I recently wrote a blog about our industry and asked a very straight-laced question…. Can it be fixed? My own personal view on this is that the whole industry cannot be fixed, as a whole I mean, but that individual sections are far more able to change, if that makes sense.
The biggest problem we have, which many of you have highlighted over the last few months, is the term electrician and the perception that all electricians can work on anything electrical. Let’s just clarify something right now, that statement is completely false, which I totally understand will confuse some folk. I am an electrician and have been very lucky to be able to work on or manage a multitude of electrical systems from domestic to commercial, static inverters to fire alarms and many different types of lighting arrangements. However, if you put me in front of a substation transformer and ask me to joint incoming cables, I will look at you in the same way a child would if you asked them to do it!!!
Electricians have skillsets, they all learn the basics and then drift off into their chosen careers which means further learning and development and thus experience! Those who don’t drift off into specialist sections become electricians who work on domestic and some dip their toes in industrial/commercial systems. This may not be accurate but from where I view the industry it feels like it.
Once you have that base qualification you then start to gain experience in the field. A lot of people talk about ‘grandfather rights’ and I often hear people saying “I’ve been doing this a long time”, the truth is you have, we know you have, but in that time things have changed, if you’re that experienced you should pass any exam easily. The fundamentals of the wiring regulations from the first edition in 1882 are still the same, if you touch a live circuit you’ll get a shock, electricity causes fires and it’s important to make electrically sound connections. Over time things have changed and if you don’t do certain things you forget.
Let’s try something – answer the following:
1. Complete the triangle for Ohms Law. Write it on a piece of paper. You should be able to do this without referencing anything.
2. On that same piece of paper write down the equation used to get 1667 ohms for a 30mA RCD. Might not know this off the top of your head so you can use the regs for it.
3. The last one, pick the last circuit you tested and calculate the CPC using the adiabatic equation. Again, not always possible to remember this so you can use the regs.
Those are pretty basic stuff I know but I bet a lot of folk won’t be able to do it. I also bet they won’t openly admit that!!!!
In the first paragraph, I mentioned that individual sections of our industry are better placed to change things for the better. So, I work in the Social Housing Industry and understand that sector (electrically) pretty well. My focus going forward is to help people in this industry understand what Competent Person Schemes are and what their role in the industry is and how they can do more to help the industry as opposed to themselves. Also what an electrician is and how to identify a good one from a bad one. I will also continue to work with a few organisations to help them drive a change that will make the word ‘Competent’ regain some credibility.
So what can you do, if you work in senior management or at director level, you could take a stance and only use electricians who can clearly show their worth. You could stop paying buttons for those who promise the world and who walk away when a little pressure is applied.
Our industry is great and I love what I do. I hate it when someone says “electrics is like the poor cousin to gas” or “your industry is a little messed up at the moment, you don’t know whats what anymore”. People keep asking why the industry is not doing anything to fix this…. I genuinely think the reason for this is because there isn’t an organisation capable of fixing it. They’re all looking to capitalise as opposed to fix.