Five Things Apprentices Should NEVER Do!!!

Brendan Lamothe

Key Takeaways

  • Adjust work pace according to project needs to balance efficiency with quality.
  • Use the appropriate protective gear to maintain safety and productivity.
  • Stay active and engaged on the job site, minimizing distractions like mobile phones.

Knowing Your Tools

The Mythical Wire Stretcher

As you navigate your apprenticeship, it's vital to be keyed into the tools and how to use them effectively. This means beyond the tangible tools, understanding the nuances of the job is just as crucial. One aspect that might trip you up is the elusive idea of the wire stretcher, which, if you're not familiar, is a fictitious tool often joked about in the trades. You're expected to quickly adapt and catch on to these inside jokes, alongside showing initiative and avoiding idleness.

Being the best in the field isn't just about your tool skills; it's about pace and adaptability. You must recognize when to speed up without sacrificing the quality of your work or, conversely, when it’s appropriate to take your time to ensure precision and care in more critical environments. Striking this balance is what separates the competent electricians from the rest.

You've got to be active, not just physically, but also in managing your time and effectiveness. Master the art of moving efficiently through tasks, avoiding time-wasters like sitting when you could be working. For example, installing a receptacle should take no more than three minutes, not twelve.

Protective Gear

When on your feet, ensure you're equipped properly. Here's a quick guide on selecting knee pads provided by Klein, our sponsor:

  • Lightweight Gel Knee Pads: Ideal for comfort, made with a foamy cushion.
  • Hinged Knee Pads: Similar to the gel pads, but with a hinged top for additional flexibility.
  • Heavy Duty Hinged Knee Pads: These offer full support for the upper and lower leg, complete with Velcro and secure straps.
  • Lightweight Knee Pad Sleeves: Versatile for wearing with shorts or over pants, providing better stability without shifting.
  • Heavy Duty Knee Pad Sleeves: Features more padding and a sturdier fabric, suitable for more intense jobs.

Knee pads can be worn under or over your pants, ensuring protection and comfort throughout your tasks.

Etiquette and Initiative

In addition to mastering your tools, your workplace conduct plays a pivotal role. Neither sitting nor standing idly is acceptable; involvement is key. If you lack direction, seek it. Asking questions and being proactive demonstrate your commitment to the work and your team. For instance, in downtime, grab a broom or organize materials—these actions show initiative and are always beneficial on a job site.

Lastly, keep phone usage to designated breaks. Prioritize work while on the clock to maintain professionalism and focus. If emergencies arise, communicate with your team so they understand the need for potential disruptions.

In essence, knowing your tools extends to understanding your role and the expectations placed upon you as an apprentice in the trades. It's about blending practical skill with the right work ethic and situational awareness.

Workplace Etiquette

Avoiding Sitting on the Job

As an electrician, it's crucial to maintain an active posture throughout your workday. Here are steps you can take:

  • Stand Up: Always be ready to move; maintain an upright position.
  • Kneeling: If the task is low to the ground, kneel down rather than sitting.
  • Use Knee Pads: Invest in quality knee pads for comfort and safety. Options include:
    • Gel knee pads for cushioning
    • Hinged knee pads for flexible movement
    • Heavy-duty pads for robust support



Use Case

Gel Knee Pads

Foamy cushion, comfortable

Short tasks

Hinged Knee Pads

Fold over the knee for comfort

Flexible movement

Heavy-Duty Hinged Knee Pads

Full leg support, secure straps

Intensive, long-duration tasks

Knee Pad Sleeves

Slide over or under pants, added padding

Versatile, suitable for shorts or pants

Working at the Right Pace

Effective work pace balances quality and speed. Here are the guidelines:

  • Quick and Careful: Work efficiently but avoid rushing which could lead to mistakes.
  • Task Duration: Aim for optimal time completion, e.g., a receptacle installation should take about three minutes.
  • Pace Adaptation: Recognize when to speed up or slow down depending on the job's financial scope and detailed requirements.

Adapting to Different Gears of Work

The best electricians know when to change their work pace:

  • Meticulous Work: Downshift to a meticulous pace in sensitive environments where extra care is required.
  • Time-Sensitive Tasks: Upscale your pace when working with tight budgets and deadlines while maintaining quality.
  • Continuous Work: Never idle around, if unsure, ask for tasks or simply start tidying up the workspace.


When to Use

How to Adapt

Low Gear

Precision tasks, risk of damage

Slow down, focus on details

High Gear

Tight deadlines, budget limits

Work faster, maintain standards

Neutral Gear

Unsure what to do

Clean, organize, or seek tasks

Effective Habits

Active Engagement Over Standing Idly

In the field, active participation is crucial. You should be seen continuously moving, contributing, and ensuring every action counts. Remember, time is of the essence; every minute should be spent productively.

Guidelines for Active Involvement:

  • Always Be Observant: Identify tasks that need attention without waiting to be told.
  • Efficiency: Aim for swiftness and accuracy in every task without compromising safety and quality.

Initiative to Find Tasks

Taking the initiative on the job site is highly valued. When tasks are unclear, avoid standing idle; be proactive in seeking out responsibilities.

Steps to Demonstrate Initiative:



Communicate with Superiors

Ask for guidance from journeymen or masters to find a task.

Be Prepared with Tools

Equip yourself with essentials, like Klein-sponsored knee pads.

Adopt a Can-Do Attitude

Show eagerness to take on even the seemingly menial tasks.

Maintain a Ready-to-Work Posture

Keep on your feet, kneel down with knee protection and get going.

Remember, your performance is a reflection of your work ethic. Show up every day with the determination to make an impact, armed with the right attitude and the proper gear to demonstrate excellence in your role.

Proper Use of Mobile Phones

When it comes to professional etiquette, knowing how to use your mobile phone correctly is crucial in any trade, not least in the electrical field. Here are some guidelines to ensure that your phone usage does not negatively impact your work or irritate those around you.

Awareness of Use:

  • Stay Off Your Phone: If you need to use your phone for a legitimate reason, communicate this to your team. Otherwise, keep it away during work hours.
  • Emergency Exceptions: If there’s a family emergency, inform your supervisor or colleagues that you need to be accessible.

Time Management:

  • Purposeful Breaks: Schedule calls during breaks or lunchtimes, not during work hours.
  • Non-Emergency Texts: Reply to non-urgent messages during your designated break times to avoid distractions.

Productivity Focus:

  • Concentrate on Task: Use your work hours efficiently by focusing on the job at hand rather than your screen.
  • Avoid Time-Wasting: Don’t let your phone interfere with your ability to work quickly and efficiently.

Recommended Gear: Equip yourself with the right gear to maintain productivity and safety in the workplace:

Gear Type



Lightweight Gel Knee Pads

Foamy cushioning for comfort

Minimizes knee strain

Hinged Knee Pads

Flexible design with a hinge at the top

Protects the knee, allowing easy movement

Heavy-Duty Hinged Knee Pads

Resembles armor, offers full leg support

Comprehensive support, adjustable fit

Knee Pad Sleeves (Lightweight)

Easily worn over or under the pants

Flexibility in use, additional knee proximity

Heavy-Duty Knee Pad Sleeves

Extra padding, durable fabric

Enhanced protection and durability

Remember that attentiveness to your work and the ability to shift gears between fast and meticulous work separates a good electrician from a disengaged one. Equip yourself adequately, work diligently, and save the scrolling for your coffee break.

Knee Pad Recommendations

Types of Klein Knee Pads

  • Lightweight Gel Knee Pads

    • Construction: Foamy cushioning for comfort.
    • Best for: Tasks requiring frequent movement; provides ease without the bulk.
  • Hinged Knee Pads

    • Features: A hinge at the top for added flexibility over the knee.
    • Best for: Environments that demand both protection and maneuverability.
  • Heavy Duty Hinged Knee Pads

    • Design: Resemble armor with support for the upper and lower leg.
    • Attachment: Velcro strap and a secure, snap-in-place strap for a firm fit.
    • Best for: Intense tasks where robust protection is a priority.

Advantages of Knee Pad Sleeves

  • Lightweight Knee Pad Sleeves

    • Versatility: Suitable with shorts or pants; slides over for a snug fit.
    • Placement: Ensures knee pads remain close, reducing shift during work.
  • Heavy Duty Knee Pad Sleeves

    • Padding: Extra cushioning for increased protection.
    • Material: More robust fabric to withstand rigorous activities.
    • Flexibility: Can be worn under or over the pant leg, offering convenience.

Both knee pad sleeves provide the advantage of keeping knee pads aligned with your knees, thus minimizing the need for frequent adjustments. This is essential when you're moving between tasks rapidly, aiming to maintain a steady pace without sacrificing quality work.

Maintaining Productivity

Avoiding Mobile Distractions

To minimize distractions from mobile devices, establish clear guidelines for phone usage. It's crucial to dedicate your attention to the task at hand rather than your screen. Use the following strategies:

  • Designate Times for Phone Use: Communicate with family and friends to establish times when they can expect your response. Suggest calling before work starts, during breaks, or lunchtime.
  • Silent Mode During Work Hours: Silence your phone to prevent interruptions. Only check for urgent communications during allocated breaks.



Work Hours

Keep phone silent

Emergency Calls

Set special ringtones for VIP contacts

Designated Breaks

Check and respond to messages

Following these steps ensures you are focused and shows respect for the work environment and your colleagues.

Handling Emergencies and Important Calls

Emergency situations require a different approach. Here’s how to handle them without compromising productivity:

  • Inform Your Team: If you're expecting an urgent call, let your colleagues know ahead of time, so they understand you may need to step away momentarily.
  • Prepare Your Phone: Customize your phone settings with special ringtones or notifications for important contacts to identify critical calls quickly.

Potential Emergency


Family Health Issues

Inform team and set unique ringtones for family members

Important Day-Time Calls

Alert team about critical calls you need to attend to

These practices help maintain a balance between being prepared for emergencies and staying engaged with the work tasks throughout the day.

Incorporating knee pads in your gear can also increase productivity. Choose a pair from the options that will suit your needs, such as:

  • Lightweight Gel Knee Pads: These are comfortable and suitable for prolonged use.
  • Hinged Knee Pads: Offer flexibility and support for the upper and lower leg with adjustable straps.

Knee Pad Type


Lightweight Gel

Comfortable cushioning for extended wear

Heavy Duty Hinged

Full leg support and adjustable fit

Knee Pad Sleeves

Can be worn under or over pants, with minimal shifting

By integrating these tools, you ensure comfort and protect your knees, which allows you to maintain a solid work pace without unnecessary breaks.