Apprentice Lucas Bonnici values the precision and craftsmanship of the switchboard industry

Apprentice Lucas Bonnici, left, with his father Michael Bonnici, right, who is Projects Manager for Chadwick Switchboards
Apprentice Lucas Bonnici, left, with his father Michael Bonnici, right, who is Projects Manager for Chadwick Switchboards

An apprentice who started with NESMA member, Chadwick Switchboards, at age 15 is now entering his third year, and enjoying the precision, craftsmanship, and skills this industry is teaching him.

Lucas Bonnici began his apprenticeship in 2021, where he started with the more labour-intensive tasks, such as learning how to cut and punch bar, and assemble busbar runs. By the second year, he was helping build Cubic modular switchboards, mounting more gear, and working with bigger breakers.

“It’s been fantastic watching Lucas progress and hone his skills,” says Michael Bonnici, Project Manager, Chadwick Switchboards, and Lucas’ father. “I try to keep a distance at work, and let the team guide him, so there’s no favouritism, but from the sidelines, I’m incredibly proud,” he says.

Chadwick Switchboards is an Australian-owned company that has been making high quality electrical switchboards since 1942, for use in airports, schools, offices, shopping centres, infrastructure, warehouses, and more.

Now in his third year, Lucas can build his own switchboards and the majority of the time, he’s working on his own projects. He can now build a double tier switchboard, including wiring, in about a week.

Lucas says it was a bit of a culture shock at first, but it motivated him to work hard. “It was different to being at school, where the other kids were often disinterested and relaxed. In the switchboard industry, people work hard. It really helped me mature and focus on the job at hand,” he says.

“There were three main Chadwick tradespeople that oversaw my apprenticeship, and each had different specialities, so I could learn different things. One thing I particularly appreciated is that they took the time to explain why we do things a certain way, so that I’d have a complete understanding for the future,” he added.

Now in the third year of his apprenticeship, Lucas Bonnici says it’s certainly a more precision industry, requiring craftsmanship and attention to detail. There’s a stronger focus on intelligent work, with less physically demanding labour work.

Switchboard industry opens up options

Most electrical apprentices opt for building site work, but Lucas believes more should be considering switchboards as a niche that opens up career options.

“It’s certainly a more precision industry, requiring craftsmanship and attention to detail. There’s a stronger focus on intelligent work, with less physically demanding labour work,” he says.

“For those that stick with it, and learn the skills, it opens up more options going forward. You’ve learned metal fabrication and bending, you’ve worked with more tools, and you’ve worked on more complex jobs – this all makes you a more desirable employee in the future.”

Michael agrees, adding, “Apprentices are our future, and any company will hire a switchboard apprentice, knowing the level of skill they’ve acquired, and their attention to detail. The future of our industry demands that we invest in apprentices.”

“In the switchboard industry, if apprentices can put in the hard work and stay five years or more, they can make a really good salary – better than their peers who opted for building site apprenticeships,” says Michael.

“As a NESMA member, we also appreciate the knowledge sharing to member companies like ours. NESMA updates us on new Standards, and holds forums with the latest information, which is highly valuable to us, as we continue to focus on providing the best quality to our customer,” he says.

“I believe NESMA plays a vital role in our industry, and apprentices who choose a NESMA member company will get the best training, with the most up-to-date information on Standards, compliance, and quality.”