Prairie Business Magazine - Construction 2017

Q&A: Construction Electricity

Stan Kovarik 2017-06-07 09:38:32

Q: WHAT IS THE AVERAGE ENROLLMENT IN NORTHLAND’S CONSTRUCTION ELECTRICITY PROGRAM? A: Our full enrollment for the year is 23. All 23 students take the same classes. Q: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MAIN SKILLS STUDENTS WILL LEARN, AND HOW WILL THOSE SKILLS BE APPLIED IN THEIR CAREERS? A: Our Program Description puts it this way: “The Construction Electricity diploma program prepares students to build, install, maintain and repair electrical systems that provide heat, light, or power for residential, commercial and industrial structures.” I teach seven different classes, and the first thing we do in every class is stress safety. That’s pretty redundant, but it’s vital, because when you’re in the electrical business, you’ve got to think “Safety” before you do anything else. So, the first part of every class is safety. After that, students learn theory — what electricity is, and how it is produced. They learn blueprint reading, a skill all electricians have to know. We teach them about motors, and we teach residential, commercial and industrial wiring. We also teach the National Electric Codes. By the end of the first year, each student can literally wire a home. And they do: we wire a brand-new home. I don’t take any tools with me to the site; it’s a hands-on education for the students, who do all the work. So, at the end of the first year, a student who didn’t know the difference between a black wire and a white wire actually wires a brand-new home. And the home is sold at the end of the year. It’s an excellent education. Q: WHAT KIND OF A DEGREE OR CERTIFICATE DO THE STUDENTS EARN? A: At the end of the two-year program, a student earns a diploma. As important, he or she has also taken a big step toward becoming a journeyman electrician. To become a journeyman electrician, you need 8,000 hours of work. That’s four years at 2,000 hours per year. At the end of their two years at Northland, the students get 2,000 hours credited to them. So, they actually have started the apprenticeship program. They have completed 2,000 hours already, so they can go into three more years of an apprenticeship, then take their journeyman’s exam. Q: WHAT’S THE DEMAND LIKE FOR GRADUATES? A: Basically, all of our graduates find jobs. In fact, the job market is so good that our challenge is keeping students in the program long enough to complete it. In Williston, N.D., for example, they’re hiring now. I had a couple of former students tell the rest of the students here, “If you want to work, we’ve got work for you right now.“ In other words, the oil patch is coming into play again. And right now in Minneapolis, the schools there can’t even get students to enroll because people are hiring them right off the street. Here is another example: these days, there are 8,000 more jobs for electricians in the United States every year than there were the year before. That’s not because of retirements; it’s because the industry is growing that fast. Think of everything that’s needed in the computer and the electrical industries, and you’ll see where that demand for electricians comes from. And to top it off, for every three electricians retiring these days, there are only 1.5 newcomers going into the business. So it’s going to be just crazy. The job availability is going to be fantastic. Q: WHAT KIND OF A SALARY CAN A GRADUATE EXPECT? A: Here is another quote from our Program Description: “According to Minnesota State’s CAREERwise website, the median hourly pay as an Electrician in the state of Minnesota is $29.17 per hour. The employment outlook through 2024 is expected to grow approximately 10.6 percent, a very high-growth career.” Here’s another example of how that that high demand shows up. Two of my students went to work for Encore Electric out of Denver, Colo. The company actually found apartments for them and got everything arranged for them, so they’re pretty excited about that. If you’re 19 or 20 years old and you find yourself sought-after in that way, you know you’re in the right line or work.

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