Chatting to my barber today, he mentioned that he would have loved to become an electrician when he was younger but couldn’t find a route into the industry. By the time he decided the life of a sparky was something he would enjoy he felt that he was too old to start a traditional apprenticeship. I said to him that being an electrician’s mate is a great route to becoming an electrician.
What is an electrician’s mate? he replied. This made me think for a moment that there must be plenty of people out there who have never heard this term and don’t realise that it is a viable route to becoming a fully trained electrician. If like my barber, you are interested in learning more then this blog post is for you!
What Does An Electricians Mate Do?
An electrician’s mate is someone who helps and works under the guidance of a fully qualified electrician. Electricians mates are usually required to have basic electrical knowledge as well as experience in a construction environment. Being an electricians mate is a great route to becoming a qualified electrician.
I decide to do a little research to see what the requirements and job roles are for electricians’ mates. After all, saying they need some experience is not that helpful without real-world examples to qualify that. Below is a table with some examples I found of job adverts on the career site, Indeed. I have listed the job title alongside the relevant experience and type of tasks successful applicants should be willing to undertake.
Table showing the experince requirements and role of electricians mate
|Electricians Mate or 2nd/3rd Yr Apprentice
|We’re looking for someone who has a full driving license, 2-3 years of relevant electrical experience, are eager to learn, ambitious, a team player, flexible and who will take pride in their work.
|The role would include the following:
Cable containment works
Various types of cabling inc SWA
Electricians mate will need to hold the following
Part Electrical Qualifications
ECS Card or CSCS Card
Full Driving licence
|If the right candidate can show a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn, we are prepared to invest in specific trade training, after all, the more skilled and knowledgeable you are the, the stronger the company will be.
We can see from the above examples that being an electrician’s mate is different to being a general labourer. Electricians mates are expected to be skilled in electrical work such as containment installation and glanding of cables. In many ways, they are halfway to becoming electricians.
Some of the duties and tasks an electricians mate is expected to carry out are:
- Pull in cables
- Install cable containment systems
- Collect materials from the wholesalers
- Tidy up
- First fix wiring
- Chase out walls
- Gland of cables
The role of an electrician’s mate is very varied and a great introduction to the skills that all electricians need to learn. In fact, it can be kind of nice learning the skills without the expectations that are placed on apprentices.
Can Electricians Mate Become an Electrician?
As we have touched on already, an electrician’s mate can become an electrician. The mate will still need to complete a recognised apprenticeship and pass all the required exams but their on-site practical experience learnt in the role gives them a great head start.
In my experience, one of the biggest advantages to being an electrician’s mate is the industry connections that you are able to make. It is much easier to get an electrical company to take the financial risk of putting you through an apprenticeship if they have already worked alongside you and know that you are hardworking and sensible.
It’s worth noting that I’ve met plenty of electricians mates who do not want to become qualified electricians. They are more than happy to assist the electricians on site. They get to do lots of similar work but have non of the pressures and responsibilities that come with being a qualified electrician.
Difference Between an Electricians Mate and Improver
Although the above examples use the term electricians mate, it is sort of interchangeable with the term electrical improver. However, there are a few key differences that we should be aware of.
Generally, an electrical improver refers to someone who has partially completed or fully completed their electrician apprenticeship but lacks the job experience to be able to work independently as a qualified electrician. An electrician’s mate will have electrical experience but they may be happy at their level and not try to progress further.
As I mentioned, the two are kind of interchangeable but if you have zero experience there is a much better chance of talking your way into an electrician’s mate job than an electrical improver role. That being said even the smallest amount of experience may be justifiable to become an improver. I think it comes down to how well you are able to sell yourself to potential employers.
How To Become an Electricians Mate
We’ve seen that in order to become an electrician’s mate we need to have experience, but what does this look like. There are a few possible options for gaining this experience:
Being a labourer on a general building site allows us to pick up bits and pieces of every trade. By making ourselves useful to the electricians on site they are likely to ask us to do more and more to help. This is how I started out and got experience before landing a complete apprenticeship program.
Going to college, either part-time or full time is another great option. We can achieve an NVQ level two, or equivalent in different parts of the world, by studying at college. We do not need on the job experience to achieve this level of qualification. This theoretical knowledge is a great advantage when applying for an electrician’s mate, or even improver role. Many electrician’s mates enter via this route.
Also See: Do Electricians Get Laid Off a Lot?
Is Being an Electricians Mate a Good Job?
In my experience, being an electricians mate is a very good job. For those interested in a career as an electrician, it is a great way to gain experience and opens doors to opportunities. Equally for those happy to stay as an electrician’s mate, it is a relatively well-paid job with little responsibility and pressure.
The lack of pressure and stress is a huge reason why some people stay as electricians mates their whole careers. As they can earn a decent hourly wage, around £14 an hour from my brief research looking at current real-world job offers. This isn’t hugely less than a newly qualified electrician and definitely a lot more than an apprentice electrician gets paid.
We also sometimes find qualified electricians taking jobs as electricians mates. Why would they do this? If an electrician wants to work in another country they find that their qualifications are not valid as different countries have different wiring regulations.
If a British trained electrician wants to live and work in Australia, they can use their experience to get a job as an electricians mate whilst they study the Australian regulations and gain the accreditation that they need. In this respect being an electrician’s mate is a very good job!
Is Being an Electricians Mate Boring?
There’s no getting away from the fact that as an electrician’s mate you will be responsible for doing a lot of the donkey work on site. If there are cables that need to be pulled in or a room that needs to be tidied up, this job is heading towards you.
That being said, it is by no means a boring job. Electricians mates are well-paid semi-skilled members of the team. They are not often left without anything to do as their skill set means they can jump in to help everywhere.
In my experience, the job of an electrician’s mate is what you choose to make of it. If someone is keen to get involved, learn and be helpful to the electricians on-site, the majority will appreciate it and take the time to teach. If we choose to stand around and say “that’s not my job” then people will largely leave us alone.
No one tends to baby each other on a building site. Everyone is there to learn and to get the job done. Those that are not interested or find the job boring tend to get left behind
Also see: Is Being an Electrician Boring?
Hopefully readers can see the answer to, what does an electrician’s mate do? is a very varied one. They are hugely important, especially on larger projects. In my experience, if there are a team of 10 electricians on-site, you will often find one or two mates working alongside them.
Being an electrician’s mate is a great route to becoming a qualified electrician if that is your aim. I started as a general labourer on sites and even that role got me enough experience to get my foot in the door of an apprenticeship. If your struggling to get an apprenticeship, especially if you are of older age, getting some electrical theory at college and then taking an electrician’s mate role is a great entry route!