Ever since Michael Faraday and Joseph Henry invented their primitive generator in 1820, humanity has consistently increased its reliance upon the power of electricity. Electricity is absolutely essential to the machines and machinations of modern society. Electricians, therefore, represent an essential cadre of workers whose role in society cannot be ignored.
There are many kinds of electrician working today. Domestic electricians test, install and fix systems in homes. Electrical construction workers deal with electricity in the building trade. Production designers and assemblers create the electrical systems and devices people use every day. The list goes on. Electrical work is well paid – and for a good reason. Electricians need to display plenty of skills and attributes in order to qualify and get work. Here is a brief guide to some of these skills and attributes.
A Cool Head
Keeping a cool head is absolutely essential as an electrician. Panicking is not on the cards – even if something is a complete mess. Electricians are expected to work through problems without resorting to hurried or temporary botch jobs bought on by rushing or worrying. If an electrician has taken the correct safety procedures and packed the right tools, the likelihood of actually being hurt is extremely low. Think ahead, not on your feet. Electricians need to be savvy when talking to customers and clients. If a customer or client demands too much, too quickly, it is the duty of an electrician to tell them what can realistically be achieved. Making sure that you don’t have too much on your plate from the outset is a great way of preventing any situations that could cause panic.
Speaking of keeping a cool head, electricians working in hot countries often overheat when working in confined spaces. Electrical contractors working on installations for the Qatar World Cup in 2022 are being provided with special hard hats that help to cool their heads down. A good knowledge of protective clothing and safe tool use is a fundamental part of electrical work.
Good electricians work in a processual and methodical way when testing, inspecting, installing, or fixing electrical systems. Most electrical contractors will make good use of checklists – running through and eliminating the possibility of a list of predetermined contingencies before they think outside the box. Electrical work is, by and large, an extremely logical field. Electricians need to be able to think methodically when solving problems. If electrical theory has been memorized correctly, logical explanations for seemingly confusing problems should be easy to find. Flowchart style processual thinking allows trained electricians to calmly find technical solutions to issues they find during the inspection phase of a job. Methodical thinking does not come naturally to everybody. It can, however, be learned by just about any person with a passion for understanding systems and processes.
An Eye for Detail
A keen eye for detail is essential in the electrical trade. Many electrical components and their fixings are tiny and easy to install or misplace poorly. Even the smallest mistake can have a large knock-on effect – which can mean the complete failure of an installation, inspection, construction, or testing task. Using their methodical minds, electricians need to leave no stone unturned when it comes to getting the small things done right. If perfectionism isn’t something you aspire to when completing a physical task, then a job that requires broader brushstrokes may be for you. Cutting corners just doesn’t work in the electrical trade. Clients might not notice cut corners initially, but your reputation could suffer when things start going wrong with a system you have worked with.
Electrical Theory Proficiency
As you might expect, electricians need to have a good working knowledge of electrical theory. All students working towards qualification as an electrician are taught theory in depth. Electrical theory is formulated around three crucial measurements, all of which can be gauged using a digital multimeter:
All atoms are made of protons, electrons, and neutrons. Neutrons are electrically neutral. Protons carry a positive charge, and electrons carry a negative charge. Atoms naturally preserve a balance between positive and negative charge – electrons and protons. Electrons can be lost or gained, meaning that imbalance builds. An atom can be considered to have an electric charge if there is an imbalance between protons and electrons. When an imbalance builds, an atom will release excess electrons to a conductive atom nearby.
The difference between the electric charge in two points is measured as voltage. Voltage is usually calculated using the earth as a reference point. For instance, if a conductive material is considered to have 100 volts of charge, this will be 100 volts greater than a neutral ‘earthed’ material.
When electrons forming a charge are given a conductive pathway to be released by their parent atoms, they will flow along this path as a current. Electrical current always travels along the path of least resistance and is measured in amps. Both supply voltage and circuit resistance change how many amps a current will be. Knowing the aspects that affect current is important.
Resistance is the measurable opposition that a conducting material will offer to the flow of charge along a current. The lower the resistance, the easier it will be for electrons to be passed on from atom to atom. Electricians need to have a good knowledge of the factors that influence resistance. Knowing the conductive properties of materials helps working electricians to assess possible inefficiencies or breaks in a circuit. Resistance is measured in ohms. Scientists have recently discovered ways to change the resistance properties of metals – changing them into insulators. Electricians need to keep up with the latest developments in electrical physics. Scientific discoveries can have an impact on the working lives of electricians as new technology becomes available.
Electricians also need to have a very comprehensive working knowledge of electrical components, circuitry, and tooling. Circuitry, which many people learn about in school, is the key to understanding how electrical systems work. Being versed in circuitry helps electricians diagnose issues with systems and components. Circuit knowledge also helps electricians negate the risk of being electrocuted while on the job!
There are plenty of scientific laws concerning the interactions between different conductive materials that electricians need to learn. The most commonly known of these laws is ohm’s law, which states that the current is proportional to the applied electrical field.
Electricians need to be confident at applying basic mathematical principles. Importantly, they need to know why they are making calculations based on their knowledge of electrical theory. Many of the mathematical calculations used by electricians are relatively simple, but any mathematical mistake can lead to a complete failure and even danger. Electricians need to be able to use figures gathered from their multimeter readings to correctly choose components and wiring that will efficiently and safely transmit a current.
Simple mathematics is used to calculate the ideal length of wire needed for a job. Too much wire creates a mess which makes maintenance and inspection work much, much harder in the future.
Electricians need to be comfortable reading and interpreting blueprints. Electrical blueprints can be very complex and contain a fascinating array of symbols representing components and measurements. When training in college, prospective electricians will spend a good deal of their time studying electrical blueprints. Electrical blueprints, otherwise known as electrical drawings, are typically designed to display the most information in the simplest method possible – but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily easy to read.
Electrical drawings may be coupled up with component drawings if some elements of a circuit are esoteric or antiquated in nature. Component drawings help electricians understand individual parts of a system so that they can diagnose issues and deliver solutions. Electricians working in the system construction trade will have to consult electrical blueprints and component drawings in order to complete their tasks to brief.
Customer Service Skills
Electrical work might be practical, but that does not mean that it is not customer-facing at the same time. If, for instance, an electrician is working for domestic clients, they will be expected to consult with individual homeowners and work within their property. Dealing with customer expectations to do with timetabling, pricing, and aesthetics is very important for any electrician that wants to receive future work. Modern internet customer review sites like TrustPilot and Google Reviews mean that no customer service slip-up goes unnoticed. Every interaction with customers is extremely important. Likewise, commercial electricians need to be able to deal with extremely demanding client companies that often over egg their demands in order to provoke swift completion. In negotiations, commercial electricians need to be kind, realistic and explain electrical processes in terms clients can understand.
Dealing efficiently and compassionately with customer complaints and demands can be tough, but it is an extremely important part of the job. The best electricians are charming houseguests as well as adept workers.