When Will Demelo was growing up his parents used to say that if he didn’t work hard in school he would end working as a tradesman.
Demelo did work hard in school, but he ended up working with a skilled trade anyway. And over the years he has watched as attitudes about the multitude of professions that fall under the category have changed.
“A lot of people are changing their views on trades, especially those like plumbers and electricians. It's a great way to make a living, different every day and there will always be a need for electrical workers,” says Demelo, who is a skilled electrician.
At 44 years-old and with almost half of his life dedicated to the profession — the last dozen as co-owner of an Oakville-based service and industrial installation company — Demelo would know.
The process of becoming a qualified electrician is pretty straightforward and financially rewarding. After receiving post-secondary training, an apprenticeship and eventual certification, technicians can clear about $60,000 per year in salary, before overtime is calcualted.
Yet, many prospective candidates still wonder what needs to be done to join the ranks of wiremen? Demlo has some pretty simple advice.
“Think about what you want to do,” he states. “Do you want to specialize and maintain industrial machines when they break down? Do general work on construction sites and homes? Decide on what area you want to work in, then look for a school that you like.”
He suggests conducting research on the vast number of facilities — both public and private colleges — that offer courses online or in-class for duration, topics and ratings, as they vary widely. Courses generally run anywhere from a few weeks to a number of months.
Once sessions have completed, expect a minimum 9,000 hours of in-field apprenticeship before testing to attain a Certificate of Qualification.
Applicants must attain 70 per cent or higher on their test in order to enter the workforce. At that pint they can either go out on their own or become a member member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union.
Those wishing to start their own business may also become get training to become a Master Electrician.
To that extent, Demelo notes that regardless of status, electricians never stop learning.
“Once you have the basics down, it applies to most facets of this trade but there are always upgrade courses. It's advisable to stay abreast of what's going on in your field.”
First and foremost however, he stresses test-driving the profession before giving up months of tuition and testing only to realize it's not for you. Offer up a few Saturdays of free labour or enrol in a co-operative placement before going all-in.
“See if it's for you before committing. This job is great on a sunny day but sometimes you're under a machine in a 100 degree factory or on a roof in January and it's 20 below. Don't commit, then realize you're not used to working in the elements.”