What Should You Expect as a New Trainee Electrician? A Guide
ON YOUR FIRST DAY AS A NEW TRAINEE ELECTRICIAN, WILL YOU BE DOING WIRING WORK, OR SHOULD YOU EXPECT TO GRAB A SHOVEL AND START DIGGING HOLES? WELL, THAT DEPENDS.
June 15, 2021
Anyone who’s ever started a new job for which they didn’t have any previous experience knows how nerve-wracking the lead up to your first day can feel. The same is true for anyone who gets a job as an electrician trainee. You may have already passed your electrician apprenticeship class, or be simultaneously enrolled in a long-term course, but it’s a different thing altogether when a paycheck is involved.
Maybe you’ve worked on a construction site as a general laborer, or maybe you’ve only ever worked behind a cash register until now. Everyone takes their own path to becoming an electrician. No matter how you get there, walking on the job site as a new trainee electrician can come with many unknowns.
What should you expect as a new trainee electrician? Read our guide to find out!
Expect to do more grunt work and less electrical work at first. This will give you the opportunity to prove yourself.
The first day on the job—on any job—can be one filled with angst and nerves.
When you walk onto a worksite on your very first day with your clean hard hat and shiny new tools, everyone is going to know that you’re a newbie. Ideally you will have been provided with a phone number, or at least the name of who you’re supposed to report to when you arrive. Once you’ve gotten that sorted out, you’ll be shown around the site and given the tour—where the porta-potties are, the best places to park, etc. Everyone will be eager to help you hit the ground running. Really, it’s true! In general, trade workers are a welcoming bunch. There’s always a lot of work to be done on a job site and you’re a welcome pair of hands.
Once you’ve been shown around, odds are that someone’s going to walk up to you with a shovel, show you a pile of dirt, and ask you to get to work. You’ll be set loose to dig your first trench. If you’re lucky, you might be asked to run electrical cable—lots and lots of electrical cable.
The grunt work isn’t glamorous. But it’s not the end-all-be-all, either. If you keep with it, you should progress into a role that is more interesting and comes with more responsibilities.
Working as an apprentice electrician is more physical than mental, at least at the start.
You may feel a little frustrated at times, eager to apply your knowledge. Every trainee has found themselves holding a shovel and thinking, “I thought I was going to learn to be an electrician, not dig holes!”
Remember that you’re just starting out. If you’re especially eager to get past the grunt work, completing a 6-month trainee program and taking the journeyman electrician test is a great way to show that you’re too smart for the shovel!
But most electricians have those moments when their mind starts to wander and there’s the potential to get into trouble. The work can become repetitive, and not especially challenging. The goal of your time as an apprentice is to get comfortable with field work and with other electricians. You can learn a lot, and make a good impression on those working with you, if you stay focused on the tasks at hand.
Here’s a few tips for making the best possible impression on the jobsite:
- Don’t be late. There are few things you can do that will get you on the bad side of a foreman more quickly than showing up late.
- Keep an open mind and be willing to learn. If you act like you know it all, those with more experience will be unlikely to take you under their wing.
- Always have all the tools required of an electrician trainee. Be sure to learn the names of your tools and how to use them, so you can communicate better and work more efficiently
- Always pay attention when you’re being told to do something. Ask questions if you don’t know what to do or how to do it.
- Follow all safety rules. Failure to follow rules is an easy way to get fired.
- Anticipate the needs of your boss and coworkers. If you can make their jobs easier, without them having to ask, you’ll earn their respect.
- Don’t play with your phone while working.
- If you get done with a task, ask what to do next. Don’t get caught leaning on your shovel.
- Clean up after yourself. Don’t build a reputation for being a slob.
- Offer to help whenever you can. This will help you earn the trust of fellow electricians and get you firsthand experience doing new work.
Sure, some of the tips might seem a bit obvious. But if you take them to heart, you are very likely to earn the respect of your peers and learn a lot more while doing so.
By demonstrating aptitude, care, and a desire to do a good job, you’ll be given more opportunities to learn the basics of being an electrician.
You may often feel like nobody is paying attention to your efforts, but word travels fast on a job site. Everyone knows who works hard and who slacks off. You may not have a lot of knowledge, but a good attitude and a desire to learn will have journeymen and foremen going out of their way to teach you new tricks of the trade.
Never refuse an opportunity to learn. Learn everything you can, and pay close attention to instructions. Ask questions when you need to, as not asking an important question may result in you making errors, which makes you look like you don’t care about doing a good job.
Again, anticipate everyone’s needs. Make sure that your team’s work cart is loaded up with everything you will need for the day. Be that person who knows all the materials and how to arrange them properly. Be the one to reload materials when they’re getting low, ideally before they run out.
And keep with it—working as an electrician can be a truly rewarding job. If you put in the work, you can become a journeyman or even a master electrician who owns their own business.
While your primary objective should be to learn everything you can about being an electrician, you’re also there to build your reputation. Work hard, and new doors will open for you!
Ready to learn a skilled trade and work on some of the most exciting commercial construction projects in California and beyond?
I-TAP is an electrical apprenticeship program that helps you find your passion, grow your skills, and place you in the perfect electrician job.