Wes Vahrmeyer is a fifth-term Electrical Apprentice working in the construction and maintenance field.
He first got into the trades after completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Production where he specialized in lighting and sound design. He worked in that industry for a while but found the constant contract work too unstable – it was the norm to work just a few weeks or a month on each job and have to start job searching all over again.
Wes knew some people who already worked in the trades, so he asked around and discovered that electrical work could be similar to the work he did in lighting and sound design. But, to enroll in an electrical program, he would have to get someone to hire him as an apprentice first.
The apprenticeship program
Since apprenticeship is hands-on learning, he first had to find an employer who was willing to train him and sign a Contract of Apprenticeship (also known as a Registered Training Agreement). The father of one of his university classmates owned a company and agreed to take him on as an apprentice.
Construction and maintenance electrical apprentices must complete at least 8,250 hours of on-the-job training under a journeyman electrician and 28 weeks of in-class training, broken up into 8 weeks of basic trade school at approximately 2,000 hours of work experience, 10 weeks of intermediate at 4,000 hours, and 10 weeks of advanced at 6,000 hours. “You learn a lot in a very short period of time,” says Wes.
- Electrical Code
- Prints and Installations
- Electrical Theory
- Installation Methods
- Fire Alarm and Building Systems
On the job
Apprenticeships take 2 to 5 years, depending on the trade, but luckily you are paid for your work and you can apply for employment insurance while you’re in school. As you move through each stage of the apprenticeship, your wages slowly increase. For example, as a construction and maintenance electrical apprentice, you would start by earning approximately 40% of a journeyman’s wages and, by the fifth term, you would earn 80%.
In his apprenticeship, Wes began by completing basic tasks, such as helping the journeyman run wires and install light switches. As he worked there longer, he was able to work inside the electrical panels and on computer automated lighting control systems.