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Electrician Job Education: Lincoln Tech Instructors Talk About Their Trade
The nation needs well-trained electricians more than ever! The competition to excel in this industry is fierce, and in an ever-changing field, it's important to know what to expect from the education program you choose. We recently spoke with Lincoln Tech instructors Marc T. Nowak and Simon Thomas to get their perspectives on training for electrician jobs. Nowak is a MA licensed skilled electrician and an instructor at Lincoln Tech in East Windsor, CT. Thomas is an electrician and NCCER Master Craftsman Instructor at Thomas and Nowak has an in-depth understanding of today's electrical job training and the electrical and electronics industry.
What are the benefits of formal education in electrical work?
Nowak: The benefits range from the simple - being more knowledgeable than someone with no education - to the more complex: having a support system to guide you through your career.
Thomas: Lincoln Tech offers a technical training program that teaches you the skills and knowledge you need to use electricity safely and confidently. Under the guidance of experienced electrical instructors, students learn the theory behind the work they do and gain extensive hands-on and troubleshooting experience.
Novak: A formal education allows students to learn a broader range of job and job-related skills. For many things in our industry that you have to learn "in the field," there are too many things in our industry that can't be learned just there. That's why states need class time, not just on-the-job training, to get licensed. You can't lose your education. You may get a job, but without more work, you'll lose that job. However, if you have an education, you can bring it to any job.
How does formal education prepare graduates for electrical apprenticeships?
Novak: Many young people don't know what it's like to work as a true professional in the industry. In a trade school, you learn how to stand out from the crowd, how to perform better than those around you, and how to be the best choice for employers. It's not just about showing you how to do something. It explains why you do what you do and learns how employers view their employees. We help students build confidence in their skills and help them build the social skills they need to interact with clients and employers.
Thomas: A formal education enables students to start working immediately and makes them ideal candidates for electrical apprenticeship programs because they already have basic electrical knowledge and experience using basic hand and power tools.
What does the curriculum of the Electrical Technology/Electronics/Electrician Work Program look like?
Nowak: Most electrical technology programs focus on the two most important things: safety and the National Electrical Code (NEC). It's also important to cover science and math to help explain how things like electrons, conductors, and magnets work. After the basic theory course, students are usually introduced to materials (e.g. Romex, MC, EMT) and basic installation methods such as switches, receptacles, disconnects, and starters.
The curriculum is constantly changing in our industry. New educational pathways for these courses involve green technologies: solar panels, wind turbines, and fuel cells. With the constant rewriting of the NEC, the curriculum is always being updated with the help of contractors and professionals in the field.
Thomas: Lincoln Tech's programs combine basic residential and commercial electrical training with exposure and training in a variety of skills and experiences that make them ideal candidates for a variety of electrical industry employers. Students have the opportunity to earn certificates from NCCER's core courses Electrical Levels 1 and 2.
How long does it take on average for a student in the Electrical Technology program to graduate?
Novak: It depends on the program and the school. The longest takes five years; the shortest, six months. I would say two years is the average, with most students finishing in 12-16 months.
Thomas: Our intensive program offers 1080 hours in a 12-month program for daytime students who take 22 ½ hours a week. Or, it takes approximately 18 months for evening students who attend 16 hours per week. In addition to class time, students are responsible for completing readings and assignments outside of class.
What advice do you have for someone considering training as an electrician?
Novak: Know who you are. I went to a four-year college and it took me five years to get my bachelor's degree because I didn't know enough about myself. If you choose to do something, make sure you want to do it. It's always the hardest working students who are always the first to get a job. If you like doing something, it's easy to work hard.
Thomas: There are many opportunities for people considering a career in the electrical field, and intensive programs like ours provide students with excellent foundational knowledge and broad exposure to a variety of electrical disciplines, rather than limiting untrained individuals to what they can learn in the electrical field to work in a particular industry.
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