|Wages and Projections of Employment for Electricians by Region|
|Region||2008 Employment||2018 Employment||Percent Change||Growth Openings||Replacement Openings||Total Openings||2010 Median Hourly Wage|
|Gilliam/Hood River/ Sherman/Wasco/ Wheeler||89||93||4.5%||4||22||26||$30.20|
Dan Campbell, training director for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers' (IBEW) training program in Tangent, says "if you like to learn by doing, you'd make a good electrician."
The first step toward becoming an electrician includes acquiring as much knowledge as possible about the trade. Many electricians become interested in the occupation through friends or relatives. Monte Hall, owner and supervising electrician of All Electric in Salem decided to become an electrician because he had brothers who were, and his father-in-law had an electrical shop. Another common way to become familiar with the trade is by working as a laborer for a business that employs electricians.
The second step is identifying a suitable apprenticeship program. The BOLI website ( www.oregon.gov/BOLI/ATD) lists all the construction trades apprenticeship programs operated by Joint Apprentice Training Committees (JATCs). The website gives links to each individual training program around the state, which include both union and open-shop (non-union) electricians' JATCs. Union programs usually last one year longer (five years) and the classroom instruction is done at the union's training facility, with journeymen instructors hired by the union. Most non-union programs use the community college system to provide the classroom instruction.
The third step in becoming an electrician occurs through acceptance onto the waiting list, called the "pool of eligibles." In some programs, there are "open" periods during which applications to get on the list are accepted. By law, these programs must give a 30-day notice prior to the open period. The open periods are sometimes as short as two weeks. Some programs accept applications for their lists continually. The BOLI website lists the programs currently accepting applications.
By meeting the minimum requirements, an applicant may be accepted onto the list. Because applications are ranked for position on the list, applicants need to present the best application possible. When new applicants are added to the list, previous applicants may move up or down on the list as their scores compete with the new applicants' scores. Individuals can provide additional documentation to an application during the open periods to increase their competitiveness.
Wait time on the list ranges anywhere from two weeks to two years. Dan Campbell of the IBEW says that usually the longer a person is on the list, the less likely that they will get placed in an apprenticeship. He has seen individuals get placed after being on the list for some time though.
Beginning an apprenticeship program marks the fourth step. That happens when an electrical contractor (called a training agent) asks the training committee for an apprentice. Training agents make more requests for apprentices during strong economic times when construction is booming, and fewer during declining or slow times, such as the current economic conditions in Oregon.
The apprentice training committee generally sends the person ranked first on the list. Sometimes a program might allow a business to pick someone out of the top 20 on the list. In some cases, they may even choose a candidate who does not appear on the list at all. A business that goes without an apprentice for a certain number of years can "indenture" an apprentice to one of their journeymen and bypass list (the applicant must still meet the minimum requirements, however). These are often people with working ties to the business, such as family members. That's why working for a business that does electrical contracting, or having a relative who's an electrical contractor, can provide an advantage to securing an apprenticeship.
In the first year of an apprenticeship, an apprentice works one to one with a journeyman in the trade at all times. The State Council on Apprenticeship and Training sets this working ratio, in consultation with the construction trades apprenticeship committees around the state. The first apprentice in a business works one on one with a journeyman, the second apprentice also works one to one, and with the third the ratio can rise to three apprentices to five journeymen. The ratios continue upward for increasing numbers of apprentices. Local committee rules state what apprentices may do without supervision after the first year.
Each training program sets the pay for its apprentices. First year apprenticeship wages are generally set as a percentage of the journeyman wage, and increase every year up to the fourth or fifth year, when they reach approximately 80 percent of the journeyman's wage. Layoffs can occur while training as an apprentice, especially in an economic downturn. Between July 2007 and July 2009, overall construction employment in Oregon dropped nearly a third, and the losses accounted for more than a quarter of the state's total job loss. This has likely resulted in negative impacts on electrician apprentices. An out-of-work apprentice takes a place on an "out-of-work" list, and receives first preference when requests come to the committee for an apprentice.
Apprenticeship completion rates vary. Overall, about 50 percent of construction trades apprentices complete their training, according to Steve Simms, Apprenticeship Director of BOLI. Sarah Pullen, of the Area II Inside Electrical JATC and Dan Campbell of the IBEW both report completion rates of approximately 85 percent. Pullen and Campbell agree that apprentices drop the program most commonly because the program was "not what they expected."
Attaining licensed work as an electrician in Oregon often becomes a sticking point for licensed tradesmen moving here from other states. Oregon has reciprocity agreements for electrical licenses with seven other states. With proper documentation, an electrician from one of the reciprocating states can become licensed in Oregon without taking the Oregon licensing exam. All 50 states have different systems for training and licensing electricians, and most have fewer requirements than Oregon.
Considering the long and arduous road to becoming a journeyman, the apprenticeship system must work to produce an adequate supply of electricians for the future, and assure that there are enough openings to meet demand. According to Steve Simms, apprenticeship director of BOLI, it will. Simms says "the industry really makes those decisions, and they feel that they're doing a good job."