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Work’s Challenges Keep Electrician Energized

Sunrise Electric owner Clayton Harllee enjoys the challenge of working with his hands and building a steady customer base for his electrical contracting firm.

“I’m a one-man operation and sometimes that means lots of extra hours taking care of the business side of things, but the work is steady and there’s always something new to learn,” said Harllee, who opened his business five years ago.

Harllee began working as an electrician while attending college. “A friend of mine owned his own firm and he was able to give me flexible hours that allowed me to work and go to school,” Harllee said. “I studied German and computer science. But after graduation, I went to work for a couple of corporations and decided that I really liked being an electrician, since the work is different almost every day.”

Harllee took the Contractors State License Board examination to become an electrical contractor and opened Sunrise Electric in 1989. “There are small jobs and big jobs,” Harllee said. “There are also emergency jobs that keep you out until late at night.”

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On a typical day, Harllee, whose clients include homeowners, restaurants and apartment complexes, begins work at 6 a.m. After going over some paperwork, he plans the day’s jobs according to priority and extent of the work. Then he visits the sites. “If I need to, I leave to go pick up any supplies that are needed. Then I come back and make sure everything is done up to code.”

OCCUPATION: Electrician

* What’s involved: Planning and installing electrical wiring for commercial and industrial buildings, homes and other structures; connecting machinery, repairing existing wiring and conducting electricity management studies for large power users.

* Qualifications: Apprentices with little or no experience may begin working under the supervision of a licensed electrical contractor. In some areas, there are union-sponsored training programs. Community colleges also offer courses in wiring procedures, electrical codes and laws. After four years’ experience, an apprentice becomes a journeyman electrician. One year at this level meets the work-experience requirement for an electrical contractor’s license.

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* Outlook: By 1998, the number of electricians in the county is projected to increase by 8.5% to 3,590.

* Salary range: $8 to $23 per hour. Electricians who own their firms usually earn $35,000 per year and up.

* Pros: Working in a variety of job environments. A wide array of specialties makes careers varied and increasingly challenging.

* Cons: Possibility of electrocution, explosions and fires.

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* Advancement: Journeyman electricians with five years’ experience may become electrical contractors by passing a state examination. At this point, many opt to open their own business.

* Quote: “There’s always something to learn. Nearly every project presents a different challenge."--Clayton Harllee, Sunrise Electric

Researched by JANICE L. JONES / Los Angeles Times


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