Transcript: Just the Job – electrician

Clinton: Hi and welcome to Just the Job – the programme especially for New Zealand’s career seekers and career changers.     

In today’s show, we check out what you need to become an electrical apprentice…

…and then Thomas discovers some tasty career opportunities with KFC…

So let’s get started and head to South Auckland and join the latest intake of Electrical Apprentices with the Electrical Training Company.

Nick: Hi, I’m Nick Robinson, I’ve been an electrical apprentice for just over a year now, and I look forward to having an exciting and rewarding career being an electrician.

Clinton:There’s a shortage of skilled electricians in New Zealand and Nick is one of many apprentices who are being trained and placed with host companies by training organisation ETCO, the Electrical Training Company. 

After successfully applying for an ETCO apprenticeship all students start right here at their residential college in Ramarama, South Auckland.

Luke: Hey Nick, how’s it going?

Nick: Yeah, good thanks, and you?

Luke: Good, good. Nice to see you back here after so long – we’ve got a new lot of guys coming through their induction training this week – would you like to go and check them out?

Nick: Yep.

Luke: Cool.

So at etco, we have this facility called Martynsfield, and the main point of difference between what we do here and a normal apprenticeship done elsewhere, is we get all of our guys together for an induction course, and during that course we teach them the basics about what they’re going to encounter in the industry, but we also set them up for a few life skills as well.

Well Nick, you remember this – our lounge…

Clinton: Nick spent twelve days here last year on his initial training, and as Luke takes Nick around Martynsfield on a nostalgic tour, the new intake of apprentices are fuelling up for a busy day…

 …busy with breakfast.

Luke: Everyone’s expected to be at breakfast at 7 o’clock. Breakfast for us is quite important – we make sure all of our apprentices have eaten before work starts. The working day is from about 8 o’clock through to 4.30-5pm, but after that there will also be some homework or some assignments to do in the evenings, so they can be working from 6.45 in the morning through till 8 or 9 o’clock at night.

Clinton: etco* started in 1991 as a joint industry and union initiative, responding to concerns of skill shortages. Since then, CEO Peter Rushworth has overseen the training of thousands of apprentices and students.

Peter: Today we employ 561 apprentices, approximately 200 new ones every year and 200 completions. The thing about a group apprenticeship scheme is the apprentices are employed by us – we’re their employer, we pay them every week, we place the apprentices with host companies to gain the necessary skills and knowledge that they need to satisfy the requirements of their qualification.

Our new apprentices are recommended to us by secondary schools – we believe that our best apprentices come direct from school.

Clinton: Breakfast over, the next task for Luke is to carry out bedroom inspection

Luke: So the course runs for twelve days – they come in on the first day knowing very little about the industry itself, and very little about what our expectations as en employer are. So we take them through and we start with some very basic hand tools, very basic theory.

Clinton: Nick met up with new apprentice, Ruan, to find out how he’s finding the course.

Ruan: Well, doing this course and these little project boards that everybody’s busy doing just shows what type of work you can expect to be doing out there – like I didn’t really know much about how to terminate a cable properly, what the proper technique was – using the pliers and everything like that, the lengths – just basic hands-on things and just the theory side of it as well.

Luke: During the course we also have some outside presenters come in and they teach them things that they are going to need to know in the industry – for example, they do a heights and harness training with Sitesafe, which includes your Sitesafe Passport.

Clinton: Over the twelve day course, the main practical task is to build quite a complex power distribution and switch system. Day eleven of the course is the ‘powering up’ day…

Ruan: Can you help me do a couple of tests on it, just to make sure everything’s alright?

Luke: The reason that these apprentices are able to have the opportunity that they have, is the previous etco* apprentices that have been before them. They’ve done a good job, and they’ve had a good reputation for the company, so that these guys have a place to go to.

Ok guys, it’s time to power up Ruan’s board, so I need everyone to put their safety glasses on…

Ok Ruan, time to liven up your board, ok…

So what I’m going to do, first of all, your circuit breakers are all off, and we’re going to turn your main switch on…

Sound of Ruan flicking the switch.

…and the RCD…

Sound of Ruan flicking the switch.

…and we’re going to press the test button to make sure the RCD works.

Sound of Ruan flicking the switch.

We’ll try all the switches…

Sound of Ruan flicking the switch.

…and I’ll do this one down here.

Ok Ruan, we have a hundred per cent functioning project, so well done.

Sound of class clapping.

Clinton: And well done to all those who completed their course.

Luke: We actively encourage all of our students, while they’re here on their elite course, in their any downtime, to get together and play some group sports. It keeps them physically active and it also promotes good teamwork and good camaraderie within the group.

Clinton: The next step is block courses and night school, which take place at one of etco*’s four main regional centres.

Nick’s headed to Mt Wellington where he’s met by CEO Peter Rushworth.

Peter: So when were you here last, Nick?

Nick: I was last here on my block course, last August.

Peter: Yep – Level Two block course?

Clinton: The training centre has been arranged so that facilities are duplicated allowing four groups of 12 to train at a time.

Peter: We use this area to quickly simulate circuitry and get the apprentices up-to-speed with designing circuits and wiring circuits.

So it’s a plug in plate system, and on these panels we can simulate lighting circuits, power circuits, heating circuits and motor control.

Clinton: Next Nick’s given a task.

Peter: So what I want you to do is test out the motor – the windings on the motor…

Nick: Ok.

Can you do that?

Being an electrician provides the opportunity to earn a good wage – certainly that’s improving – it provides an opportunity to work where – and I guess to a degree, when, you choose. It provides the opportunity to be self-employed and with the income that’s generated and that, the opportunity to be good contributing members of their community.

Nothing wrong with that motor.

etco* is funded predominately by the industry. When we place the apprentices with the hosts, we pay the apprentice and we charge the host to cover the apprentice’s costs - most of our revenue is generated from that area.

We also receive some government funding for the training that we provide, and the off-job training that we provide in facilities like this.

Clinton:  Last task for Nick, he’s joined a team who are simulating wiring a two way switch.

Peter: It’s been good to have the opportunity to spend a little bit of time with Nick, on this project. He’s inspired me with his commitment to this project, all the feedback from the people that he works with has been great and I think he’s picked a good career and I think he’ll do exceptionally well.

Clinton: Looks like those guys have got great careers ahead of them as electricians.  After the break we’ll find out about two possible areas they could work in once qualified.

Nick: It’s been interesting seeing more of the background of my initial training – now I’m heading back to my host company, Astech Electrical in Auckland.

Clinton: It’s a routine early start for the team from Astech Electrical. They’re setting up the tools and equipment for a solar panel installation.

Visiting the site today, company director Steve Hallett.  Steve runs the morning meeting where all hazards are identified and the work can begin.

Steve: The solar side of it is probably about a third of our business now – so the system that were installing is for Vector, which are a lines company. Now Vector have got an offer out there, which is battery storage, which is something completely different to the other panels that are on the roof – we can store all that electricity up during the day and use it when you’re at home in the evenings.

Clinton: There are two main tasks to this installation, preparing the roof for the panels, and connecting them with the house power supply via this cabinet.

The cabinet’s moved into place.  Next for Nick, he’s heading for the roof - helping install the cables which connect to the control cabinet.

Steve: An average install takes four to five guys a day’s work, and we have a mixture of tradesmen and apprentices and we try to train the apprentices on everything from doing the roof work, which is putting the panels on the roof, through to doing the conduit work, right through o doing the switchboard work, and at the end of it, the commissioning. The apprentices enjoy the variety and they get to understand the system and at the end of the day they get to see it all operating and they can see exactly what’s going on.

Clinton: Nick’s given the task of connecting an isolator - a switch which will connect the panels to the cabinet.

Steve: So is this isolator weather proof – is it going to be ok for outside?

Nick: Yes it has an IP rating of 65 which means it can withstand all the New Zealand weather conditions.

Steve: Ok.

We normally take on two or three apprentices every year, and that way it gives us a constant feed of tradesmen coming out in those years to come.

We take all of our apprentices from etco*, the Electrical Training Company, and the reason behind that is because they come ready-skilled, they understand the basics abut health and safety, and they’re keen. 

Clinton: Today apprenticeship coordinator Bruce Bycroft is checking out etco* apprentice Ryan Jones.  He’s soon to complete his training.

Bruce: So basically you’ve just been doing that commercial one and a bit of domestic stuff, or…

Ryan: Yeah and a bit of solar sort of stuff.

Bruce: …some solar stuff as well?

Bruce: Let’s say, just the house that you’ve been involved in a lot of – what, what steps have you taken to ensure your own personal safety, working on that job?

Ryan: Oh just identifying the hazards that are around.

Steve: So Ryan what are these – how many of these are going on the roof?

Ryan: Today there’s twelve that are going to go on the roof.

Steve: Twelve? So how many kilowatts is that?

Ryan: Three kilowatts.

Steve: It’s a three kilowatt system?

Ryan: Yep.

Steve: So how many systems have you been involved with?

Ryan: Oh, I’ve probably been involved in about 80 odd systems.

Steve: Eighty odd systems?

Ryan: Yeah.

Clinton: With the wiring in place, the solar panels are hoisted to the roof.  Nick’s back up there, helping to fix them in place.

Steve: As an electrician, it’s a great career – and I’m not saying that just because I’m an electrician. It gives you the ability to learn about the trade, you interact with other tradespeople – builders and plumbers and all the rest, so when it comes to doing your own bits and pieces around the home you’ve got all those skills that you’ve learnt.

Clinton: So the panels are in place, there’s a new switchboard fitted inside, the control cabinet is locked, and the system is ready to go.

Steve: To be fair, it’s a reasonable income once you’ve been in it for a few years – not may sparkies around don’t have a boat or a holiday home somewhere!

Clinton: Electricians might also work in commercial or industrial sites. To find out just how different jobs can be, Nick’s headed to New Zealand Steel.

Brad: Nick, how’s things?

Clinton: Maintenance Superintendent Brad Stark, who was an etco* apprentice while training, shows Nick around.

Clinton: New Zealand Steel is the country’s sole producer of flat rolled steel products.

Brad: So Nick, this is, this is the raw materials of New Zealand Steel. From here we’ve got our primary concentrate, which is our reduced sand, and we’ve also got our coal and limestone, and you can see that in the background just over there.

Clinton: The raw materials are heated in furnaces to eventually produce steel slabs.

Clinton: The slabs are then passed through various kinds of mills many times over to slowly reduce their thickness.

Clinton: Electrical work here is on a huge scale and mostly involves the immensely powerful motors that are used to keep the mill machinery moving.

Brad: Martin’s our Team Leader in the rolling mills, and Scott, he’s our industrial electrician.

Clinton: After the daily health and safety meeting, electrician Scott Guthrie, who was also an etco* apprentice while training, shows Nick his first task.

Scott: Ok Nick, so what we’re doing today is a motor PM - regular maintenance, it’s just a check, so we’ll isolate the motors and then go inside them and check the brushes and commentate on condition.

Clinton: There’s a weekly check for most of the big motors in the plant.

Scott: This is the Isolation Status Board. This explains what’s isolated in this plant, so this is our one here – my name is the isolation leader, and what equipment and what job we’re doing.

Clinton: With a lethal 33,000 volts powering some machinery, safety procedures are rigorous.

Scott: Ok, this is the electrical switch room we’re our isolation point is, so we’ll head in there and pit our locks on.

Clinton: Once the motor is double checked that it’s safe to work on, the job can begin.

Scott: Ok, the next job is to blow out the motor, so you need to have your dust mask on for this and make sure you’ve got hearing protection in.

That’s good… 

…there’s a couple more places that you might be able to get some more dust.

Ok now we need to have a look at the brushes…

…lift the springs up and pull the brushes out…

…you’re looking at the brush surface, looking for any burning, abnormal colours…

Nick: So how many different kinds of motors are there here?

Scott: There’s all sorts – we’ve got AC and DC motors. A lot of the motors are original, so they’re thirty years old, and they range from 6000kw down to a couple of kilowatts.

Nick: Yep.

Brad: Our facility runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year and that’s a key part because we need to keep our equipment running, we need to keep it in an operable state. We spend our time doing visual inspections, measuring and looking at what our equipment is and what it’s doing.

Clinton: Nick’s now running an insulation test on a roller grinding motor.

Scott: It’s a hundred meg-ohm, which is really good for one of our motors in this environment, where it’s all dirty.

Brad: The great thing with etco* is that they’ve been able to provide the apprentices with some fundamental learnings, the beginning parts of their apprenticeship, before they come to New Zealand Steel. So once the etco* apprentice comes to New Zealand Steel, we’re able to give them some real heavy hands-on experience in the industrial sector, and help to complete that apprenticeship for them.

Nick: It’s been a great learning opportunity, great to get hands-on experience in a potential career path, so it’s been really good seeing all the possible career paths that will open for me.

Clinton: Secondary Schools are able to recommend suitable Year 11,12 and 13 students for apprenticeships. ETCO staff work with schools, students and parents to ensure the necessary entry criteria before starting an apprenticeship.  Students must achieve Level 2 NCEA with a minimum of 8 credits in each of Maths English and a relevant science. They also must have a commitment to on-going learning, a positive attitude, ambition and a current driver’s license and own transport. On completion of training, apprentices receive the Level 4 ‘Electricians for Registration’ certificate, which provides registration to work as an electrician. ETCO prides itself on having the best apprentices, and places on the scheme are limited.

Clinton: After the break, Thomas is checking out careers with KFC, but first here’s Hana from Careers New Zealand.

Hana: Your chances of finding work as an electrician are good due to increasing demand for their services and too few people training for the role. Find out more about job prospects for electricians, along with employment trends for more than 400 other jobs on our website

Updated 12 Sep 2016