I represent and promote electrical apprenticeship for one of the largest programs in IEC (Independent Electrical Contractors), the Chesapeake chapter.
I have worked with electricians for over thirty years now, twenty five of these in the field as a lighting designer. My passion for apprenticeship comes from my field experience with smart, motivated, precise, and well educated electrical professionals.
It’s a slippery slope. I am happy to see a lot of buzz and discussion around apprenticeship- in all industries. It is, of course, a discussion near and dear to the hearts of the Trades.
What’s my concern? I see a lot of promotion along the lines of “not everyone is built for college” and “be a plumber or electrician, they make a lot of money.”
I know these campaigns mean well- and they are not without their merits; I get what they’re saying.
I would make slightly different arguments in support of educational choices and earnings:
· College or University is one path to both education and future earning power.
Some people flourish in this environment, some do not. It’s notable too that colleges do not embrace tracks or curricula that are skill/apprentice friendly. I think this is a shortcoming and is something that ought to be considered for adoption throughout the entire system, at least all Community Colleges offering Associates.
· Apprenticeships are not for everyone.
Typically linked to trade professions, apprentices will be working full time and attending school on weeknights or completing requirements online. In the case of an electrical Journeyman- it’s a four year certification. A Masters is an additional four years. Heavy in math and science, and working full time while in school is not for anyone lacking in these skill sets.
· For the apprentice, working and being in school is not a choice- it’s a requirement.
Where a college student may need to be working while attending school, the apprentice is expected to do this for both the state and meeting hands on work requirements.
· Regardless of educational path–
we all need to feed and clothe our families. We all need to earn a living. Wages and wage growth are of equal importance to us all.
My best advice? Do what you love and love what you do. Earnings will follow. If you have the brains and talent for the electrical field, we have a stellar apprenticeship program for you. Electricians can make excellent livings- just as a doctor makes a good living and a realtor makes a good living.
Skill set + passion= a happy and lucrative work career. Some electricians end up taking advantage of college later in their career for business administration, engineering, and other advanced work skills.
It’s not either or; you are not a one size fits all person nor should your education be.
Business Development, IEChesapeake/IECC