In Canada, an electrician must write a four-hour exam to earn their 309A construction and maintenance electrical license— and their Red Seal.
A Red Seal certificate of qualification entitles a skilled tradesperson to work anywhere in the country, thanks to standardized requirements. It means that employers can trust in the skills of electricians from outside the province, and that electricians can travel to where there’s work if their home province experiences an economic downturn.
This ability to travel helps preserve the overall supply of electricians in Canada. It avoids the necessity for electricians to move into other careers when work is no longer available in their home province. It’s a win-win for both employers and employees.
But the exam is gruelling, and requires 70% or better to pass. Many who write the exam do not pass. According to the Red Seal statistics, only 59% of people who wrote an exam in 2014 passed. The IBEW ensures that their apprentices are prepared and confident to pass this exam.
In the electrical trade, the IBEW is known for its best-in-class training programs that begin in the apprentice’s very first term. This is additional to the training they get on the job site and in their college semesters.
Bill Dodge, Training Director for Local 115 Kingston, explains. “At our local, like at the others, we have supplemental training at every step of the way. When you’re working in the field, you can lose touch with the educational material.”
At Local 804 in Kitchener, Training Director Dave Graham provides apprentices with an overview of the whole process. “We don’t like leaving them with any mystery,” he says. “We have annual meetings with every apprentice. This keeps them informed, engaged, and on track. It also keeps them up to speed with any code or legislation changes. With first term apprentices the main training focus is on safety. After the third term we start working with them on other areas.”
“For the first term apprentices I teach a course called Introduction to Electrical Code,” says Shawn Belanger, Training Director of 402 Thunder Bay. “This provides exposure on how to navigate the code book. At this point that’s the most important thing for them— we’re not as focused on what the answer is, we’re showing them where to go to find it.”
Belanger continues, “For first and second term apprentices there are also courses on electrical theory and electrical installation. The prints course teaches them to read electrical blueprints— this helps them understand planning, and in what sequence to do things. The installation course is about practical methods; how to do things properly when installing.”
No matter which local they belong to, the extra training and mentoring that IBEW apprentices receive help ensure that when their 9,000 hour apprenticeship is complete, they have the best possible chance of passing.
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