Q&A: Becoming an Electrician in the UK

Filed Under: Electrical, Home repair    by: ITC

Q: For the last decade I have worked exclusively in the public sector.  While I’ve earned a good wage doing so, it’s not my passion, and I’m currently out of work.  I do find that I enjoy technically oriented tasks, and so I am very interested in working as an electrician in Liverpool. While I know that there is a process for training and certification, I’m unable to find helpful information on the web. I’m specifically looking for information on qualification, how long the training is,  how much it costs,  and if there’s an “apprenticeship period” I’ll have to cover off first. I’m also curious about the what a typical starting salary would be, and how much experience I would need before opening my own business.

A: You have excelling timing, as there’s currently an acute shortage of electricians in the UK.  The real challenge is finding a business that will be willing to take on someone without any practical experience.   If you happen to have a degree, even it’s not related, that may help to show that you’ve got the perseverance to do the work ahead of you, and impress a potential employer.  A good place to start is to have a look at the different specializations.   For example, you can choose to focus on one of either repair or installation.  Then, within the installation area, there are large differences between commercial installation and home installation.  These choices will drive the type of training you need.  As an example, if you choose to focus on installations in a business, you will need to pass the NVQ at level 3, where you demonstrate the proficiency required for complex workplace installs.

Two terrific sources of training information and the related qualifications is the JobCentre or your local Learning and Skills Council.  The government also runs a program called Learndirect, a comprehensive career information centre.   There are also Joint Industry Board (JIB) approved training courses available. The Electrical Contractors’ Association also offers a unique education and training pack that you may also find helpful.

Generally, getting a solid qualification will be roughly a three year journey.  When selecting a course, make sure that it’s industry-recognised. While there are several paths you can take, the City & Guilds course would prepare you for gaining an Electrotechnical Certification Scheme Competence Card.  This is perhaps the best place to be as an electrician, as it enabled  you to work at any commercial, industrial or domestic site.

Once your initial training is done, you’ll need to find a firm that will hire you on in an entry level position. New electricians start out as “mates”, or “labourers”, at a rate near £10 an hour.  The next step up is known as an “improver”, at a slightly higher wage around £11.   At this stage, you’ll work closely with electricians, handing them tools, working with clients, etc – everything other than the actual electrical wiring. While these entry jobs are at a lower wage, and perhaps not the kind of work you want to eventually do, most employers will not consider you for a more senior position without this sort of hands-on experiece.  You’ll also gain some invaluable relationships and contacts during this time that may help you land the job you really want.

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