IBEW, NECA Union Apprenticeships
If you have decided to enter training as an electrical apprentice, you will be glad to know that you have chosen a career with a lot of potential for a long and stable future. One of the best parts of choosing an electrician trade is a benefit that starts the very first day on the job. Unlike most other career choices, a trade will allow you to earn a living wage while learning the ins and outs of the job.
So, now that you’ve made this exciting life decision, how do you get started? The first choice you will need to make is whether you prefer a union or non-union apprenticeship. Although both offer the training you will need to work in the field and both take four to five years to complete, a union apprenticeship comes with all of the benefits of union membership. These advantages include a higher rate of pay and plenty of opportunity for advancement as your career progresses.
Prior to entering a union apprenticeship, you will need to meet specific prerequisites. These include earning a high school diploma or equivalent (with completion of an algebra class), the ability to pass a drug test and the appropriate level of physical stamina. Unless you are entering training through a partnership with your high school, you will also need to be 18 years of age or older.
Union apprenticeships are organized through a partnership of two unions: the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). These two organizations work with local union contractors to provide training through Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committees (JATCs). This partnership is known as the Electrical Training Alliance.
You should expect to take an aptitude test as a part of the application process for a union program. The test will generally take around two hours to complete and consists of algebra and functions, and reading comprehension. In addition, applicants will need to sit for an interview prior to being accepted into a training program.
Fortunately for potential apprentices, these programs are widespread and exist in nearly all areas of the United States. In fact, most states have multiple programs available, providing a wide area of coverage. For more information on finding a program near you, keep reading below.
State-By-State Opportunities for Union Apprenticeships
Depending on where you live, finding a NECA-IBEW apprenticeship has the potential to be tricky. Although you could perform an internet search for “union apprenticeships near me,” you may get more benefit from calling a union chapter in your area. The chart below, which lists union opportunities throughout the United States, will help you get started.
What to Expect from Your Apprenticeship
As an apprentice, you will be continuously engaged in learning, even as you assist a journeyperson or master electrician in their day-to-day duties. As you begin your career, you should expect to do a lot of heavy lifting, including carrying supplies to and from a job site. However, as you progress through your apprenticeship and learn more skills, you will become more involved in performing electrical work. You may even begin to work with less and less supervision as you approach the final years of apprenticeship.
Along with on-the-job training, apprentice electricians will be required to attend some classroom training, in which you will learn the skills you need to apply on the job site. Some skills that apprentices will need to learn include how to maintain and troubleshoot wiring systems, how to read blueprints, how to connect circuit breakers, how to work with motors and controls and how to install wires, transformers and cables. It will also be essential to gain an in-depth knowledge of the building codes used in your area, as these are very heavily included on journey- and master-level examinations.
Career Potential: Moving from Apprentice to Master
Once you have completed your apprenticeship, you will be able to progress to the next stages of your career. Although the requirements may vary from state to state, generally this means spending at least two years as a journeyperson before finally qualifying to become a master electrician. In most places, you will need to take an examination at each stage in order to earn your qualifications.
Each stage of your career will come with increased opportunities for earning. According to Payscale.com, apprentice electricians make an average hourly wage of $15.43. Their journeyman counterparts make around $25.56, while master electricians bring in an average of $29.14 per hour. As you continue up the ladder, you will also have increased opportunities for profit-sharing, commissions and bonuses. In addition, master electricians are the only electricians who can work without supervision and own a contracting company, meaning the potential for wages may be even higher if this is a path you are planning to choose.