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Tools of the Trade

Wearing a tool pouch and the lure of playing with electricity were just two of many things that attracted me to becoming an electrician back in 1978. In the 45 years since then, I have seen the advancement of the tools of the trade in so many ways, and with new technologies came new tools and installation requirements. Trying to stay current and relevant can be tough, unless you have the right tools of the trade for today.

I recall a day when my foreman showed up on a job with a bag and placed it on the floor. Methodically, he unzipped it and pulled out a wireless telephone. It was called a “cellular” phone. I asked if I could call my wife with it. He said no, it was too expensive and was just for important business communications. Now everyone has a cell phone and nearly all phones have computing technologies available.

When I went through my apprenticeship training during the mid-1980s, I had a briefcase. Within it were four or five heavy textbooks plus my National Electric Code (NEC) book, all stuffed in tight. Now we can issue a computer tablet to a student and give access to a world of knowledge. Anyone can create a free account on the NFPA website and gain access to all past and present publications and standards that are available from the National Fire Protection Agency. We can “Google” our way out of almost any situation where questions need to be answered quickly and accurately.

When I competed as a fourth-year apprentice in a local wire-off competition, cordless tools did not exist, and I was only permitted to use a “brace and bit” to bore holes through the studs and other framing members. Today we have countless tools that are battery powered, eliminating the need for extension cords and access to power while reducing fatigue.

With every new edition of the subscribed trade publications, I learn of new tools and new technologies that have made the installation and use of electricity easier, faster and safer. Keeping up with all of the new things has proven to me that our industry has become very specialized. We have electricians that focus on the wiring of data centers, medical facilities or working in hazardous (classified) locations. New renewable energy technologies like solar power and battery storage systems also require specific electrical knowledge. In some cases, there is very little cross training, and it would be difficult to ask a specialized technician to successfully wire a residential dwelling.

Faith Technologies has crafted a term for electricians of today. Our CEO, Mike Jansen, coined the term ICIAN™ for those who are skilled and trained with the specialized tools of the trade today. These specially trained technicians can support the particular needs of our customers to become trusted advisors.

As an electrician advances in their career path from apprentice to journeyman, from journeyman to master, from foreman to supervisor or in other roles, the tools of the trade will change. They can put down their Code book and hand tools and pick up a laptop or smart device. Their new disciplines become procurement, job schedules and labor. On another career path, they may pick up a computer, log into a network and program numerous motors to work together as one through a programmable logic controller (PLC) for a conveyor belt system at a processing or packaging plant.

Their tools have changed, and their skills and knowledge need to change. Our industry must recognize that there is no longer a thing called a “well-rounded” electrician and adjust how we measure this aptitude. Half of being a good electrician is skill, knowledge and tools of the trade, while the other half is being able to find information when needed.

The tools of the trade have also advanced to meet the demands of the ever-changing world we live in. The ability to accept and learn new technologies, stay current with new trends and not restricting oneself to what was true in the past, will ensure success in the electrical profession. One thing is for sure: artificial intelligence (AI) and robots will not replace the electrician anytime soon… but they could make our work easier.