How to Become an Electrician in Australia
By Daniel Green
Three phase or single? 15a, 20a or 63a? Ohms, amps, watts or volts? For many in their late teens the thought of becoming a sparky might be electrifying. However, there’s clearly more than meets the eye. Unlike more mechanical trades such as carpentry, plumbing and sheeting, electricity is invisible – sometimes until it’s too late. Its one of the reasons Australia is so fastidious about training its electrical tradesfolk.
Graduating from an electrical apprenticeship in Australia takes four full years, long hours of work and study, complicated concepts and arduous examinations. That’s just so you can apply for the license! But with 1500 people admitted to hospital for electrocution every year, thorough training with the live stuff sounds pretty damn good to us!
The First Sparkies
After Tesla [not the car], Volta [not the band], Edison [9999 problems but a bulb ain’t one] and Faraday, the problem of harnessing electricity was on its way. So much so that in 1920’s Australia electrical appliances began appearing on shelves. At first these were for the privileged few because it wasn’t until after the war that electricity was considered a ‘standard inclusion’ in all new build construction.
As the power of power expanded, so did the need for men and women who could regulate and control it. There had of course been electrical workers installing and managing Australia’s feeble and disintegrated systems in the late 1800’s. Even the ETU was formed in 1902. But proper trades didn’t begin for many years – even in the 1970’s only 40% of men and women working in their trade were actually qualified. Imagine almost half your crew working on live power without a qualification! Over time Australia’s regulatory and training bodies worked to educate and license electricians so that today you cannot work as a sparky without either.
What Does an Electrician Do?
Ohm my – a lot! The specific roles and responsibilities vary depending on their specialisation, but the primary role of an electrician involves testing & installing new systems; diagnosing & fixing electrical faults; and maintaining electronic systems & equipment in commercial, industrial, & domestic settings. Electricians may also work on distribution equipment and electrical transmission.
Major Roles and Responsibilities of an Electrician
- Testing and installing electrical systems and their components
- Repairing and maintaining electrical appliances
- Replacing and repairing defective parts and faulty wiring
- Laying out and measuring installation reference points
- Examining wiring diagrams, blueprints, and other specifications to determine methods and sequences of operation
- Installing and positioning electrical switchboards
- Cutting, selecting, and connecting cables and wires to connectors or terminals
- Testing continuity of the circuit
- Using electronic or electrical test instruments to diagnose or trace faults
- Connecting electrical systems to the power supply
- Removing potential electrical hazards
What Skills Are Required For Electricians?
A good electrician will possess many talents, though these can be built up over time with good training and guidance. Physically, electricians need to be proficient at using both hand and power tools such as:
- Timber saws for trimming studs and joists to route wiring
- Reciprocating saws for cutting sheet and board to route wiring
- Impact drivers for securing conduit clamps
- Battery and electric drills with traditional bits and hole saws
- Grinders to clean grounds, cut conduit and trim large cable
- Wire strippers, crimps, side cutters, pliers, Stanley knives and screwdrivers to remove or join cable
- Shovels, picks, concrete saws and jackhammers to unearth buried services
- Testers and multimeters
Electricians are also adept at thinking logically & laterally, possessing & applying technical knowledge, have a high attention to detail, are neat in their work, have an analytical mind and maintain a rigorous adherence to electrical standards. Some may say a good electrician has OCD!
- An aptitude for electronics and mechanics
- A thorough technical understanding
- Strong hand-eye coordination and good eyesight
- Precise and detail-oriented
- Able to think logically and possess diagnostic ability
- Good communication skills and troubleshooter
- Able to work both as a part of a team and independently
- Able to cope with physically demanding work
What Are The Educational Requirements To Become An Electrician?
If you’re still at school, it’s important to know that a high school certificate of year 12 is the minimum requirement to be accepted as an electrical apprentice. In rare cases a year 10 certificate will be allowed but a bridging course is often required. This will likely be a Certificate II in Electrotechnology [UEE22011]. Only then can you enrol as an electrical apprentice – which in Australia is four years of training. 90% of your learning is what we call on-the-job training, which is where knowledge is passed down by other qualified electricians. The other 10% is at your apprenticeship school during weekly or monthly training days. Upon graduation the apprentice will hold a Certificate III in Electrotechnology [UEE30811].
Once you have your Cert III you are now considered a certified electrician. This allows you to certain freedoms such as terminating and other responsibilities – but you are not yet considered an electrician. You will still need to need work for at least 12 months under a licensed electrician in a residential, commercial or industrial setting to be able apply for a Certificate of Proficiency. This step helps prove beyond doubt that you can physically do the job of an electrician.
With your CoP in hand you can apply for an electrician’s license – this is your ticket to autonomy. It seems like an extraordinarily lengthy process but this is deliberate. The entire training and licensing process is specifically designed to take time, allowing apprentices to encounter many potentially fatal scenarios whilst under the safety of good guidance before operating alone. Training bodies and industry representatives have a responsibility to you to ensure your safety. Electricity is dangerous stuff after all.
How Do I Actually Start an Apprenticeship?
By contacting a Registered Training Organisation [RTO]. These are government accredited businesses that are equipped to oversee training courses such as apprenticeships. TAFE is one example of an RTO. Once in contact with an RTO that offers electrical apprenticeships, their staff will guide you on how to actually begin.
Some common questions regarding electrical licensing:
What Is An Electrical Contractor?
This is a higher license than the standard electrical license. It allows you to employ other electricians below you. It demands an extra layer of skills and responsibilities.
What Is A Level 2 ASP?
This is a higher accreditation and license again. A level 2 Accredited Service Provider is trained and licensed in woking on heavier gauge or more complicated electrical components such as mains and underground work.
There are further qualifications that open up different career paths. Some of these are:
- Cert IV in Electrotechnology. This qualification provides competencies to select, install, commission, fault find and maintain electrical systems and equipment with options, typically in Explosion protection; Electrical machines; Electrical inspection; Safety auditing; Contracting; Lifts; Energy supply/distribution.
- Cert IV in Electrical – Rail Signalling. This qualification provides competencies to select, install, commission, fault find and maintain rail signalling equipment and systems.
- UEPSS00007 – High Voltage Operation – HV Switching. This skill set deals with the skills and knowledge required to undertake the local operation of high voltage circuit breaking devices and performance of H.V. switching to a given switching program.
- UEEEL0054 – Maintain Operation of Electrical Mining Equipment. This unit involves the skills and knowledge required to service electrical systems and equipment in underground and open-cut mines.
- Cert IV in Hazardous Areas Electrical.
- UEE40420 – Cert IV in Electrical Instrumentation.
- UEE31220 – Cert III in Instrumentation and Control.
Electricians are highly sought after. With great conditions, excellent pay and weekends off – becoming an Electrician might just spark a whole new life direction..
We Get It Done.