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Power System Electrician


Description

A power system electrician is certified to install and maintain electrical equipment that is used to generate, transmit, distribute and convert electricity. They work with power generators, power converters and power transformers. They are also responsible for power systems, ensuring that circuit breakers, distribution apparatus, metering and associated auxiliary equipment are in safe and reliable working condition. They rewire equipment, and sometimes work on repairs from ladders or high up in "cherry pickers", the trucks with buckets that lift the electricians high in the air.

In general, they work in two distinct areas: substations and metering. In substations, power system electricians work with high voltage equipment such as circuit-breakers, transformers, switches, and control circuits. They make adjustments, work on safety devices, and perform general maintenance of large switch gear. If new equipment is introduced to a substation system, it is up to these electricians to ensure the new equipment works with the existing equipment.

When they work in metering, power system electricians work with a variety of recording devices such as supervisory controls, indicating and recording devices, and switchboards and equipment circuitry found in generating stations and powerhouses. They install meters that monitor client power use, and, using the information gathered by the meters, can make recommendations about power saving and effectiveness of power distribution within the company or station.

Power system electricians are exposed to the hazards of working with live electricity--the risk of shock is real. However, over the years, safety measures have increased for power systems electricians, as new equipment with safety features are always being developed and introduced. As well, continual safety training is offered for these skilled electrical workers.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in working as a power system electrician? These individuals must be good at math, and have good communication and reading skills. They good mechanical abilities, as well as strength, stamina, and manual dexterity. Good eyesight, as well as normal color vision are important. Power systems electricians should be comfortable with heights and small confined places. They must have a logical, analytical mind and be methodical as well as precise.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Maintain and upgrade utility-owned equipment
  • Construct and maintain equipment in electrical generating and converter stations
  • Install and maintain all types of metering and recording equipment used in an electrical distribution system
  • Maintaining single and three-phase systems and transformers
  • Install and maintain circuit protection and switching equipment
  • Use specialized test instruments and equipment according to manufacturer's instructions
  • Isolate and repair defective equipment to restore power during a power outage
  • Use electrical schematics and various electronic testing and measuring equipment to troubleshoot and isolate faults and problems
  • These are just some of the many tasks undertaken by power system electricians each day. Depending on where they work, they may spend hours on one task, such as rewiring an entire room or system, or they spend just a few minutes reading a meter and collecting the information. They record information about all repairs and maintenance undertaken, and present information to clients or operators when appropriate. They may travel if they monitor a number of meters throughout their community, or if the system they work with spans a large space. But they generally do not get to travel or work outside very much.
  • Depending on their employer, they may work regular hours, but may also be required to work shifts, including overnight. They may have to work on call in case of any emergency situations that require their expertise. They work alongside supervisors, other electricians, and apprentices.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Power system electricians are employed by electrical utilities, thermal and hydraulic generating stations, substations, and other utility-owned buildings. They may be employed by private companies, or by governments. They work indoors as well as outdoors those who work in outdoor maintenance are often required to work high up in bucket-trucks or on ladders. They are exposed to the hazards of working with live electricity.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Power systems electricians can become supervisors, forepersons, or managers. They can also get into other related careers, and become industrial electricians, contract electricians, technical support experts, consultants, systems design, or computer systems operators.
 

  Educational Paths  
Power system electricians receive their training either through informal, on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship program. Trade certification can be obtained either through an apprenticeship program or after several years of work experience. While trade certification is not mandatory in all areas to become a power system electrician, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training with classroom instruction. A pre-apprenticeship course may also be available which takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education. While some apprenticeship programs may not require a high school diploma, it is important to note that employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates.

Apprenticeships can vary, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position, however wages are about 50 percent of what an employer pays the journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their industry training and apprenticeship office awards the power system electrician a certificate of completion.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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