses, Construction Management. keep buggin electrical contractors, electrical motor shops tell them you can work part-time sweep the floor. The VA should have some good career counselors too. volunteer at your local Habitat for Humanity, get your residential framing electrical,etc. experience. volunteer there couple times a month, you may meet contractors on that job site for work

Thank you for all of the good advice, the program at my community college is an associates degree and I have also thought about branching into project management eventually as well. Those were the two main career path goals I've had, either become an EC with a mid sized company that's scaleable to grow or start working with a large company already and move towards the project management side of things, but with either of these I want to get a strong foundation of the fundamentals and first and foremost be a good electrician and then a good businessman.

What should I watch out for when I start working with EC's in terms of whether it's a company that will allow me potential to grow or company where i'll only learn to pull romex and do the basics?
 

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In my opinion you won't fund an electrical contractor that just pulls romex and does the basics. Every one I know in residential does a lot more than that.

Now commercial is more pipe and higher voltage if that's what you mean and won to do. There are contractors who do just that.
 

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Hey. Best advice is try union 1st add choice an then try a school. When I started I went to school but ide rather have gone to.the union. Reason is the union you go to school an work in the field at the same time. And while your schooling your getting paid and your getting hours/experience for your license. Plus pay rate is very good. I'm not saying school as a first choice is bad but it's more of assurance of your hours towards your license and pay rate increase. Outside the union your lucky if you even get what your worth.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
But the only thing I have against the union here is that I live in a right to work state. If I were in Jersey like you, I'd go union all the way it'd be an easier decision. The union guys here are travelling to find work, no one wants to pay the wage. Then if I did get my JW from the union and leave I'd be required to pay back education costs anyway.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Hey. Best advice is try union 1st add choice an then try a school. When I started I went to school but ide rather have gone to.the union. Reason is the union you go to school an work in the field at the same time. And while your schooling your getting paid and your getting hours/experience for your license. Plus pay rate is very good. I'm not saying school as a first choice is bad but it's more of assurance of your hours towards your license and pay rate increase. Outside the union your lucky if you even get what your worth.
If I go to school and then want to join a union, will they recognize me as year 2 or 3 apprentice or give me some kind of credit for the schooling?
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I just enrolled in my community college's electrical technology program, it's 5 semesters. I'm pretty pumped. I also found out one of my colleagues was an electrician for 5 years before he was in the army and is now out too and looking to get back into it. He said he'll be glad to hire me as a helper if he does. So, that is some awesome news. Sometimes I guess you just have to keep pushing to get that ball rolling but once it starts it's awesome how the pieces fall in place.
 

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In Canada, the apprenticeship is pretty much the same everywhere, whether union or non-union. First, you find a place that will hire you without much experience. Either right away or soon after getting hired, you get registered as an apprentice. You work for ten months, then you go to school for two months, collecting "employment insurance" while attending. Typically, it takes four years.

I went through the entire apprenticeship for automotive technician and it's structured similarly, as are a number of other trades. Being a journeyman already, that really helped get my foot in the door as a green electrician, but where I live, the demand for most tradesmen is huge.

I chose industrial because a tiny bit of experience with it from years ago. It pays better (typically), and I love the variety of the work. Conduit, flex, equipment installation, pulling wire/cable and terminating. Being with a small company, I was surprised with how much paperwork the average electrician has to do, but it's also a really good experience for learning every aspect of the business, even though I generally loathe paperwork... that's why I became a tradesman in the first place :p

As for unions, I think it depends on two things: your mindset and where you are. I haven't met very many people fond of the unions where I'm at, but the non-union EC's are competitive with them, so they pay just as well in many cases. I worked union as a pipe-fitter years ago, and one company was a typical stereotype of union work. The other one was the opposite (in a good way). It's all contextual.

So far, I love this trade and wish you the best. I feel good at the end of the day and usually look forward to the next. When I was a technician, I often prayed I would die in my sleep so I'd have a good excuse to not work the next day. The amount of electricians I've met who still enjoy their work after 5 - 10 years of work compared to the average car mechanic makes me wonder how I stuck with it for more than four years.

Good luck! :D
 

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Hi Seth, you may be interested in checking out the infographic about getting started as an electrician. It gives lots of useful information about how long you are going to working a week, good for getting a better understanding about what life as an electrician will be like for you and your family. And of course what kind of training you will need and what tool! Hope this helps and good luck!
 
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