Beginning a program of technical education, such as an electrical apprenticeship, is an exciting time filled with new opportunities and challenges. You can feel confident and prepared for the journey by preparing ahead of time. If you are planning to begin an electrical apprenticeship or other technical training program soon, then you owe it to yourself to focus on math and reading skills that will set you up for success in the classroom and field. Below are some tips on how you can use.
Brush Up on Your Math Skills
While you don’t have to be a math genius to succeed in an electrical apprenticeship, knowing the following essential math skills will make your program smoother and help you stay one step ahead:
- Order of operations. If you recall “Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally” (PEMDAS) from middle school, then you may also remember the importance of order of operations. Parentheses (grouping), exponents
(powers), multiplication, division, addition and subtraction are the letters that make up this popular phrase. In simple terms, all math equations are solved in this order while working from left-to-right. Of
course, it is equally important to know how to accurately perform each of the above operations, so don’t neglect your understanding of any of them.
- Basic algebra. Knowing how to find a missing number in an equation is another important skill that will aid your education. That knowledge includes solving for x or other unknowns, and you likely won’t need much algebra beyond that-anything additional is a bonus. The skills involved in working with ratios and proportions are based in algebra and will make conversions much easier for you.
- Fractions and decimals. It is essential to be comfortable working with both fractions and decimals. Since length is measured to the nearest fraction of an inch, you will need to know how to manipulate fractions in a variety of ways, including dividing, adding, subtracting and multiplying. Knowing how to find a common denominator is also helpful. For example, this knowledge would apply if you are adding
32nds of an inch to 8ths of an inch.
- Basic geometry. There are several geometry skills that you will find useful if you are entering the electrician field. For example, you should understand how to find the area of a circle or triangle and also be able to calculate the length of one of the sides of a triangle.
If you aren’t sure where to go for help, there are a number of online sites that offer free math skills training and reviews. In addition, don’t hesitate to contact a local apprenticeship provider for their recommendations about math materials and what you should know before starting your program.
Hone Your Reading and Writing Skills
In addition to strengthening the above math skills, fine tuning your reading comprehension skills will be important. Learning to be an electrician involves a lot of hands-on training, of course, but it also essential that you are able to read and understand technical literature. The National Electrical Code, which is the most important document in the electrical industry, contains over 1,000 pages. These pages describe in
great detail the principles of wiring, equipment, safety, and a host of other electrical industry standards. As an electrician, you will be expected to have a grasp of these standards, and reading comprehension is the key to making it happen.
If you feel your reading skills need improvement, then you should adopt a few practices that can help it happen:
- Eliminate distractions. Find a quiet location away from noises and other activities to help increase concentration, including the radio and television, unless you find some light music an aid to improving your focus.
- Make notes. By writing down the key points while reading, you will train your brain to identify important details and reinforce the material. However, be sure not to write down everything, as you will not be able to sort out unimportant items from vital details.
- Create mental maps. As you read and once you finish reading important information, take a few minutes to construct a mental framework that connects all the facts. These mental maps can pull out key ideas and help you relate the subject to the bigger picture.
While it’s not necessary, you can get a jump on some of your learning by grabbing a copy of the National Electrical Code at a local library. Don’t get caught up in the specific details, but just take some time familiarizing yourself with the general layout and writing style of the document.
If you have any other questions about how to prepare for your electrical internship, get in touch with your educators.