Taking matters into our own hands
Lee Johnson, Managing Director of Advanced Electrical Services explains…
Those of you who know me know that I have a thing about standards in our industry. Specifically, the constant moving of the goalposts when it comes to training and qualifications has resulted in confusion as to who is deemed to be a qualified electrician.
This confusion about who is qualified‚ only started in the last decade when the huge volume of work and shortage of electricians lead to a skills gap in the market. Many of us remember the stories circulating at the time about electricians and plumbers being paid more than doctors!
To fill this gap colleges began offering three and six month courses rather than the traditional two or three year duration. Unfortunately, in my opinion, they did this by compromising on the quality, which I see every day, electricians that have a piece of paper to say they have passed a course, but not possessing even the basic understanding of how to tackle a real life installation. I meet these so called, qualified‚ electricians all the time ‚ retrained people directly from college trying to get into the industry but falling way below the standard they should be. We shouldn’t really be surprised at this – three or six months is an impossibly short time for anyone to thoroughly learn a subject as complex as electrical installations.
Modular courses, too, were introduced to get more people qualified. These had the same problems as the three and six month courses in that a student passed the exam but retained little of the information they had been taught once they ended up in the work place.
More recently, industry bodies are pushing for NVQ route to qualification. Fine, I suppose, it addresses some of the practical limitations of the 3/6 month and modular courses, although NVQs do lack in the area of teaching a technical understanding of the subject. For instance, if you were to line up 10 electricians and ask them to define, electricity‚ they’d be hard push to give you an answer. That’s as basic as asking a chef to define bread and them not knowing the ingredients‚ enough said!
Then there are traditional apprenticeship programmes, which are often abused by companies who see young people wanting to learn a trade as cheap labour to be dispensed of once they become qualified and therefore expect a salary to reflect their newly acquired skills.
So where does this leave us. Well, as a business we feel that this constant shifting of how electricians learn their trade has resulted in confusion about what constitutes a‚ “competent”‚ or, qualified‚ person. That doesn’t help employers like us, or people who want to be an electrician and are faced with a multitude of courses or companies that have scant regard for apprentices. If all this sounds like we’re dyed in the wool luddites it shouldn’t. We’re all for change, as long as it’s change for the better. Seems to me and others who’s opinion in the industry I value that most of what’s happened in the last 15 years hasn’t done anything to improve standards.
That’s why we’ve taken matters into our own hands and half of the people in our company who work on site have been through our own apprenticeship scheme, which involves in house training and day release to college. Our apprenticeships last a minimum of 5 years! We even scrutinise the courses that our apprentices attend at college to make sure it teaches the relevant subjects and to the correct level of detail.
Training by replicating site conditions is a key part of our programme too, and we have in-house test rigs where we set up a known fault and then ask our apprentices to identify and correct it, a great way of replicating what they will find on site.
Even after they’ve finished their 5 year apprenticeship we don’t allow them on site on their own, they have to be with a time-served member of staff. This allows them to grow into the role without the pressure of being thrown in at the deep end.
So there you have it. Many of the issues in our industries go back quite a few years when there was a rush to get more qualified electricians. As an industry that hasn’t helped us and there is general confusion on what a, “competent”‚ electrician now is.
That is the reasons why we’ve taken matters into our own hands.
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Taking matters into our own hands
Lee Johnson, Managing Director of Advanced Electrical Services explains…Read more
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