Often, the difference between a good job and a bad job can be in a single wire.
So, you’re thinking of being an electrician…
With our society’s heavy dependence on electricity showing no signs of abating, there’ll always be a market for people who know how to install, maintain, repair and test electrical equipment. In short, people need electricians to keep plugged in and switched on.
How do you get yourself an apprenticeship as an electrician?
There are a couple of checkboxes that are helpful to tick from the outset. You need to be reasonably good at maths, as your work will require things like trigonometry, transposition of electrical equations, percentages, and knowledge of vectors. You’ll also need some mechanical and technical aptitude and good attention to detail. Often, the difference between a good job and a bad job can be in a single wire.
Physical requirements include good eyesight, with no colour blindness, as you’ll need to be able to distinguish between different coloured wires. You’ll also need good hand eye coordination, no dizziness or vertigo and good general physical fitness. The work involved varies from jobs at domestic homes through to large industrial automation.
It also wouldn’t hurt to be familiar with the AS3000 wiring rules – the Australian standard – which sets out the minimum installation standards of the industry. As an apprentice, this isn’t an essential requirement, but some basic familiarity would show an employer that you’re serious about pursuing this trade.
How to become an electrician
To become a licensed electrician you’ll need to complete a Certificate III in Electrotechnology. There is a range of electrician courses on offer with TAFE NSW, but with no formal entry requirements, the Cert III is most suitable for someone just starting out. It’s a four-year course, which involves both on-the-job and off-the-job training. Completing the Cert III allows you to become an electrician or electrical tradesperson in Australia. It’s also a handy pathway to the Diploma of Electrical Engineering, which will open up a higher paying career area.
For Schools – TVET
This is through the TVET program. TVET stands for “TAFE-delivered vocational education and training”, and electrotechnology is among the industry areas that are eligible. It means you can learn valuable workplace skills and gain hands-on experience while you’re still at school, increasing your prospects of gaining an apprenticeship. The TVET program has been developed by the Board of Studies and can count towards your HSC.
Upon completion of the Electrotechnology TVET course you’ll be awarded a Certificate II in Electrotechnology (Career Start), which is nationally accredited and recognised. If you’re interested in starting your training while still at school, speak to a career advisor either at your school or your nearest TAFE NSW college.
Left or leaving school? Try an Electrical Pre-Apprenticeship
If enrolling in a TVET course is unavailable, look at enrolling at a TAFE NSW college. Some colleges may offer an electrical pre-apprenticeship.
There’s a lot of competition for electrotechnology apprenticeships, so you’ll need to give your efforts an extra power surge to put you ahead of everyone else.
How can you get an electrician apprenticeship?
A good starting point would be your local energy provider. There are many energy retailers across NSW offering paid electrician apprenticeship programs. In most cases, the only prerequisite is that you’re an Australian citizen who has completed high school.
It may also be worth contacting the Australian Apprenticeships Support Network for help finding an electrical apprenticeship in NSW.
If you actually know someone who’s already a licensed electrician, ask if you can accompany them for a few hours each week. This will give you a good idea of what it is they actually do. They may be able to connect you to colleagues or other people in the industry. Many people get their first start in a new area through personal contacts.
An electrician’s work can also be extremely varied. From replacing an old fuse box to fitting electrical sockets in a new house or programming and maintaining automated production lines, the work is never dull and always involved.