So, I have been detailing my journey in the electrical industry over the last couple of months. I want to share the things I have done, how I did them and what barriers stood in my way. I have been asked why I want to do this and the answer is simple, our industry, in the time I have worked in it, has declined at one end. When I say at one end I mean the coal face, those getting up early and working hard are feeling the change more than those sipping tea in the comfort of a conference room.
A couple of points I want to raise at this point which I feel is important.
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. Its more important for you to confirm the content as this will ultimately lead to a change that HAS to happen.
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 happened.
So what are we going to cover, see below:
1. Where my journey started and college.
2. My first employment as an electrician – its an eye-opener.
3. Redundancy and self-employment
4. This blog – My first role as a Qualifying Supervisor – How I prepared and what did I do.
5. From sparky to compliance manager – this was my shock entrance to social housing and my trip away from our trusted wiring regulations.
6. Seeing the industry flaws opening up in front of me and then stepping into a different world of the electrical industry. The email, the meeting and then a national working group.
7. My application to JPEL64 – in detail
8. The future of our industry – my view and my opinion.
So here goes….
If you’ve read my previous blog’s, you’ll know I have just been made redundant whilst on a holiday in Vegas. It was the last thing I thought would have happened whilst there and now I’m back home working for agencies. Although I’ve not been through a full apprenticeship I believed my technical knowledge was first-rate at this point simply because I’d dedicated a lot of time in understanding the work we do and how we do it.
So I am working for a very well known agency, the chap there was called Dave (that’s his real name but I wont give his surname). He was horrible and treated me and the other lads as if he was completely in charge of us, never batted an eyelid when the site manager called to ask for one of the lads removing, it was like he got a kick out of it. I really didn’t like him.
At this point I was earning around £700 a week after tax, I was working around 16 hours a day non stop including weekends so it’s not as impressive as it sounds, I worked for it. I was driving an old Escort with the back seats down so my tools could fit in and somehow, I remained very positive and committed to what I was doing. It didn’t take long for people to notice I didn’t cut corners even if it meant staying later than expected. I have always been of the mindset that the work I do, whether in the walls or hidden being a consumer unit cover should be constructed in such a manner that the person coming in behind me compliments my work and doesn’t take a picture for Social Media! (it wasn’t as well used back then).
I remember I turned up to work one time and was asked to grab my tools and head over to another city where a job was about to be handed over. Unfortunately, the sparks who had been in there the previous week had not, shall we say, done what they were asked. The testers were in trying to get all the paperwork together and it would seem the ‘second fixers’ didn’t really care for aesthetic finishings! The work wasn’t wrong but it was appalling how the cables were terminated in accessories and the CU. I spent a couple of days there tiding things up.
My next role through the agency was for Leeds University wiring all the control panels up for the pressure switches and controls for keynote speakers on the stage in the lecture theatres. You could change slides, operate lights and turn the volume of mics etc. using your feet or the switches on the walls. Sounds impressive but once you’d wired one in it was easy. I worked with an old chap for a week or so taking the containment of the wall and straightening it, it looked like Sloth from the Goonies had installed it so was a little offline. We decided in one lecture theatre to remove the containment that had been installed because there was already some at a high level (approx. 20 feet). There were 6 compartments and only one was being used, perfect. I put the ladder up to the containment to take the rest of the lids of and the old boy footed the ladder. Once at the top I started pulling the lid of and for some reason it felt like the containment was moving upwards…. In fact, we’d put the foot of the ladder on the mats we were using to protect the floor so I, the ladder and the old boy were drifting! I grabbed the containment and the ladder and old boy ended up on the floor… I was hanging 20ft in the air whilst he scrabbled to put the ladder back. I ended up falling and twisting my ankle.
I did a few more agency jobs for a few companies but was approached by a small electrical contractor to help them get their Approved Contractor from the NICEIC. They needed someone with my qualifications to get the membership so they could then work for a Local Authority, who subsequently I was working for at the time. The reason for this was down to the incorrect specifications which I have since found out is a national issue, most councils etc. specify only NICEIC or ECA incorrectly. Procurement rules state you have to be fair and give everyone a fighting chance, most specifications don’t give this which should be a worry for those who do. Anyway, I left the agency and started working for the contractor, I was testing and supervising some of the work that was taking place in the Yorkshire area. I was advised that the assessment was in a few weeks so I/we needed to get prepared.
So how do you prepare, what was the first thing I did? I approached some friends who have the same assessor and asked a few questions.
What does he do?
Where does he go?
What does he ask?
What do I need?
Here are the responses:
What does he do?
He’ll turn up to the office at about 9, make sure you offer a drink and the place is tidy. He’ll have a look at the insurance documents and qualifications but all in all, he’ll just sit around talking about the electrical industry to try and sus your competence. He’s a total stickler for Bonding so have Guidance Note 8 out with some posted notes sticking out on some pages. He’ll talk for ages!!!
Where does he go?
He’ll ask for some recent jobs so just pick a few good ones you’ve done. Pick 3 and go and check them. Make sure the bonding is right because he’ll check that.
What does he ask?
He doesn’t really. He might ask you to test a part of the installation is able but take him somewhere he can’t. Like a school which is open if you’ve done any work there.
What do I need?
Standard stuff for the business, insurance, qualifications, management/audit system. You’ll also need to be nice.
These aren’t word perfect but do highlight pretty much what was said.
So the day arrived, Andrew (not his name) turned up and pulled a pew. We offered him a drink and a bite to eat if he wanted. He asked how things were going and I responded with “Just having a bit of a nightmare at the moment as we’re struggling to understand the requirements for bonding a communal area in a small block of flats. Just checking GN8 and the pocket guides 13 etc from you guys”
I then sat back and let the magic happen!!!!!
A little while later he asked if we should pop out and have a look at some jobs. We explained we had a 5-bed house rewire just about to hand over, a rewire in a primary school and a new circuit in the unit behind us. We decided to visit all of them.
The house rewire was a standard house rewire. Andrew asked me to test the ring circuit and explain what and why I was doing it. He asked what the max resistance on the bonding can be!!!
The school was an interesting one, he said he would normally require us to remove an accessory or something and explain what we did and why but because it was a school and there were people there he wouldn’t that time. If only he knew!!
The unit at the back was a pain. We showed him that we had installed a circuit to the workshop and he asked why the breaker wasn’t an RCBO. I explained it wasn’t near the main door so it was unlikely to be used for outside. We argued for a few minutes and agreed to put an RCBO in the place of the MCB!!!!
That’s pretty much all we did. We went back to the office and had another drink and a little moan about the industry and then he left. We had approved contractor!!
I worked for this contractor for a little while but was approached by a Local Authority to carry out auditing and surveying on their principal contractor. I had worked for them in the past and was asked in for an interview.
At the interview, I was handed a Periodic report and told there were 4 errors in the document. I had 10 minutes and they would then have asked me questions about them. When they came back in the room I preceded to detail the 15 failures on the report I was offered the job so took it….. this was me entering the world of Social Housing!!
Over the next few blogs, I am going to detail some of the things in social housing but need to be careful with the tone etc. I don’t want to say anything that puts the organisation I worked for but I do want to highlight some of the significant failings around spending money on the things that matter as opposed to stuff that makes very little safety sense!! What I mean by this is Painting a building over rewiring it is a stupid decision!! Unfortunately, this happens because what something looks like is more important to public perception and to show Authorities spend money in the right place!!!! That will make sense to some.
To be continued…