German view of US Electrician training.

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
IMO part of the the problem is we are not allowed to expose kids to work outside the food service industry. I have had kids, 16-17 yr olds, ask about summer work. Sorry, you can drive a tractor for the neighbor, but you have to be 18 and have 60 hours of safety training before you can touch a shovel here.
That is a problem as well. And whether the job driving the neighbors tractor is even permitted for that age group is not so straight forward either. We had lots of kids when I was still in school that worked on farms or for construction, and my father's generation had even more kids that did those kinds of jobs, they were good jobs for them, and many learned a trade in the process and continued that line of work after they were done with school. With my father's generation or before that there were many that quit school and started their career at maybe 16, all things considered that maybe wasn't such a bad thing, but today most of society would think that is horrible.
 

JDBrown

Senior Member
Location
California
Green wire as a hot conductor, surely you are kidding ? Not. A local apartment complex, 8 buildings built 1974/75.
EMT conduit through out with green as a hot.
Oh, sure, discriminate against us colorblind guys! ;)

... The problems is contractors need to stop cutting their rates to undercut the other contractors and bring the rate we charge back up so we can pay higher wages at all levels. ...
I hear this often. Unfortunately, if you start going around to all the other Contractors in the area and trying to convince them all to raise prices and stop under-cutting each other, you'll soon find yourself in a heap of trouble for price-fixing.

To the OP's point, I can see how knowing exactly what an "Electrician" has been trained to know/do would be useful for immediately weeding out unqualified applicants, but that's about as far as it goes. The employer still has to interview the applicants to see what they actually know, and any employer who tries to skip this step by just looking at the applicant's certificate deserves exactly what they get.

This isn't unique to Electricians, by the way. A friend of mine and I have basically the same educational background -- Bachelor's and Master's in EE -- but he went into chip design and I went into power distribution. If we both went out today and applied for the same job, our credentials would look similar on paper, but our experience and abilities are worlds apart. He has never even glanced at the NEC, has no idea what a MWBC is, and couldn't size a circuit breaker to save his life. But I don't even know enough about what he does to list the things I don't know.

This is why interviews and tests for job applicants are so important. If you were charged with a crime, you would talk to potential lawyers and find one you like who specializes in criminal defense, not someone who specializes in tax law (unless you were charged with tax evasion, maybe). Why should it be different for a company that wants to hire an Electrician? Yes, it's more work and more of a hassle for the company to get a solid, qualified interviewer to make the call on who will be a good fit, but that's just part of running a business. Trying to skip this critical step rarely ends well for the company.

I don't have any firsthand experience with what it takes to become an Electrician these days, but I do agree that we could benefit from better vocational training. Not everybody wants to or needs to go to college, and it would do those folks a lot of good if their vocational training certificate actually meant something. When I graduated high school, I received a certificate from the local Office of Education's vocational ed department, stating that I was a certified Electronics Technician. That, my friends, was a joke. Oh, sure, I could use a soldering iron and recite Ohm's Law, but that was about it as far as technician-type stuff goes. I could design a digital logic circuit, and I could build an electronic circuit from a schematic, but I had virtually no troubleshooting training, which is a large part of what electronics technicians are expected to do in the real world (in my experience, anyway). So yeah, less of a disconnect between voc training and the real world could only be a good thing.
 

PetrosA

Senior Member
...This isn't unique to Electricians, by the way. ...
I see your point but... Consider a medical professional. Once he or she has graduated and has a particular title or specialty, pretty much any future employer can set aside those basic skills as a given and look at the prospective employee for other qualities. Germans are used to being able to do this with trades, too (and I agree it should be that way ;) ). If you hire an electrician to connect something, he or she should be competent to do so and if not, should be prevented from even applying to a job requiring those qualifications. A guy who only knows hot to run conduit should not be applying for a job as an electrician. He's not one.
 

gadfly56

Senior Member
Location
New Jersey
I agree. We need to be able to get 14 year olds in on this if it's going to stick. The brain of a 14-15 year old is able to absorb new knowledge very differently than that of a 19 year old. Maybe partly because it's more focused? ;)
Speaking only for myself, between 14 and 19 my brain wasn't focused very much on absorbing knowledge, unless it came with an hour-glass figure.
 

PetrosA

Senior Member
Speaking only for myself, between 14 and 19 my brain wasn't focused very much on absorbing knowledge, unless it came with an hour-glass figure.
I remember the distractions well ;)

I think the difference is that at 14 or 15, your brain is still accepting of an older person being in a teaching role more than it is at 19 years old. Plus, your whole life revolves around school and learning, so it's second nature. There are things that I see that I do without thinking that other guys have to concentrate on and I think it has to do with when I learned it. I know for sure that I don't retain knowledge acquired now as well as what I learned back then. If anything, I feel like all I'm able to do now is refine what I learned then and, from time to time, minimally build on it.
 

ddderek

Member
Stop beating around the answer...

Stop beating around the answer...

...you can beat around the bush all you want with these "it's the Guild Approach" comments, but what that means is they have a strong mandatory Union Apprenticeship set up. If you want the skills and respect German electricians get, we would have to be 100% Unionized in this country. THEY ARE! Don't doubt this for one minute, that is why they can constantly improve their education and training and demand the higher wages.

Don't delete this post as a union-non-union issue... I am only stating the facts about the German system. It happens with electricians as well as other trades and manufacturing workers too. We spend so much time in the USA fighting amongst ourselves as to who is better off, we all waste time and resources that could be used to make us all the best we can be. Apprenticeships, mentoring, on the job training, secure employments, good wages and benefits, and continuing education... all should be a standard in our industry and could be if we had the will power to agree.
 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
...you can beat around the bush all you want with these "it's the Guild Approach" comments, but what that means is they have a strong mandatory Union Apprenticeship set up. If you want the skills and respect German electricians get, we would have to be 100% Unionized in this country. THEY ARE! Don't doubt this for one minute, that is why they can constantly improve their education and training and demand the higher wages.

Don't delete this post as a union-non-union issue... I am only stating the facts about the German system. It happens with electricians as well as other trades and manufacturing workers too. We spend so much time in the USA fighting amongst ourselves as to who is better off, we all waste time and resources that could be used to make us all the best we can be. Apprenticeships, mentoring, on the job training, secure employments, good wages and benefits, and continuing education... all should be a standard in our industry and could be if we had the will power to agree.
The organization of their unions may have more to do with it then the fact they have a union. Same applies here. Some unions or even local chapters will not be the same from all aspects as others, and same goes for non union organizations.

There is a lot of standards already agreed upon in the industry no matter what kind of organization industry members are a part of.

Don't get more posts deleted by pushing an agenda, like you did in another thread, this site is not about that kind of discussion.
 

ndsparky

New User
Location
ND
standards

standards

There are a lot of good views and opinions in this discussion. One of them I notice often is that most areas seem to be very lax on the training/licensing requirements. I have worked in MN & ND throughout my career and it is not an easy task to get your license in either state. In ND, with the oil patch boom going on, there have been many "electricians" who have tried to obtain a license in the state and have complained about how hard the tests are and stringent the requirements are. I, along with many fellow electricians, believe they are not strict enough. I have worked with "experienced electricians" and there are not many that are well rounded to where they can work in all aspects of the electrical field. It is not surprising because of the competitive nature of running a business. The only reason I can confidently do work varying from wiring a house to wiring a power plant is because I made sure I worked in all aspects of the trade. It is not a requirement to do anything but put in the time to get your license. It does not specify so many hrs on one thing and so many on another. I had to work for 3 different companies to become a well rounded electrician. I liked all three, but if you only work for one then you only do one type of work(in general).
Funny thing about it....people still don't want to pay me for my experience. If I wire a house they want to pay u peanuts, but that same person owns a commercial establishment and expects you to be able to go there and work on motors, plcs, and anything else he needs. To add insult to injury, there is an electrician going around doing work for less than half of what the nearest contractor charges. He says that he wants to save the people money and likes doing it. That's all hunky dory for him, but now the guys who need the money to live have to compete with his half price rates and they obviously lose business.
What it comes down to is customers want a smart and skilled electrician but don't want to pay them what they are worth. So wages stay low and you don't attract as many good tradesmen.
I don't know why a mechanic shop, body shop, or a plumber can charge 55-70 dollars an hr and that is fine. But as soon as an electrician wants to charge 50 dollars an hr they are just too darn expensive. You get what you pay for!
 

petersonra

Senior Member
I did my part yesterday for training the future crop of electricians. I did not get home until 10:45 pm. But I thought it was worth the lost sleep and very long day. This is in the lobby of the training center. Pretty cool piece of electrical history in the lobby by the front door. I may have mentioned this once before.

 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
There are a lot of good views and opinions in this discussion. One of them I notice often is that most areas seem to be very lax on the training/licensing requirements. I have worked in MN & ND throughout my career and it is not an easy task to get your license in either state. In ND, with the oil patch boom going on, there have been many "electricians" who have tried to obtain a license in the state and have complained about how hard the tests are and stringent the requirements are. I, along with many fellow electricians, believe they are not strict enough. I have worked with "experienced electricians" and there are not many that are well rounded to where they can work in all aspects of the electrical field. It is not surprising because of the competitive nature of running a business. The only reason I can confidently do work varying from wiring a house to wiring a power plant is because I made sure I worked in all aspects of the trade. It is not a requirement to do anything but put in the time to get your license. It does not specify so many hrs on one thing and so many on another. I had to work for 3 different companies to become a well rounded electrician. I liked all three, but if you only work for one then you only do one type of work(in general).
Funny thing about it....people still don't want to pay me for my experience. If I wire a house they want to pay u peanuts, but that same person owns a commercial establishment and expects you to be able to go there and work on motors, plcs, and anything else he needs. To add insult to injury, there is an electrician going around doing work for less than half of what the nearest contractor charges. He says that he wants to save the people money and likes doing it. That's all hunky dory for him, but now the guys who need the money to live have to compete with his half price rates and they obviously lose business.
What it comes down to is customers want a smart and skilled electrician but don't want to pay them what they are worth. So wages stay low and you don't attract as many good tradesmen.
I don't know why a mechanic shop, body shop, or a plumber can charge 55-70 dollars an hr and that is fine. But as soon as an electrician wants to charge 50 dollars an hr they are just too darn expensive. You get what you pay for!
Those that only charge half of what others are charging may not have the overhead some others do and this helps get away with it. But reality eventually catches up with them. Because they are cheap they get a lot of work, and more then they can handle, at that point they need more overhead to keep up with things and if they don't raise their rates it will eventually burn them. I have gotten to where if they don't like my prices I don't want their business, I'm getting old enough I don't want to work all day, that means to make the same money I probably need to have a higher rate as well, and that still works as I have a fair base of regular customers that are likely to call me instead of someone else as they know and trust me. Larger projects are easier to lower rates, but the one and two hour jobs are what kill you if you spend too much time doing those jobs and don't charge enough to cover all your overhead.
 
Let's not forget the cultural differences.

Take a class of American student apprentices. Let's say, for sake of argument that the quality of the class material and the instructor is on par with our German counterparts.

With very few exceptions, the intent of the students will be to make it though class and get a passing grade with the least amount of effort. I figure less than 10 percent would be there to get the most out of the class and get the best grade they can.

I would bet that it's not the same in Germany, and a higher percent of the German students are in class to get all they can out of it.
 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
Let's not forget the cultural differences.

Take a class of American student apprentices. Let's say, for sake of argument that the quality of the class material and the instructor is on par with our German counterparts.

With very few exceptions, the intent of the students will be to make it though class and get a passing grade with the least amount of effort. I figure less than 10 percent would be there to get the most out of the class and get the best grade they can.

I would bet that it's not the same in Germany, and a higher percent of the German students are in class to get all they can out of it.
Special trades classes I probably can agree, for general studies I would think there may be more that just want to pass.
 

captainwireman

Senior Member
Location
USA, mostly.
Online continuing education update credits for any state license need to be eliminated. All one has to do is sign in three times under different names, answer every question with A,B, and C respectively, then sign in again under your real name and pick the correct answer. You don't even need to read the question and you get credit.
 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
Online continuing education update credits for any state license need to be eliminated. All one has to do is sign in three times under different names, answer every question with A,B, and C respectively, then sign in again under your real name and pick the correct answer. You don't even need to read the question and you get credit.
If you have to resort to that kind of method... go for it, I certainly don't consider you much of a competitor, seems your actions will take care of themselves eventually:happyyes: Plus in worst case I get a job straightening out your mess:cool:
 

lapseofmind

Member
Location
Washington
To start I only read the first page of posts and most this last page. Now to my point:

I did my apprenticeship through IBEW lu 357's JATC. During the 5 years, I had 2 teachers who gave a crap. The first was my 5th year teacher(which was by far the easiest year) and the other was my welding instructor. We rarely got to do labs and pretty much was just shoveled stuff out of the book. Our homework was rarely checked and we spent more time just reading off the answers than actually going through them and figuring them out.

My On The Job Training was with various companies. I was blessed to be working in Las Vegas so there was a ton of new and remodel construction. I was luckier than most other apprentices though. I rarely had to organize material and if I wasn't roughing in or doing finish work, I was making up a panel or learning lay out. By the time I was a 5th year I got the opportunity to "run" some work with minimal supervision.

Like I said, I was lucky. A lot of the apprentices I went to school with were stuck on forklifts, organizing material, picking up garbage and pushing a broom. They were gophers, stuck with the grunt work, not really learning anything that they needed to. Most of my graduating class failed the IBEW's standard journeyman test.

In so many words, my point is that not all education and training are created equal. In such a diverse trade, where there is so much to learn, it would seem that not everyone is fit to teach and not everyone is fit to learn.
 

PetrosA

Senior Member
To start I only read the first page of posts and most this last page. Now to my point:

I did my apprenticeship through IBEW lu 357's JATC. During the 5 years, I had 2 teachers who gave a crap. The first was my 5th year teacher(which was by far the easiest year) and the other was my welding instructor. We rarely got to do labs and pretty much was just shoveled stuff out of the book. Our homework was rarely checked and we spent more time just reading off the answers than actually going through them and figuring them out.

My On The Job Training was with various companies. I was blessed to be working in Las Vegas so there was a ton of new and remodel construction. I was luckier than most other apprentices though. I rarely had to organize material and if I wasn't roughing in or doing finish work, I was making up a panel or learning lay out. By the time I was a 5th year I got the opportunity to "run" some work with minimal supervision.

Like I said, I was lucky. A lot of the apprentices I went to school with were stuck on forklifts, organizing material, picking up garbage and pushing a broom. They were gophers, stuck with the grunt work, not really learning anything that they needed to. Most of my graduating class failed the IBEW's standard journeyman test.

In so many words, my point is that not all education and training are created equal. In such a diverse trade, where there is so much to learn, it would seem that not everyone is fit to teach and not everyone is fit to learn.
Here's a word you don't hear often, but should... "acuity." My guess is that you had it and it was noticeable while the others - not so much. I've worked on and off in construction for a pretty long time. Long enough to have seen that most of the guys working in trades tend to be under qualified for them. In the corporate world they talk about the Peter Principle which is that eventually an employee advances to and keeps a job position they are under qualified for. I think a lot of people in the trades hit that target much sooner than people in the corporate world do. I'll bet that most of us here on this forum, were we to think back over the years, would only be able to name between one and five electricians we've worked with who were noticeably good at their job. A lot of us are really good at a few things we do, fishing in old houses, running pipe, troubleshooting, etc. but very few are exceptional at a bunch of things.

I don't know if it's a financial issue or whether trades tend to attract the people who can't make it with their brains, but it's definitely a problem.
 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
I don't know if it's a financial issue or whether trades tend to attract the people who can't make it with their brains, but it's definitely a problem.
I think there are many that see how much is made by some individuals that attracts them to the trade, but they don't realize that if you don't know your stuff you are going to be at the lower pay scale end of the trade and will not advance much if you don't learn your stuff. The tasks that don't require as much technical knowledge still need to be done and if a lower pay person is present guess who is generally the first candidate to be assigned those tasks?
 

lapseofmind

Member
Location
Washington
I agree definitely, that not all people are created equal in the trades. Some people just don't have what it takes, or get comfortable at what they're doing with no desire to advance or excel. For me, I want to learn all that I can, not only in the electrical trade but all aspects of life. I'm way too curious not to. Now, with that said, I am still a novice, a new journeyman, which means I'm practically starting over since I'm now presented with many things I wasn't before. At the moment I'm building MCC panels and servicing 3 phase motors. Pretty cool stuff. Hoping to get into more control work though soon. Or just a good ol' fashioned maintenance or service job.
 
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