Becoming a licensed journeyman electrician (309A Construction and Maintenance) involves a 9000-hour apprenticeship (approximately 5 years) with trade school classes as you go. A shorter route is to become a licensed journeyman electrician (309C Domestic and Rural) for smaller-scale settings via a 7,200-hour apprenticeship (approximately 4 years). Industrial electrician (422A) is another trade altogether focussed on industrial equipment/settings with a 9,000-hour apprenticeship and a minimum age of 18 – this is not dealt with in this article.
The pay for electricians is pretty good (remember to click “Show Annual Salary” to get Canadian data), especially considering that you could be getting paid career-building experience at age 16 (non-union) or around $25/hour at age 18 with only a high school diploma (union). Given that if there are no jobs, there are no apprenticeships, it’s a safe bet to apply and see if you can get in. A nice Plan A or escape hatch from whatever else you are doing. There is a nice write-up from 2014 here.
Union (IBEW) vs. Non-Union
- Union – The union route has a more formal and defined entry process (more like applying to college or university) to start an apprenticeship in Ontario. Possibly a better choice for those who do not know any electricians, lack a personal network (new to the area or country), or are a bit shy. IBEW (union) and ECAO (management) cooperate to recruit apprentices into a common hiring and training pool in each district. Each IBEW local/district in Ontario has its own process, timelines, and education requirements for would-be applicants. Living in the district already is often a requirement. For instance, in the Toronto area, electrician apprenticeship applicants must have a high school diploma, high school physics, grade 12 math (applied/general or higher level), and grade 12 English(applied/general or higher level) and are required to do a year of pre-apprenticeship at a reduced wage rate before acceptance into a “real” apprenticeship program. The Toronto site also tells you that they are not taking applicants at this time and to just keep checking in on the website. All these are signals that entry is both highly competitive and openings are not few. Compare that to Quinte – St. Lawrence (ECAO-operated website) where apprentices need only a high school diploma (or GED) with grade 12 math (possibly at applied/general level or higher), and have no pre-apprenticeship year. There is an online form where you can submit your application right now, though there is no guarantee that anyone is hiring right now or going to hire you specifically.
- Non-Union – You are basically applying for a job with a single local non-union electrician or electrical contractor. Since most jobs out there (in all fields) are not publicly posted, you would want to network and find a licensed journeyman electrician (or a firm that has such an electrician on staff) that is hiring apprentices and would want to hire you. Read ALL of the advice that “Electrician from Toronto” gave on PayScale.com: “Cold calling is your friend. There is way more money in commercial and the jobs are never advertised. Call contractors and ask them what electricians they use. Call the numbers on trucks you see on construction sites. Search the web. Find web sites and publications where commercial jobs are tendered for bidding. Be polite but get straight to the point…” Legally, you can begin a construction electrician apprenticeship at age 16 (in a “construction” electrician field) provided you have “completed” grade 10 and someone very special wants to hire a kid like you as an apprentice (apprentices are exempt from attending school until age 18) – you could negotiate pay to encourage taking a chance on a young whipper-snapper like you (whatever you get, even if minimum wage, it’s going to be more than you are paid to sit in grade 11 English). There are no particular course prerequisites (physics, advanced math, etc.), though taking an electrical wiring or construction class in grade nine or ten cannot hurt. If you can get 9,000 of work hours in, you could conceivably be a fully licensed journeyman electrician by age 20 or 21. The major barrier is the informal networking and informal proving of your ability that you would need to demonstrate to a potential employer.
Other job search methods:
- Apprenticeship Search (Ontario) – Set up a profile and, once approved, search for apprenticeship opportunities and have your profile searched by potential employers.