British Columbia's skilled work force is expected to undergo an invisible shift in coming years as the pool of younger workers becomes smaller than the number of aging workers who have their eye on retirement. In a 10-part series, The Globe and Mail looks at the 10 jobs expected to be in highest demand in B.C. in the next decade. This is part eight.
Working as an electrician on a service truck with Houle Electric Ltd. means John Bemister gets to do something different every day. One day, he might be working with fibre-optic cables; the next, he's installing a fan or a light switch in somebody's home.
"You're learning every day," says Mr. Bemister, a fourth-generation electrician who lives in Port Coquitlam. "You can never say that you know everything about electrical. It's a very challenging trade … It definitely keeps you interested instead of just doing the same thing over and over again."
His favourite part, he says, is building relationships with his customers, co-workers and wholesalers.
"You meet lots of different people. Every day, you're meeting engineers, homeowners, maintenance supervisors … it's the people I really enjoy."
Mr. Bemister first started working for his grandfather's company – sorting materials, driving around and picking up orders from wholesalers – at 14. He has completed a four-year apprenticeship at the British Columbia Institute of Technology to earn his Red Seal journeyman endorsement. Prior to getting his job at Houle, where has worked for seven years, Mr. Bemister worked as an engineer in the construction field for Elgar Electric Ltd.
The most challenging aspect of the job, says Mr. Bemister, is having to stay up to date with all of the new technologies – from mastering new communications tools such as smartphones to learning how to work with LED lights. And the code book that dictates how buildings must be constructed in B.C. gets updated every four years. "It's all written in lawyer's terms," says Mr. Bemister.
Working as an electrician can be mentally and physically challenging, Mr. Bemister says. "It's labour intensive … you're working, you're sweating. It's not always just splicing wires together." And working with electricity means being constantly aware of your surroundings and ensuring that you're following safety protocols.
But Mr. Bemister thrives on the challenges.
"I couldn't see myself sitting behind a desk every day and crunching numbers or pushing paper. I like getting out there, meeting people, dealing with apprentices, teaching people … it's a really good trade overall. It's technical but also enjoyable."
Demand for electricians – except industrial and power-system electricians – is expected to rise in B.C. An estimated 7,230 electricians will be needed over the next decade, according to government statistics.