Do you enjoy fixing things and working with your hands? Are you observant, responsible, safety conscious and with an eye for detail? Have you thought about becoming an electrician?
There are many different types of electricians such as:
• Regular Electrician
• Engineering Electrician
• Construction Electrician
• Mining Electrician
• Auto Electrician
• Aircraft Electrician
I was super excited this week when I had an opportunity to interview Faheem, a regular electrician who runs his own business. I’ve been trying to interview an electrician for months but they always have such a busy schedule. Faheem was happy to talk to me while he was fixing a DB (distribution board) board.
A regular electrician is someone who installs and maintains all the electrical systems in a home, business or factory. This means that they work with wiring and controlling any equipment through which electricity flows.
1. Why did you decide to become an electrician?
I was always fascinated with fixing things. Electricity was a main interest and I took a keen interest in it from a young age. I find it very satisfying to fix things and I enjoy what I do.
2. Where did you train to become an electrician?
I trained at the Athlone Technical College. I did an N6 in Electrical Engineering. I know that the college isn’t there anymore – I think the new one is next to Oude Moulen.
3. What do you need to be able to study to become an electrician?
You don’t need a matric. You need Grade 9 to start at an N1 level. I had matric and the college bumped me straight up to N3 level because I found N1 too easy. You do need to go in with strong Maths but Physics isn’t necessary (although I did that for matric too).
4. What qualities do you need to have as a person to become an electrician?
You need to be honest. You can take a lot of short cuts and be dishonest but you work with people in their homes so you need to honest if you want to be successful.
I don’t like sitting at a desk. I like to work but you need to be time efficient. When I interview young people who want to work for me, I ask them how long it will take to rewire a DB board and I know that it shouldn’t take too long if you work efficiently. You can’t bamboozle me with how long it takes. I once had a situation when a client heard snoring and at first thought it was her dog. Then she realised that it was coming from the roof! The young guy had come in and then decided to sleep in her roof. I landed up doing that job for free. That’s one of the reasons why I prefer to do most of the work myself.
Also, what’s interesting is that a lot of people who study further have no clue of what’s going on at the basic level. I have worked with electricians from the city council and their work ethic is appalling.
5. Why do you think that is?
Sometimes when people start this job they think they know everything. But what college doesn’t teach you is some of the hard work that’s necessary. Sometimes you have to dig a big hole or trench or you need to do some grinding and you will need to get dirty. When I was courting my wife, I looked like I was working in a salt mine. I was constantly dirty but it still worked out (he laughs)!
Also, sometimes I take on people straight out of school and they seem keen but they land up having no drive. I once bought a guy safety boots and a cell phone and then he started not coming to work. When I went to his grannie’s house, he was sleeping and it was 12pm! When I told him to return the cell phone, he broke it right in front of me and then said, ‘Here you are!’
6. Can you make a decent living from this?
If you work with your hands, you’ll never be poor! You might not be rich necessarily but you will need to work hard. You can definitely make a decent living if you put the effort in. But the onus is on you completely to put the effort in.
This jobs teaches you about concentration and everyone who has worked for me (and stayed to learn) now owns their own company. I might not be the richest person but I am satisfied. It can be stressful to work by yourself though. I had a heart attack at 36. I was working for a contractor on RDP housing and I invested a lot into that. The big company didn’t pay me and then the bills came and it was very stressful. That’s why I prefer to work for individuals now.
7. Would you recommend this work to young people?
Yes, definitely. There is a big shortage of artisans in this country.
8. What advice do you have for young people?
Don’t give up easily. Without challenges you’ll never appreciate the end result. You must realise that if you start your own company you are never your own boss. Each person you work for, whether it is for an hour or a day, is your boss. Honour them.
I really enjoy what I do. My teaching philosophy when I have a young person working for me is to give them some hell! If they are working on a DB board they must do it properly and that way they learn quickly and they make sure that it is well done. In this way, they will learn to have a successful career as an electrician.
Becoming an electrician is a really good way to build your future. You can work for someone else, especially as you build your skills, but later on you will be able to run your own business. Even though you will need to go through the various stages of training, studying and becoming an apprentice, with hard-work and commitment, you will be able to build a successful life in this trade.
There are two pathways that you can take to become an electrician:
• PATH 1
• PATH 2
Learnership – Electrical Engineering Level 2, 3 and 4
Here are some TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) colleges that offer an electrician qualification:
• Northlink College
Belhar, Cape Town
Tel: 082 904 3038
• False Bay College
Westlake, Khayelitsha and Distance Learning
Tel: 021 701 1340 (Westlake)
021 361 3430 (Khayelitsha)
• Boland College
Stellenbosch and Worcester
Tel: 021 887 3027 (Stellenbosch)
023 348 6920 (Worcester)
• Buffalo City TVET College
Tel: 043 722 5453
• Coastal KZN TVET College
Tel: 031 003 3470
• College of Cape Town
Tel: 021 531 2105
• Central Johannesburg TVET College
Tel: 011 351-6000
Here are some Private Colleges you can look at:
• Protech Training
Offers both Apprenticeship and Learnership programmes
Tel: 012 347 6414
• AA Technical College
Johannesburg and Cape Town
Offers an Apprenticeship: 2-4 years: Automotive Electrician
Tel: 0861 000 234
Tell us: Is this a career you might be interested in?