Role: Electricians help to bring electricity into homes and businesses. They install, repair, test and maintain wiring, fuses and other equipment and systems through which electricity flows.
"The work can be anything from simple house wiring to very complicated fibre-optic connections," says Fred Black, a former electrical contractor and past president of the Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario.
Journeyman electricians, who have completed their apprenticeship and are licensed, are able to work with electricity up to 750 volts. Any higher voltage and they're considered power line technicians, which is technically another trade, Mr. Black says.
Salary: The wage for an apprentice starts at about $15 an hour, while a journeyman earns about $40 an hour, or about $60, when medical, dental and pension benefits are taken into account.
Education: A minimum of Grade 10 for non-unionized electricians in Ontario, or Grade 12 for those in a union, according to Mr. Black, who says Grade 12 is preferable, given the math required to do electrical work.
Electricians start off as apprentices. In Ontario, an apprentice needs to put in 9,000 hours of work, which includes basic, intermediate and advanced trade school sessions, to obtain their certificate of apprenticeship. Within 300 hours of completing their time, Mr. Black says apprentices can apply to write their certificate of qualification exam. After passing the exam and completing their hours, they become journeyperson electricians. They receive their certificate of qualification, also known as a licence, after paying their fees to the Ontario College of Trades.
By the numbers: There are about 86,000 electricians in Canada, according to Statistics Canada's 2011 National Household Survey. About 1,600 are women. Of the 86,000 total, about 15 per cent are self-employed.
Job prospects: "A tradesman can almost always find work doing something," Mr. Black says. "A good electrician is never out of work for long." He says that's because electricians are employed in a wide range of industries, such as mining and oil and gas, as well as construction, and film and television production, to name a few.
Mr. Black said he does not believe there's a shortage of electricians in Canada, as there is in other trades. "We still have more applicants than we have jobs for, he says. There are shortages in some parts of Canada, such as northern Alberta, "but there are enough tradespeople across the country that can travel."
Challenges: You have to be good at what do you and pay attention, or you won't get much work, Mr. Black says. "Holding a job is the first challenge. If you're a good electrician, you won't have trouble." It's also a highly technical trade, which requires various mathematical calculations and critical thinking skills. "Like any other job, you have to like it and you have to have a drive for it," he says.
Why they do it: A good electrician can almost always find work, Mr. Black says. The benefits packages are also attractive.
Misconceptions: It's not just simple house wiring. That's only a small portion of what electricians do, Mr. Black says.
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