Thanks to David Price and Jason Mulligan for kindly offering to compile this advice for electricians arriving in Canada.
What to do before you move
Get certification for 9,000 hours requisite for your Canadian certification (Red Seal).
A reference from previous employer can be useful.
Prepare your resume using our resume tips and a formal template.
When you arrive
Networking with other electricians, calling electrical contractors and browsing Craigslist are the best ways to find work when you arrive. Ensure you follow up and persevere.
Working in Canada
Many electrical contractors are union members, meaning that they will only hire employees through the local union (IBEW no.213). To join the union, you must get your Red Seal journeyman certification. See the information below.
The starting wage is around $20 per hour at entry level, but you may get as high as $25 if you’re lucky or make the right contacts. Starting rate for industrial electricians tend to be around $30-35.
Below is an extensive list of tools that electricians should carry, but not all are required on your first day of work in Canada. Employers do like you to build on your tools every pay check, as it shows that you’re investing in your career and not just treating it as a job.
Hard hat, Steel toe boots (CSA approved), Cordless drill with bits, Robbie No. 2 and philips (should be at least 18volt), Allan key set, Tool pouch and side pouch, Volt tester (touch tester), Linesman pliers (normal pliers), Hammer, Side cutters (snips), Drywall saw, Water pump pliers (slip joint), Plug tester, Wire strippers, Pocket level, Needle nose pliers, Tri tap, Tape measure: imperial/metric, Pens, markers and Pencils, Reeming tool, Flat screwdriver: 1/8″, 3/16″, 1/4″, 5/16, Roberston screwdrivers: Number 1 (green) and Number 2 (Red), Phillips Number 3 and 2, Small stubbies, Hand KO cutter set up to 2″, Clamp on multtimer, Socket set, Open end wrench set.
BCIT (a regional technical college) offers a refresher course. However, it is two-and-a-half times more expensive for non-residents at $1825 for the 6-week course plus the cost of books and taxes. Ace Learning in Surrey provides a cheaper revision course at around $1,000 all-in for course and manual.
The book is called the “Canadian Construction and Maintenance Exam: Certificate of Qualification Exam Preparation.” The Canadian electrical code is the size of a telephone directory with 86 sections and all appendices and tables, but all you have to do for the Red Seal is know your way around the book to find the answers. Terminology is different but easy to learn. It is an open-book multi-choice format. A great learning tool called the ESAT tool is available on the CSA website. It costs $100 but is well worth the money.
For the Red Seal forms to challenge your exam, your employers from home have to fill out their part of the form and sign off the hours you have worked for them. It’s probably better to do that before you leave for Canada than to try get in touch with them all after arriving. Once the forms are sent in, the ITA will just email the employers to confirm these hours and give you a date to sit the exam. If you are not ready to sit it immediately, you have up to a year to sit it once the forms have been sent in.
For more information, see the Industry Training Authority (ITA) website.