An electrical apprenticeship is a great qualification that can lead you down several different career paths. This section takes a look at job prospects, the different career pathways, financial rewards, and the prerequisites required to take on an apprenticeship. It should help you decide on the best pathway, and whether an electrical apprenticeship is right for you.
Electricians and electrical workers are employed across several industries, including: Construction, Manufacturing, Power, Rail, Other Services and Mining.
Electricity isn’t going away. For licensed Electricians, the job prospects are better than average, and the wide range of industries employing electricians is very favourable for employment growth prospects. During industry downturns or recessions, the employment opportunities across different industries means that electricians and electrical workers can be versatile and easily adapt.
The ETU has worked hard to get apprenticeship ratios put into Union Agreements. Such Agreements oblige the employer to employ a certain amount of apprentices. We know that this is a good thing, because apprentices are the future of the Electrical Industry. If you are having difficulty obtaining an apprenticeship, speak to an ETU Organiser about what we can do to help.
"Be really diligent when applying for jobs - because a lot of people I know have sent out dozens of resumes and heard nothing back, but it might just be the wrong time of year for intakes. If you keep in touch with the Union - who know when the intakes are - it's going to be a big advantage."
4th Year Contracting Apprentice
The prerequisites for starting an Electrical Apprenticeship differ between employers. Some ask for the completion of Year 11 or 12; others require the successful completion of a National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) Test; and some employers have their own internal aptitude tests.
At the ETU, we believe that the most valuable prerequisites are a pre-aptitude test followed by a pre-apprenticeship course. A pre-aptitude test helps to identify your strengths and challenges, and a pre-apprenticeship course provides a good insight into what to expect from a career in your chosen Electrical Trade.
Most TAFES and Registered Training Organisations provide a pre-apprenticeship course. Speak to an ETU Organiser for more information or to help you find a nearby course provider.
A pre-apprenticeship course is usually full-time over 4 to 5 months. On successful completion, you qualify for an Electro Technology Certificate II. This benefits your apprenticeship by reducing your time at trade school, giving you more time on the job.
"I thought if I started with the pre-app, it'd give me a good entry level to what is expected and what you can expect on site. And I really enjoyed it - it's been great."
1st Year Construction Apprentice
The diversity of the Electrical Trades means that you’re qualified to work in a variety of industries, so you never know where you might end up.
Your passion for the trade and the opportunities to diversify means that your career can branch-off into areas that perhaps you wouldn’t imagine as an apprentice. Today, many A-Grade Electricians are now off the tools, and hold executive positions in key companies or organisations within the industry, including Protect and the ETU.
An Electrical Apprenticeship is the beginning of a unique career, one that is supported by the strength of a robust industry and Union. The ETU is the strongest EBA union in Australia, and proud to be the foundation of your career path, wherever it takes you into the future.
"Doing an apprenticeship can lead to heaps of opportunities; it leads from one path to another. It's what you put into your apprenticeship it's what you get."
Recently qualified, Post Grad Study
The ETU has succeeded in ensuring that your apprenticeship pays off, and that your skills are recognised throughout your career.
In 1995, the Electrical Trade was one of the lowest-paid trades. We knew this didn’t reflect our skills or smarts – so we fought for better wages and conditions, and won. Now, we negotiate our own terms of employment and are among the highest-paid trades.
When you finish your apprenticeship and become a licensed A-Grade Electrician, you can earn good money, with generous working conditions.
ETU members are proud to enjoy a great standard of living and a quality of life worth fighting for.
"I'm earning more than some of my friends that have finished Masters degrees - and I'm only a 4th Year apprentice."
4th Year Contracting Apprentice
Types of employment
Going into an apprenticeship, it’s important to look for an employer who values their employees and takes pride in the trade. The best indicator of a good employer is whether they have a Union agreement, or EBA.
There are two types of apprenticeship employment, and both have pros and cons – Direct Employment, and Group Training.
Direct Employment is when you undertake a Training Contract with a company or contractor, and they train you for the duration of your apprenticeship.
With Direct Employment, your training is consistent and under great scrutiny, and you know where you are working and what’s expected of you. Your base income is the same – and during industry downturns, your employment is unlikely to be affected. The main issue with Direct Employment is that the scope of its work is limited or repetitive, depending on where you are employed.
Direct employment tips
Most apprenticeships in Power and Rail work through Direct Employment. The best indicator of a good employer is whether they have a Union Agreement.
Other things to look for are :
- Is the employer a Direct Employer or a Group Trainer?
- Can the employer provide experience across all sections of the trade?
- Is the employer committed to the trade?
- Does the employer pay above Award rates?
Group Training is when you undertake a Training Contract with a Group Training Company, which hires out your training to host companies and contractors for the full four years.
With Group Training, you could have as many as 20 different host employers. This can provide more variation in the scope of your work and expose you to different industries. The issue with Group Training can be the uncertainty of not knowing where you are working next, or what is expected of you. Your income can vary, from working across different industries – and during industry downturns, you are likely to be unplaced or between jobs.
The ETU would ideally prefer all apprentices to be Directly Employed, because we know that the more committed an employer is, the more beneficial it is for the apprentice. For this same reason, we continue to try and incorporate minimum term placements of 3-6 months into Group Training EBAs.
Whether you are employed through Direct Employment or Group Training, it is the responsibility of your employer to ensure that you receive full and varied training during your apprenticeship. It’s your right to do meaningful work and gain the full range of on the job skills required to successfully complete your training.
"When I did my Group Training, I spent time with non-EBA companies in domestic - and everything was just an accident waiting to happen, because everything is on the cheap...everything. Safety is compromised when it comes to money."
The ETU understands that it can be a lot harder beginning an apprenticeship as an adult – your cost of living is higher, and your responsibilities are usually greater than those of younger apprentices. Under the Award Rate, there are no provisions for Adult Apprentices, but the ETU has fought long and hard for a Adult Age Rate of pay, which you are entitled to if your employer has a Union Agreement (EBA).
Employers are under a duty of care to consider all apprentices regardless of age, but some Adult Apprentices have difficulty finding work due to employers choosing younger apprentices who cost less to employ. The ETU knows that the value of an Adult Apprentice’s life experience exceeds saving a buck – and we can help guide your career in the right direction.
If you’re considering an Adult Apprenticeship, or are having difficulty finding work as an Adult Apprentice, please speak to an ETU Organiser.
Are you 25 or over?
You are entitled to an Adult Age Apprenticeship if you are age 25 or older.
"I started my apprenticeship at 34, because I wanted to pursue something that I have always wanted to do. With my Adult Apprenticeship, I've found that the foremen have responded well to me - and because of my level of responsibility, I found I was given more slack to do my work."
Qualified Adult Apprentice