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Electrically Certified

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A man who has been working as an electrician since the 1960s shouldn't need to prove himself at least this was how veteran electrician Vincent Rabain used to think.

But the National Training Board (NTB) has been stepping up a programme to make sure that Bermuda electricians are properly certified for the work they do. At first, Mr Rabain, who describes himself as “past 60” was somewhat reluctant. He has his own business, Anything Goes Enterprise, through which he offers electrical, plumping and tiling services.

“Originally, I was like a lot of others,” said Mr Rabain. “I thought I shouldn't have to go there being I had so many years under my belt. We just automatically know what we have to do. We are respected by our customers.”

To his surprise he found you can teach an old dog new tricks.

“Through the certification process, I found out that knowing the reasons behind the rulings we have to abide by makes it that much easier to understand what we are doing,” he said. “I actually found it to be very helpful to get my certification. I am now glad that I am certified and I want to encourage other electricians to get their certification. The process didn't take that long, it was about six months. I had to take only two or three days off from work to attend the seminars they were having at the Bermuda College, otherwise it was home study.”

NTB standards and enforcement officer James Welch said the certification programme for electricians was launched because of concerns about the quality and safety of electrical work in Bermuda.

“There is concern about unqualified people out there,” he said. “[Trade Minister Kim Wilson] saw fit to designate electrical trade as one that required certification, mostly because of the safety aspects and risks to life. We are ensuring that the consumer is protected, and the persons in the trade are working at a minimum standard set by the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee. There are two classes of licences. One is limited and one is full. Full is for people who have demonstrated capability to work on larger job sites with higher voltage. Limited is generally more for people who work on residential sites.”

Electricians undergoing the certification process must complete a codeology course, prepare a portfolio of their work experience and references, attend a customer service training workshop, take a pre-assessment exam by computer and then go before a panel that reviews each case.

Although the process might sound a little intimidating to some, Mr Rabain said it was not as hard as he expected.

“It was challenging, but there are people at the NTB to give you help,” he said. “Electricians can also seek help from the Bermuda Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The primary objective of the association is to unify, organise, protect and advance the affairs of electricians in Bermuda.”

Mr Rabain met with Mr Welch once a week for several weeks because he needed help putting together his portfolio and getting together the various documentation required. His work portfolio included work for Masters Ltd, during which time he took courses at the Bermuda Technical Institute. He later worked for BELCO as a grade one linesman and switchman. He used to operate one of their trouble-shooting trucks. He was also a foreman for Alan C Smith Electrical Contractors.

Mr Rabain said there have been some advantages to taking the course, even for someone with his level of experience in the trade.

“Today, I have become more and more code-conscious,” he said. “Things that I used to know instinctively, now I am investigating in the code book. You are never too old to learn. If I am on a job and I find myself saying, 'I know this is right because this is the way I was taught to do this 40 years ago'.....but what is the reason I do this? So I go in the code book to find the exact reason why. I know it is right because the electrical inspector has passed a similar thing time and again.”

One of the biggest challenges for Mr Rabain was taking the pre-assessment course on the computer.

“I don't like computers; they breed dummies,” said Mr Rabain.

Mr Welch said: “But in this case it allowed him to be better prepared for his interview with the panel. Most people after having done the online test use examples from the exam when they go before the panel. I think getting certification is a relatively simple process. So far 202 electricians have been through the process and been officially gazetted. We are looking at perhaps another 250 on the books that want to get through. There are also other electricians out there who haven't approached us yet. It has been a process and we have done pretty well. It hasn't gone as fast as we would have liked, but we have maintained the integrity of the process. We have also maintained the standards.”

For more information telephone the NTB at 292-3700 or visit www.gov.bm

Electrician Vincent Rabain working on a job site. Mr Rabain was just certified by the NTB although he has been working as an electrician since the 1960s.
Wired up: Electrician Vincent Rabain sorts out wiring for a job.

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Published March 14, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated March 14, 2011 at 9:49 am)

Electrically Certified

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