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Alberta's Telephone Heritage
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Apprenticeship

When the first telephone lines were set, the people who erected them and hung the wires had no previous experience with the job. Through trial and error, they learned along the way, picking up skills and tricks needed to get the line in working order for anxious communities. As they grew more experienced and came up with more efficient methods, they passed their knowledge on and a new line of work was born.

Training. Fanning cable, basic installation courseBefore the roles of the workers who make up the telephone industry were defined, many linemen and switchmen picked up skills on their own simply by going to work for a telephone company. No formal schooling was available for those interested in telephone work. Often, repairmen and maintenance workers learned simply by taking components apart and putting them back together in order to see how they functioned.

The lack of formal rules to define the work meant that employment in one company did not prepare a worker for labour in another, because systems and methods in the different companies were so varied.


Listen! The Life of an Apprentice – Mr. Tom Wiley
Tom Wiley describes the many duties of the young men who apprenticed as switchmen for the telephone exchange. There was a lot to learn under close scrutiny, but practice made perfect as the apprentice gained time and experience. Listen!  


Installer climbing course It was not until the early 1960s that schooling recognized by the Government of Alberta was offered for those wishing to pursue a career in the telephone and telecommunications industries. Apprenticeship courses were offered first in Calgary and later in Edmonton.

Some of the more prominent telephone apprenticeship programs in Alberta today are offered in Calgary at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) and Mount Royal College, and at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton.

cable construction

Enrolling in an apprenticeship program is the first step towards a job in the telephone and telecommunications workforce. Generally, a grade 12 education is required. Depending on the job description, apprentices will complete about 1500 hours of work for an employer as well as a ten-week course during that time. In doing this, they will learn the skills they need in order to find employment in the ever-expanding and evolving telecommunications industry.



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