For the purposes of preventing danger to life and property, all electrical work shall be effectively supervised, unless the person carrying out the electrical work is licensed to carry out the work without supervision. Employers of electrical workers and electrical workers themselves must be aware of and comply with the requirements of the Electricity Act 1996 and the Plumbers, Gas Fitters and Electricians Act 1995.
The person employing the apprentice or trainee shall:
- Ensure the supervision is carried out by a person registered to carry out the work in question without supervision;
- Consider the kind of electrical work being undertaken, especially with regard to whether live parts are being worked on or are in the vicinity of the work area;
- Have regard to the level of competence of the person to be supervised; and
- Ensure that, where apprentices/trainees are working in the vicinity of live parts, a registered electrical worker is in close proximity to, is in sight of and can communicate directly with the apprentices/trainees.
The supervising registered electrical worker is responsible for ensuring that all electrical work is checked and tested and complies with the appropriate Acts, Regulations and Australian Standards, particularly AS 3000 SAA Wiring Rules.
The attached table Supervision Guidelines for Apprentices/Trainees is to be used as a guideline to the above supervision requirements and should be varied dependent upon the competence of the apprentice/trainee. The following levels of supervision shall apply.
The personal supervision of a worker, at all times, on a direct and constant basis, within visual contact and/or earshot.
Does not require constant attendance of the supervisor, but requires the personal contact with a registered electrical worker on at least a daily basis when working on electrical equipment.
The degree of supervision (direct or general) requires continual assessment of an apprentice’s/trainee’s experience and competence and the nature of the task being undertaken. The degree of supervision can vary from direct to general supervision, depending upon the type of work being carried out.
What to expect when starting out
Starting a career in the trades can be a frightening and daunting experience. You will encounter unfamiliar people, terms, tools and concepts. Don’t be put off by this and ask your supervising tradesperson if you are unsure of anything. A good employer will always be happy to answer questions and pass on their skills to you. Remember, all tradies were once apprentices themselves and were in the same boat as you are.
An apprenticeship takes four years to complete. As an apprentice you will be expected to apply yourself to on-the-job and off-the-job training. Towards the end of your apprenticeship electrical apprentices will need to pass a final examination made up of theory and practical assessments known as a Capstone or Licenced Electrical Assessment (LEA) before you can apply for an A-Grade electrical licence.
Trade school is every bit as important as the work you do with your employer or host employer. In fact they go hand-in-hand, as what you learn at school is put into practice on the job. You get paid for attending trade school the same as you do for attending work.
Rights and obligations
It is important that you know what your rights and obligations are for you as an apprentice and for your employer. See below for an overview on these rights.
Provide structured training
A safe workplace free of bullying and discrimination
Pay the right wages and conditions
Allow you to attend TAFE or other RTO and pay for your time there
Reimburse you for the costs of training including text books and TAFE or other RTO fees
Allow you to have breaks, a 30-60 minute lunch break, a 10 minute break in between starting work and lunch and a 20 minute paid break for every 4 hours of overtime worked
Must sign you up to a training contract usually within 2-4 weeks of beginning an apprenticeship but no longer than three months
Must be available for work
Attend Trade School
Be on time
You also have the right to refuse overtime if it impacts on your health and safety or family life
For more information on your rights give the CEPU a call. If you are a member the CEPU can represent and help you with a number of issues such as wage claims, unfair dismissals, harassment or bullying and safety concerns.
Wages, Awards and EBAs
When you begin training as an apprentice, you will be paid one of two ways, either under an award or an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA). Good employers will generally have an EBA and pay above award conditions. EBAs are negotiated by CEPU officials and representatives and often direct hired apprentices will receive pay more than double that of the award.
The main award that covers electrical apprentices is called the Electrical, Electronic and Communications Contracting Award 2010, while plumbers come under the Plumbing and Fire Sprinklers Award 2010. The wages and conditions set out in this award are the bare minimum entitlements that your employer must pay you.
By law, employers are obligated to tell you which industrial instrument you will be paid under. Often apprentices do not know this and some dodgy employers will try and exploit them because of it. The majority of contractual issues apprentices face are due to not being paid correctly. The CEPU will happily represent any of our apprentice members and we urge you to contact your branch if you think you have been underpaid.
Throughout your apprenticeship you will be entitled to certain allowances. Allowances in the award include travel, multistorey, tool and living away from home allowance. Union negotiated EBAs will often have additional industry allowances and they will never be less than what is in the award. Under a union EBA you will always be better off than the award.