Electricians make the job look easy. They’re well rounded, talented, and highly trained to know their way around circuit breakers. When there is a fault, their intense knowledge of electrics helps them trouble shoot the cause, and fix it fast. That’s the things you only learn when you start your training though.
There’s a lot more than domestic electrics that needs catered to though, and you are going to have to be prepared to get stuck in about things. Working in all weather conditions, sometimes up poles, crammed into tight spaces, and all the while competing within a competitive industry for the lucrative jobs that come up.
All the work you do will require your utmost attention to detail to carry out the job safely.
Some jobs can be labour intensive, so a hands on approach will be called for. When you first start training, you’re best to get started as soon as possible, because the training is only going to take you so far.
To get into work, you need to have contacts, and to make those contacts, you need to be starting somewhere. You can start before you’re fully qualified as there’s positions to work beside already qualified electricians. They’re advertised in the local press as well as on the website of the Electrical Contractors’ Association, under the titles of Electricians mate, or labourer. In that position, you’ll be pretty much a go-for, passing the tools to the electrician and helping them with clearing up after a job.
It’s not what you’re training to do, but when you do qualify, it’s work experience you’ve had hands on, probably working for next to nothing to get it, and still stuck it out, continued your training, and learnt some more by getting into the trade in a labouring capacity. The people you meet will be involved in different trades. Joiners, brickies, roofers, landscapers… you name it.
Every person you meet on sites are contacts who could be sending you referrals to job openings, or if you’re self-employed, sending work your way. That’s the most challenging part when you first qualify if you haven’t managed to land an apprenticeship – Getting your name amongst the trades.
What training do you need?
Training to become an electrician will usually be done through an apprenticeship over two to four years. Unfortunately, there’s not too many of them around, and instead for those who are determined to succeed in their trade of choice, there’s a bit of proving that to employers to do with the training, and resilience to get a foot in the door shows you’re committed to working hard to reach your career ambitions.
Before you can start testing, repairing, fitting electrical circuits, and working with any electrical wiring, you need to be trained to industry-recognised standards. That could be a Level 1 Certificate in Electrical Installation, or a Level 2 or 3 Diploma in Electrical Installations. Both are which entry-level courses available in most local colleges, and awarded through the City & Guilds Awarding Body, and will give you training on the theory aspects of electrical work, rules and regulations surrounding safety on the job, combined with some practical experience.
In order to qualify to practice as an electrician, you’ll need a Level 3 award in either of the following:
Once you’re in employment, you’ll be required to sit the 17th edition of wiring regulations, (IET) and Periodic Inspection and Testing. For carrying out residential work involving Portable Appliance Testing, (PAT), you need to demonstrate a high level of competency in order to sign off your own work as a certified electrician. That will require you go through the Part P short training course, in order to obtain an ECS card. The Electotechnical Certification Scheme.
What opportunities are there for electricians in the UK?
The jobs electricians can do will be determined by the training an employer supports them towards. The training discussed above outlines the criteria for an electrotechnical electrician. Trained to that level, you’ll be qualified and certified to work on buildings electrics, household wiring, including fibre optic data cabling installations, testing and repairing electrics.
Other types of electrician jobs can be found working with solar panel installations, photovoltaic systems, and wind turbines, which is categorised as a renewable energy electrician. That can be used to power homes, or in major engineering projects.
In this line of work, you’d be installing all types of electrical hardware, such as security devices, data-network cabling, fire alarms on commercial buildings, and light installations on various types of buildings.
In this role you’d be responsible to checking that all electrical systems are functioning as they should, in a safe and efficient manner. These jobs can be found working in manufacturing facilities where they’re reliant on machinery to be operational, and can often require an electrician on site during production hours.
Electrotechnical panel builder
Instead of installing the systems, you be responsible for building the units ready for installation.
Highway Systems Electrician
In this line of work you’d be working on the roads, ensuring that all traffic lights function as normal, and repairing them when they don’t as well as fixing street lighting on residential streets and along the motorways. Further training and professional accreditation could see you become a self-employed electrician.
There will be some jobs where you may be required to travel away from home for periods of time, and most of the jobs will require you to have your own transport as you’ll find yourself driving between sites frequently.