The future of our industry – my view and my opinion.
So, this is the final instalment of the blogs I have been writing. I have been writing about my journey in the electrical industry because I want everyone to know exactly what I’ve been through so that they too can make an informed decision about the direction our industry is going and the things we may or may not need to do to influence positive improvements. Everything I write in these blogs is factual and can be backed up with emails, recordings and other communications.
I am very honest because it has to be. If you agree with the content, please don’t shy away from agreeing with it, simply like the blog. It’s more important for you to confirm the content as this will ultimately lead to improvements that need to happen in our industry.
So, what are we going to cover, see below
1. Where my journey started and college.
2. My first employment as an electrician – it’s 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. 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. This blog – The future of our industry – my view and my opinion.
As you probably know if you’ve followed my blogs, I am fairly new to the industry and never shy away from the fact I am still learning. The one thing that really stands out to me is the number of really good sparks out there who actively try to do the right thing. They lead, inspire and empower people to be better in our trade.
Anyway, let’s move into our industry.
When you dig a little into the industry you find those running the show to be a very close nit. I mean the ECA and Electrical Safety First own CertSure who are the name behind NICEIC and ELECSA. The ECA and Unite are driving forces behind JIB, SJIB, SELECT and also the training providers JTL, NET and others. The truth is there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, at all, the problem arises when those who control these organisations believe that more people affiliated with them on panels, committees and via manufacturers means they can protect their business model and brand.
Problems arise when a disruptive innovator steps into the limelight. These dinosaurs get nervous and try to close them down using old boy tactics.
It normally goes a little like this:
Disruptive Innovator appears.
An instruction to friendly connect with him/her and work them out – befriend them.
Do they pose a risk to our brand?
No = cut them free and ignore them
Yes = offer a carrot
Carrot = work-wear, membership, a seat on committees or steering groups etc.
Once on the panels or committees etc. shut them down with NDA or other means.
If they don’t take the carrot you have to resort to other means like Character Assassination or Reverse Engineering threats. It really is so predictable.
Character Assassination is best done using narrow-minded individuals who can bark for you. Get them to belittle the person’s brand or character to make the world think they’re a bad person or a stupid person. These people exist as basic followers believing they’ll get something out of the back of being ancient in how they act.
Reverse Engineer – when a company seems another company’s business model and tries to close it because it impacts their brand. The only solution is to try and clone the product and publish out to market to reduce share value and thus company value. I’ve heard a recording of someone threatening this, it’s scary that people feel they control in such a way that they can nervously stutter through a threat.
I am afraid this is our industry at high-level and there are some who endorse this and fuel it because they believe it will financially benefit them down the line. It won’t as true colours always shine.
The first step to changing how our industry moves forward is to change the way the committees are structured. We can’t have groups of people changing regulations when they all play for the same team and have a common goal. Another major factor is to provide the electrician industry with a point of reference that they feel is theirs. At the moment we have the likes of the IET who are the point of reference because they publish the books, but are unfortunately too wrapped up in Smart Technology and DC currents to focus on upskilling and empowering the trades core network. We seem to have lost touch since the IEE and IIE joined forces and if I was a guessing man it seems very intentional.
Qualifications and standards need to have a review because we seem to be allowing shorter courses as a route to becoming an electrician. Again, if I was a guessing man I’d say this is to increase the potential marketplace (member possibilities). We have publications like the National Occupational Standards (NOS) which define skills and knowledge but we don’t advertise this… it’s like they’re a secret. We also have the minimum technical competence specified for certain tasks, which again, seem to be hidden from the consumer.
We focus a lot on the term electrician and the perception from the consumer side is that an electrician is a person capable of working on electrics. There is no subset of that, just electrics. The real picture is that an electrician these days has to prove he/she can work on electrical systems even if they’ve completed a course or apprenticeship. Lack of trust from FM people but the uneducated (electrically) people still trust the term electrician. Surely a simple review of this will highlight significant issues to public safety. Why are we not discussing this and highlighting as an issue?
Going back to the old boy networks who control standards yet have zero accountability when they don’t work. If you’re not up to the job of defining new technology and safety in today’s market, move aside and let someone else do it. I was recently passed the minutes of a committee meeting where the group had split into a number of smaller groups to look at defining certain things for the committee. One part was to review the QS model, I was shocked to see the Technical Director of the company who uses the QS model alongside a Senior manager from another organisation that adopts the QS model. Conflict of interest? I won’t even get into JPEL64 as that seems to have raised a few eyebrows.
It’s funny watching the industry fight with each other. Recently I was given information about a company called SparkSafe Licence to Practice. I took the details and presented the benefits to clients across the country and was then subject to threats and ordered not to promote them. I was invited to London where I was given the full rundown on who they are and why I shouldn’t promote their brand. This was a meeting with their competitor by the way not SparkSafe.
Since promoting SparkSafe the JIB have created their own register for gold card holders. A total knee-jerk reaction to the industry innovating around them. We then saw NICEIC and NAPIT join forces to do their own…. another knee-jerk to try and prevent the others from doing it.
While all this is going on the consumer is left bemused and confused with what’s what in the trade. Who is an electrical and how do I get one to my house or building?
“Seek first to understand before trying to be understood” – this is a habit from a really good book and it totally rings true about our industry. We all sit back and watch the fireworks between these organisations whilst wondering who will eventually lead us. The truth is I don’t think we can be led, it’s an unfortunate position we’re in but I don’t think any organisation can control and lead the many tribal sectors of our trade. We have Onshore, Offshore, Commercial, Specialist, Industrial, Social Housing, Private Housing, Retail, Installation, Maintenance and Rail to name a few. We’re catering a lot for domestic but we are pushing others to define risk and potentially write their own versions of the Regs themselves. I met a chap recently who has written a spec which says all work should be designed and verified using his regulations which are derived from the Electricity at Work Regs and the Health and Safety at Works Act. The statement in the spec which threw me was something along the lines of :
“Where design, accessories or installation methods are not clearly scripted in this specification the contractor should consider using the BS7671 16th Edition of the Wiring Regulations. Any deviation or decision to use this publication must first be approved by the Contract Administrator”
This means that some sectors, or tribes as I think they’re better termed, are specifying away from the Regs as opposed to using them. I don’t blame them and fully endorse this as the accountability factor sits with the chap and organisation who wrote it.
The title of this blog is the future of our industry, I think the best way to describe what my views are on this is to use history to define the things that may be the cause of the direction we find ourselves in.
1. We find it hard to change things because we don’t report on the issues very well. The illusion that nothing is wrong promotes a willingness to NOT do anything to fix it. The term used for this is The Illusion of Invulnerability.
2. The process of proving that something is wrong before someone will act is again an alien thing to me. When we apply risk to a project we assume something will happen but hope that something doesn’t. So we define why something is unsafe rather than focussing on why it is safe to do something. The Inherent Morality of our Industry!!
3. One of the biggest issues I see which we need to review and most likely remove is the Collective Rationalisation whereby we accept that a person should act as a safety net for incompetence, yet we don’t enforce this or provide clear guidance on the role of a Qualifying Supervisor.
4. The belief the industry can’t change culture or competence because it’s gone too far. If we said everyone had to hold a certain level of competence to work safely it’s that belief that the industry would suffer. These comments come from Out-group Stereotypes.
5. We collectively have to talk about the issues and stop the closed-door conversations. Building a brand is one thing but forcefully preventing genuine interactions which those who are directly affected by your brand is totally counter-productive. That Self-Censorship is poisonous.
6. Taking number 5 and expanding on it slightly – The Illusion of Unanimity is a problem that we should address by talking. Just because of the close groups talk and have rules that no details should be shared outside the closed door conversations doesn’t mean we agree.
7. I have said this many times and will repeat now. Every organisation has individuals who make calls on things they shouldn’t. Sometimes these decisions are extremely impactful on the industry yet the knowledge and experience needed to effect positive improvements needs to be fuelled by engineering judgement and industry representation. Just because you’re in that position of authority doesn’t mean you should make the call on everything. The Pressure on Dissenters is not a reason to just say yes.
8. To follow on from 7 above – The Self-Appointed Mind-Guards in the industry need to take a step back and allow those who know their sector to represent it. Too many decisions are made now where industries and sectors are put under financial pressure because the decision makers are fulfilling their personal objectives to serve their members.
The items in bold above may be familiar to you. We need to learn from historical mistakes. It’s irrelevant which sector or industry the issues were from…. we have to learn from them.
It’s extremely important that we take note of what’s happening and then act accordingly. I have been put under extreme pressure of late because of these blogs and my opinions of the industry. So much so that I have been drawn into silly mind games and articles that people have written and liked to try and shut me up and destroy my name and brand. The one thing we need to do is to ensure I, and others, haven’t done this for no reason. There is negativity in the industry because of how it’s being driven forward. All is not lost though.
When I first started writing these blogs I had all the intentions in the world of closing them with the comment that our industry cannot be fixed because things have gone too far. Over the last year or so I have met some incredible individuals who do more for our industry under the radar than you would ever expect. Free training, assistance and guidance on all matters of #sparkslife and generally just being a point of call for people to have someone to look up to. I am excited for the new year and believe the #e5 group have so much to offer. I am honoured more than you know to be associated with the founding members and will continue to help drive positive improvements and guidance into the new year and beyond.
I hope you have enjoyed reading these personal blogs and would really like to know if they have helped in any way. Honesty and Integrity is a very important part of business and life.