How the Times Have Changed
I recently did a presentation for one of the local Vo-Tech schools here in Pennsylvania that talked about some of the reasons why someone may want to become an electrician. This was quite fun to do as it allowed me to step into the “way- back” machine and share how some things have changed from when I started in the industry back in the early ’80s (yes, I mean the 1900s) up to today.
I had to keep in mind that some of these students had never heard of an 8-track tape before! How could someone not have the Best of The Doors or Led Zeppelin on an 8-track growing up?! I know for some us more electrically “mature” folks, this will bring back a few memories. When I started here at SECCO as an electrical foreman, we still carried pagers. When it went off, we would take a ride at break time or lunch in search of a pay phone to call back to the office and see what was needed. At the time, we did have one state of the art “Bag Phone” in our delivery vehicle. The one that made the horn blow and the headlights flash when it rang. Some of us remember going to the local movie store to rent not only a VHS tape but also the top loader VCR with a “wired” remote – which was as remote as the cord was long. And the list goes on. Now, step into the 21st century – to the days of the smart phone – where business gets done literally at the speed of light, with Fiber Optics and so many other technological advances.
Remember how much fun it was to get the #12 TW wire out of the cardboard boxes (yep, no spools, it came in a coil in a box) and smear them up with lots of yellow 77 wire lube to get them through the conduit? Today, we have the Sim-pull type slick jackets on the wire that has made an enormous difference when it comes to how much labor you need to do that same work. Not only have the electronic devices made things faster, but so have our industry partners with the tools and products they provide us. Fortunately, there have been electricians that have gone from the field to some of these partners expressing some pain points we endure on a daily basis. Because of that exchange of information, we get to benefit from those innovative minds who said it was time for a change. This continues to be one of the many benefits that we – as IEC members – get to enjoy from networking together.
As time continues to pass, new and interesting changes continue to enhance our industry. As we have seen fluorescent light fixtures get placed into a ceiling grid and get connected with an MC cable for so many years, that too is changing. We now have light fixtures with no lamps. Not only that, we are also seeing power over Ethernet (PoE), meaning no more 12/2 MC, but instead Category 5E or 6 data cable going to our lights. And the LED lights are as thin as a ½”! No more issues of being in the way of duct work or sprinkler lines.
We (SECCO) have recently installed a lighting system that was powered by the ceiling grid itself from a DC power supply. None of the fixtures were directly wired, they simply connected to the grid. Like so many industries, ours too is ever changing. We have to be very conscious of the world around us to make sure we are on top of the curve. It’s never fun to play catch-up. For us, this means making sure we continue to have those long-standing relationships with our industry partners, and that we are making sure our apprentice classes are on the leading edge of education.
Something that is coming are interactive devices that will track our eye movements, our body motion, and even read our thoughts. It sounds like science fiction; however, there are companies already competing in these areas. It’s never easy to let go of what we are familiar with, but it’s always amazing to see what can be when you embrace the changes. I guess I will finally have to put my Sony Walkman to rest and tune in to my iHeartRadio station.
Bruce Seilhammer is IEC's 2017 National President. He is also the Electrical Construction Group Manager and Warehouse Operations Manager at SECCO, Inc. SECCO was one of the founding members of the Central PA IEC Chapter, and holds the award as one of the Best Places to Work five years in a row. With over 30 years in the electrical industry, Bruce started as an apprentice electrician in the U.S. Air Force, obtained his Connecticut and Pennsylvania Journeyman’s licenses, and currently holds a Pennsylvania Master Electrician’s License. He is an instructor for Leadership, Train the Trainer, and the Master Electrician’s exam preparation classes.