Electrician

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Electricians install, connect, test and maintain electrical systems for a variety of purposes, including lighting, climate control, security, communications and electronic controls for machines. They work in homes, businesses, factories, sports stadiums, skyscrapers and power stations. When installing electrical systems, electricians work with blueprints, which indicate where circuit boards, power outlets and load centres need to be placed.

Their tasks can range from transporting data along fibre-optic cables to programming computer-controlled ‘intelligent’ buildings and factories. They can also work with renewable technology, such as wind turbines or photovoltaic systems that turn the sun’s energy into electricity. Depending on the electrician’s area of specialisation, tasks might include:

  • reviewing current systems
  • installing power systems, lighting, fire protection, security and data-network systems
  • checking systems regularly to make sure that they are working efficiently and safely
  • building and installing control panels that operate the electrical systems inside buildings
  • repairing and maintaining electrical motors and other machinery like transformers
  • installing and maintaining street lighting and traffic management systems.

>>INTERVIEW: Reach for the Stars
>>INTERVIEW: Plugged In and Switched On
>>WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DO I NEED?
>>WHERE CAN I STUDY?
>>WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFO?
>>WHAT SUBJECTS DO I NEED?


REACH FOR THE STARS

ELECTRICIAN

Shravan Singh
ELECTRONIC ENGINEER
SANSA Space Operations

Why engineering?  I enjoyed physics, maths and computer science at school. Instead of becoming a computer programmer, I chose engineering as it teaches you the art of problem-solving. You also learn about how physical devices work, which is huge fun.

What training did you undergo?  I attained a BSc (Hons) degree in Electronic Engineering at the University of Natal. I then took an online course in Lumped Circuit Abstraction from MIT (USA), wrote the exam and passed it! 

What makes a ‘good’ engineer?  You need to be hard-working, dedicated and have an enquiring mind. It is an intense degree, with only 20% or less of first year students making it through. There are long hours of lectures/studying, but it’s worth it, as you end up in a rewarding career.

Describe a typical day on the job  I arrive at work and usually get caught up solving a software or hardware problem at an antenna. This can take the whole morning and I’ll either be modifying software or writing new automation software. This is my most productive and creative part of the day. After lunch, there’s more programming, and checking of emails. I leave paperwork for the afternoon.

What do you appreciate most?   The ability to create new things from scratch.

Advice for someone starting out in engineering?  Read lots of books like How to Win Friends & Influence People, or Skill with People by Les Giblin. You can be the most brilliant engineer, but if you don’t have a personality that relates well to people, you will not progress far. Also, keep a positive mindset, and respect everyone for who they are – from the cleaner to the CEO. 

What’s been the highlight of your career to date?  Designing the control software for a NASA-funded project in Washington DC in 2002. It was a complex piece of code for a very sensitive optical instrument. I worked on it for six months and loved it.


PLUGGED IN AND SWITCHED ON

Ilunga Jean Paul Muambayi ELECTRICIAN - ELECTRO SURGEON

Ilunga Jean Paul Muambayi
ELECTRICIAN
Electro Surgeon

Why did you choose this profession?  I enjoy working with people and prefer being on the road than in an office. There is always work available for electricians because it’s one of the most common trades, and there is always a lot of growth potential when you work for a well-known company.

What training did you undergo and where did you do it?  I did an apprenticeship section 28 with ECA and Train All training centre in Cape Town.

Describe a typical day on the job  We mainly work on maintenance on electrical work in houses and small buildings – like plug points, light fittings, earth leakages, etc. Every day there is something different and we are always needed.

What are the best parts?  I enjoy a good team spirit, and when a client is happy with my work.

What don’t you like?  I don’t like it when sometimes a client thinks they know what is wrong and overrun my decisions when I’m fixing a problem, in the end realising that I did intend to do the right thing. This is why you need lots of patience and good social skills!

Have there been hurdles to overcome?  I have found that in this industry you have to keep your focus and be positive because when I started it was not easy. I did not get a lot of help and not many companies wanted to hire me because I hardly had any experience.

Career highlights?  When I resolve the problem by giving satisfaction to the ones in need and I can look back and be proud of how much experience I have gained.

Your future goals are…  To find myself managing a big electrical company.

How does experience weigh up against formal training?  The more experience you get, the better equipped you are mentally and physically.

What makes a ‘good’ electrician?  An electrician needs dedication, passion and a hard-working ethos.

Any advice for someone starting out in your career?  Always be willing to learn and take on new opportunities. Never give up.


WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DO I NEED?

Preconditions for becoming a certified electrical contractor include completing an electrical contractor apprenticeship and passing a Trade Test. There are many TVET Colleges, as well as learnership and apprenticeship programmes, that offer qualifications as an electrician. Another option is to complete a Bachelor of Science: Electrical Engineering degree, plus an additional master’s degree, followed by a training programme within a specific company. A National Senior Certificate that meets the requirements for a diploma or degree course is a prerequisite for many courses. Registration with the Electrical Contracting Board of South Africa, which is a requirement prior to operating as a contractor, can only be completed once registration as an accredited person through the Department of Labour has been finalised and a certificate of registration issued.


WHERE CAN I STUDY?

Protech Training
Learnership and Apprenticeship
www.protechtraining.co.za

Durnacol
Learnership and Apprenticeship
www.skillsinnovationhub.co.za

MCD Training Centre
Learnership and Apprenticeship
www.mcdtraining.co.za

AA Technical College
Apprenticeship
www.aa.co.za

University of the Witwatersrand
Bachelor of Science: Electrical Engineering
www.wits.ac.za

University of Cape Town
Bachelor of Science: Electrical Engineering
www.uct.ac.za

North-West University
Bachelor of Engineering: Electrical Engineering
www.nwu.ac.za

University of Johannesburg
National Diploma: Electrical Engineering
www.uj.ac.za

University of Pretoria
National Diploma: Electrical Engineering
www.up.ac.za

University of Stellenbosch
Electrical and Electronic Engineering Degree
www.sun.ac.za

UNISA
National Diploma and Degree: Engineering
www.unisa.ac.za

Cape Peninsula University of Technology
National Diploma: Electrical Engineering
www.cput.ac.za

Tshwane University of Technology
National Diploma: Electrical Engineering
www.tut.ac.za


WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFO?

Engineering Council of South Africa – www.ecsa.co.za
South African Institute of Electrical Engineers – www.saiee.org.za
Electrical Contractors’ Association of South Africa – www.ecasa.co.za


WHAT SUBJECTS DO I NEED?

Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: 
• Mathematics
• Physical Sciences
• Information Technology
• Electrical Technology

Sources:
www.collegegrad.com
www.nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk

 

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