Why Your Apprentice Should Become an IEC Certified Professional Electrician
In 2013, the IEC National Apprenticeship and Training Committee (A&T Committee), along with chapter executive directors and training directors began discussing a test for graduates of the IEC Apprenticeship Program. The IEC Certified Professional Electrician (IEC-CPE) Credential was created at that time to offer a "final" exam to our chapters and contractor members.
IEC knows that we have the best electrical apprenticeship program, focusing on residential, commercial, and industrial throughout our four-year program. As a means to test the knowledge and skills obtained over the course of four years, a standard test for all chapters and regions was warranted for those apprentices who wanted to highlight their mastery within the electrical trade, while also having a way to stand out or be more marketable to both current and future employers. Think of it this way, if someone goes to law school they must pass the bar exam to practice law. Before this credential exam was created, an IEC apprentice only completed each year of the program before moving onto the next year. Now upon completion of four years of training, an IEC graduate can test their knowledge of the whole program voluntarily, while also earning a credential that will truly emphasize their mastery of the trade.
Having this exam allows for chapters to show that they are teaching and implementing the required Core Concepts that appear in each curriculum year. Both portions of the exam – written and practical – are based off the Core Concepts and are aligned to IEC’s curriculum. Over the last couple of years, we discovered that different educational, governmental, and third-party institutions require different methods of assessment of an educational program, regardless of the industry/ content. The IEC-CPE Credential became a means to meet this demand while also strengthening our chapters in their local markets. In 2014, IEC of Greater Cincinnati beta tested this exam, with three individuals successfully passing.
This year (2016) two chapters and regions hosted the IEC-CPE Exam. The first testing site was held at the IEC Dallas chapter on May 20 through 21. This was the second time that IEC Dallas hosted the exam. A total of six fourth year apprentices took both portions of this exam. The second testing site was held at the IEC of Greater Cincinnati Chapter on June 10-11.This was the third time this exam was held at this chapter. There were nine fourth year apprentices who took this exam, with eight hailing from the IEC of Greater Cincinnati and one coming all the way in from the IEC of Greater Saint Louis chapter.
With the 2016 exam session coming to an end and as we plan for next year, we felt that IEC contractors and chapters should know the make-up of both IEC-CPE exams (written and practical):
The written exam is made up of ninety questions, which come out of our four-year electrical apprenticeship curriculum test banks. Here is the rough breakdown of question topics:
- Motors and Motor Control Circuitry Theory
- Grounding & Bonding
- Code Review
- Article 90 and Chapter 1
- Branch Circuits
- Overcurrent Protection
- Service and Service Calculation
- Wiring Methods
- Equipment for General Use
- Special Occupancies
- Special Equipment
- Practical Competencies
The practical exam is made up of eight testing stations and the individual must pass all of these activities on a pass/fail matrix. This is to ensure that an individual is competent on some of the core competencies within the four year curriculum:
- Transformer Project A
- Transformer Project B
- Motor Controls Project
- Light Switch
- Chime Project
- Material Identification
- GFCI and Outlet Project
- Conduit Bending (2 problems)
This is a rigorous four-year comprehensive exam, testing the core concepts and topics learned throughout the electrical apprenticeship curriculum. This exam is not intended for every recent Journeyman, but rather for those who excelled throughout their four-year training and have had great exposure to the field through their on-the-job training. Not only can a recipient of this credential highlight their accomplishment in passing this exam, but the contractor can also boast that they employ an IEC-CPE credentialed Journeyman.
“If someone walks into your office with this credential, hire them,” said Gary Golka, CEO of Golka Electric and IEC National Vice President. “I have been to every test, and I would hire any of the people that have that credential and pay them to run jobs for me for a long time.”
When you are hiring, all journeymen claim that they can run any job you have with no problems, but what sets them apart? The IEC-CPE exam tests 8 timed, key areas (pass/fail) and on their code knowledge. If you are an IEC contractor, then you employ journeyman of all levels – new and seasoned. As a business owner you probably would like to have a mechanism to gauge who might be someone you want to invest in for the future. This exam allows for the contractor to test their journeyman’s competencies. Those who pass this exam will provide the confidence in knowing that they could bring a job they run in on time and to code, because they understand productivity and the code.
Although this is an internal, end-of-program exam, the long term goal is to have the IEC-CPE credential recognized by state and local electrical licensing boards to supplement or replace current requirements to earn a Journeyman license. The IEC National A&T Committee is currently looking into having the IEC-CPE recognized in other areas across the nation.
During IEC Con 2016 in San Antonio, Texas, there will be additional material on the IEC-CPE credential, highlighting the success of this program and where this exam is heading. We encourage IEC contractors and chapters to request to host an IEC-CPE exam in 2017 and test their journeymen’s mettle!
Paul Dolenc, vice president of Education and Training, IEC National.