Understanding an Electrician’s Role With Rick Mason

We had the opportunity to speak with Rick Mason, Training Director with Flint and Saginaw Electrical JATC. Rick discusses with the JATC does, as well as an electrician’s role, working conditions, occupations offered, and the application process. 

Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee is an on-going program sponsored by both the international brotherhood of electrical workers and national contractors association. “Our apprenticeship is a non-profit that is jointly funded with two organizations that work together as far as training, selection of apprentices administration. We have a committee that is equal parts labor and management to go through and operate the actual program itself. This also has to do with funding, not funded by any state programs. Our members work out in the field and take 1% out of their income, which is matched by our contractors, so everything is split in the middle between management and labor,” Rick explained.  

Rick tells us that electricians handle a variety of different things. “We do everything from automation and information systems (a lot of electronics-based stuff) all the way up to your plugs, lights, high voltage, and all points in between. Generally, our program is focused on construction and maintenance type things. We go through and we are the ones who trained people on building houses, commercial buildings, industrial facilities, also we go through to maintain those different types of markets.”  

We do some residential, typically more along the lines of your multi-family dwellings. We do a lot of apartment buildings, dorms, hotels, etc. For the most part, probably about 80% of our work is in commercial and industrial settings. In our area here, with a lot of the General Motors work going on, we have a significant amount of work that we do industrial – installing assembly lines, conveyor belts, manufacturing type of installations. The work is mainly in the Flint and Saginaw jurisdiction. There is light travel but the majority is Genesee if you’re in Flint and Saginaw if you’re in Saginaw. 

First-year apprenticeships go through a lot of housekeeping, digging, a lot of manual stuff, they need to prove their worth. Almost like a helper type of position. Keep things clean, make sure any tasks are completed. There is a lot of opportunity for growth. We do have a work requirement – apprentices need to obtain 8,000 hours in the field to finish their program. We do about 900 hours of classroom time. In reality, about 90% of your apprenticeship is on the job. Going into the classroom part of the apprenticeship program is just filling in the blanks, the math behind it, etc. A majority of the education is the day to day, face to face, hands-on work. 

“We have free primary programs, Inside Wireman for example, which handles  everything – no restrictions, we also have a residential/ commercial program which is going to be 4 years classroom. Our main program is going to be 5 years- get your license and then you’re out in the wild. The residential/ commercial has less classroom time, but it does take 7 years to finish.  So 4 years is a condensed program and then 3 years in a CE which is a sub-journeyman. Voice data video – limited energy program, energy management program in 3 years’ time. More of a standardized recognized license,” Rick explained. 

As far as the application process, there are open applications. You’ll need a driver’s license, birth certificate, an official transcript sent by the school.  2.0 in Algebra ( C average) two semesters in high school or a 100 level class in college or a test you can take. Once you meet these requirements, we then set you up for an aptitude test. The aptitude test is a pass/ fail test. Everyone that passes goes on to the interview, and generally do one interview session per year. Depending on what program you’re in, there could be a cut off date for paperwork for that year’s interviews. 

Once someone passes their test – they conduct panel interviews that are going to be half management/ half labor. Series of questions asked over things such as problem-solving, teamwork, multiple questions – committee members give them a 1-100 score overall, all of the committee members scores get averaged out and then they go through and put people on a list, so the highest score recorded and then on down. Once we finish interviews, the committee will come in and say “we want the top 15/top 10 or top 12”. So this is the highest score on down. The highest scoring person that year is going to get a call that year, and so on.

“We only bring in individuals as the work becomes available. We take apprentices in as jobs become available. It costs us $4,000 for each person for training out of our pockets. We are not going to take in people we don’t need – if there are no jobs for you, it’s pointless to go in and get your license. We do everything we can to make sure everyone is working as much as possible. We are looking for people – lego kids – that can take an abstract, like a drawing, and can transfer them in the real world. Looking for also problem solvers, a lot of creativity goes on this trade, leadership abilities, having the ability to speak to people. You need to be able to get along with people,” Rick explained.

For more information, please visit https://www.fsejatc.com/.