Electrical Blog 02 – My first employment as an electrician
So I am writing a series of blogs to demonstrate my journey in the electrical industry. This one is number two and will cover my journey into employment as a fully qualified electrician!!! Please take these for what they are, just an insight into what happens on the shop floor.
As with the previous blog, let’s clarify some things….
I am going to be very honest, it needs to be. If you agree with the content, please don’t shy away from agreeing with it or liking it. Its more important for you to confirm the content as this will ultimately lead to a change that HAS to happen in our industry. The industry is blind to certain things but if we don’t speak up nothing will change.
I apologise to those people I am going to call out in these blogs. I won’t use your name directly but I will detail the things that have happened so readers can see how things working in the industry.
So what are we going to cover, see below.
1. Where my journey started and college – this blog has been published already.
2. This blog – My first employment as an electrician – its an eye-opener.
3. Redundancy and self-employment
4. My first role as a Qualifying Supervisor – let’s expose what we all do prior to our assessments.
5. From sparky to compliance manager – this was my shock entrance to social housing and my trip away from our trusted wiring regulations.
6. The email, the meeting and then a national working group – Seeing the industry flaws opening up in front of me and then stepping into a different world of the electrical industry.
7. My application to JPEL64 – in detail
8. The future of our industry – my view and my opinion.
I’ve just left college, I’ve acquired my 16th edition and now I am a fully qualified electrician, at least that’s what I thought and what I told people. I had enough experience to go into agencies and work as a qualified electrician although this didn’t really happen at the start, I seemed to spend more time working for pennies with the companies who helped me through the level 2 course. I did get an interview to install Solar PV once but apparently failed the test just before the interview. The question I didn’t get right was about the type of meter you use to test a Solar PV array!!
A couple of months after qualifying my brother told me the company he worked for was looking for electricians in Yorkshire. He offered to pass my name to John (that’s not his name). The company was primarily a contracting firm dealing with insurance jobs for clients. The role would be a maintenance electrician and the main duties would be dropping and refitting lights and accessories after floods etc. I could do that, I’m an electrician, after all, sounds easy. I received a call from John about a week later and was invited into an interview. I was asked to bring my certificates and CV.
The day of the interview:
In my head I was about to get a job that would get me out of working as a doorman. I woke up early and ironed my suit and shirt. I did no research on the person I was meeting nor did I check up on the company I was going to work for, I just turned up and expected to get the job.
I walked into an office in Wakefield filled with people on the phones, I remember a girl walked over to me and asked if I needed help. I proudly said I was here for an interview for an Electrician post. I was asked to take a seat and wait for the Electrical Operations Manager (John).
So, John and I sat in the canteen and he started the whole conversation with “this job would ideally sit better with someone nearing retirement, not a young buck like yourself. There is a lot of driving”. I explained that I was keen and would like an opportunity to work for him. For whatever reason, he decided to give me the job. I started in a week and could I pass my shoe size, trousers etc. to the girl I met on my way in.
I’ve made it in just over 2 years – F.U.L.L.Y Q.U.A.L.I.F.I.E.D!!
I couldn’t believe it, I was employed as an electrician after just a couple of years and was ready to get into my van and start working independently. I was so excited that I didn’t really register what was involved.
I remember the day I started, the company was running this weird induction day at the local hotel. I got to sit in front of the company directors and listen to why their company was different to others and how they treat their staff is, and will always be, different. As they went around the room asking who everyone was and what they did in the company I realised I was the only electrician in the room. It was a great feeling; I was the most respected person in that room because that’s what I was led to believe!!!!
The following day I turned up to the office bright an early to meet my van. A nice little transit connect which was fast!! I was also given some tools, PPE and a uniform. I was given a few minutes to appreciate all my new stuff before I was handed my job sheets for the day. They were pretty local and went something like this;
1 Smith Street (not the real address) – drop and make safe spotlights for plasterer.
1 Adday Street – Install 4 DB sockets back in the kitchen after flood work complete.
5 Access Road – Drop lights all ground floor – water damage
34 Roof Walk – Remove CU from wall to dry out. Disconnect – no owners in property during works
1 smith street – revisit and secure spotlights
All the jobs were done that day and I went home proud. Oh, I didn’t test anything, I didn’t even have any testing equipment at this point. Its ok though, I didn’t need any because I wasn’t doing anything that needed a tester!!
Over the next few months, I got myself into a routine. The jobs to isolate lights were easy because I would just lock of the MCB and leave the wires taped. The bigger jobs in commercial showrooms etc. were a little harder because you had to trace and identify the installation to ensure you only isolated and rewired the affected areas etc. whilst the shop floor stayed open. I still didn’t have a tester at this point.
I had been working for the company now for a few months and everything seemed to be going well. I mean, my personal development wasn’t really going anywhere because I was in a job where my skill, experience and knowledge really didn’t matter. The jobs were small and there was zero accountability, what did I care, I was getting a better wage now as an electrician and there was very little being asked of me. So I thought…….
I remember going into the office one day and being accosted by one of the Senior Directors. I hadn’t really spoken to any of them in the past so this was strange. I was asked if I had a minute (as if I was going to say no) and directed to his office.
“Ryan, the company is looking to expand and to do this we are required to generate interest from external investors. In a couple of weeks, we have a number of bankers coming to our head office down South and on the day they want to talk to an employee of the company to get a feel for what it’s like working for us. A number of your peers, and the directors believe your attitude and professional approach to everything you do is an asset to our company and we would like you to come and talk to them”
At this point, I am thinking that I must be the most amazing electrician in the world. Why would they pick me over the thousands of employees? It was a massive motivational boost for me… I wanted to get better at what I did and this was a great opportunity to do so.
On the day of the meeting, I was met really early by the director at our head office. I was handed some brand new work gear to put on and then asked to meet the Commander and Chief in the boardroom. When I got to the boardroom it was full, no bankers at this point (no innuendo there either), I was asked a series of questions that they thought I was going to be asked and then told how to answer them!!!!
The day went pretty smoothly with the people I met and I received a very nice letter from the CEO after my visit. I must say though, I believe it was this day that I realised the complete divide between the workforce and leadership teams. I spent a few months trying to work out where the barrier is in the organisation, at what point in the ladder of responsibility does the attitude and respect start? The answer to that question smacked me in the face a few years later!! We’ll get to it.
Right, I want to reiterate a point, I have been to college full time, yes I have had experience because I went out of my way to get it, I had my level 2 and my 16th edition. I ‘genuinely’ believed I was an electrician and that the only difference between me and the men/women with 20 years’ experience was in fact that, experience.
As with every Monday morning, I went into the office to get my job sheets etc. and was asked to stay behind after the toolbox talk. I was told that one of the Directors sons was getting an electrical apprenticeship with the company and that it would be my responsibility to train him. No problem right?!! I have never done this before so felt obliged to do a bit of research to ensure that I provide this young man with the right tools and experience so he can be a great electrician. The research really did scare me though, a total realisation that at this point I hadn’t done most of the stuff on the apprenticeship scheme. I was very worried.
A couple of weeks before my apprentice started I downloaded a document with all the competencies needed to fulfil an apprenticeship. I also downloaded lots on National Occupational Standards, ethical standards, apprenticeship blogs etc. I was worried at this point that I was going to get caught out, I knew at this point that my skill set, although pretty good, was not at the level it needed to be to teach an electrician. I remember speaking to a few sparks and being told that the cream of the crop in our industry are those who hold the C&G 2391 qualification. This was a hard exam apparently and very few people pass it.
Anyway, I’m not going to go through all the nitty-gritty. I ensured that what the Apprentice was being taught at college was what he did at work. I made sure I knew everything about each part and I tested him on it. We had some right laughs, my favourite was the 118 plasterer. Here’s the story:
During the time when Hull was flooded badly, a lot of properties needed rewiring due to water filling the property up. My apprentice and I were asked to rewire a bungalow just outside Hull. The plasterer was on site and wanted to get on with it so we needed to pull our fingers out and get it done quickly. We turned up to meet this 4ft guy who looked exactly like a mini 118 guy. He was probably the angriest person I have ever met in my life and kept saying “if you don’t shut up I’ll knock you out”. He was hilarious.
On the second day, Luke Skywalker (Apprentice) and I devised a plan to get him when we got to the property. We would arrive early to get the final bits of the first fix done and then rig a trap for him when he arrived. The plan was simple, cut a hole in the ceiling in the back bedroom small enough for us both to get into the loft, rig the plasterers bucket up to the loft hatch full of dirty water and then tell him we’ve put his ladders and bucket in the loft to see how his short ass would get them. I would give anything to go back in time and video this for you all. It was, without doubt, the funniest thing I have ever seen and then his angry reaction was to attack Luke and I, which again was hilarious. Imagine Danny Davito fighting Arnold in that movie where Arnold gets pregnant!!! Yep, like that.
To wrap this blog up I’ll finish with this:
I learnt a lot working for this company, spent countless hours studying and learning principles and regulations. I’d moved away from working as a doorman and my life was just coming together. I was saving money and was starting to feel a purpose in life. So much so that I had saved up enough money to go on a holiday of a lifetime to Vegas. Everything was amazing until I received a call whilst sitting on my bed in Vegas telling me the company was closing down….
To be continued…