It’s notable that a career within the electrical industry, with its attractive options, remains a choice for lots of people. Although often assigned to as ‘Electro-Mechanical Engineering”, we will simply refer to this as the Electrical Industry. Also, for ease we will concentrate on those principles that sit within the domestic and commercial markets for the UK. As this is such a wide ranging subject matter we’ll begin by sticking to the main area first and come back to the ‘add-ons’ later.
Essentially, we see two distinct forms of entry into the electrical market. To being with we have the older apprentice course and then secondly we have the option for those who wish to make a career change to join the industry. For the sake of clarity throughout, the first will be known as ‘Junior Entrants’ and the second simply known as ‘Mature Entrants.’
Principally, Mature Entrants join the electrical workplace later on, and focus on becoming self employed. This means working on their own and not having to pay salaries to anyone else. However, people who join as junior entrants like the fact that they can join a recognised firm to pick up the bulk of their practical and work based skills. Often a young apprentice will be in their first job since leaving school, and will therefore have a host of ancillary skills to learn during their first few years as a working adult.
The two different ways into the industry have two separate methods of preparation. Junior entrants go through NVQ training in England and Wales, and SVQ training in Scotland. As part of the training program an NVQ would be a requirement to attain. New employees gain the necessary course work and testing elements through an apprenticeship or some form of suitable work program.
By working independently and without the need for NVQ assessments, many Mature Entrants can concentrate on those areas that provide the biggest profit and offer the largest practical solutions for themselves. In the main the person will aim to gain the best from their investment costs against the return for that training. Although this may offer quicker and more commercial options, it does reduce the official requirements set for certain areas of the industry.
Between self-employment and general employment we have two routes to consider in terms of typical income. Obviously, with self-employment, there is the added issue of whether the Entrant is part-time (working around another job) or full-time; we will concentrate on full-time. Income levels are also dictated by experience and knowledge gained – usually proven via an accredited proficiency or certification level.
Although starting wages for ‘Junior Entrants’ are around 13k p.a. they can rise above 30k p.a. but this does depend on their level of experience. That said, due to the UK press telling people that electricians can get salaries in excess of 70k p.a., it is more difficult to gauge incomes for ‘Mature Entrants’. Irrespective of this salary level many self-employed people also need to manage extra business costs such as tools, clothes and vans. In addition to this they will also have to allow for items such as accountancy and personal/professional insurance. With the current skills shortage in the UK, there is a high work load demand available. Therefore, working seven days a week (if a student wanted) is a possibility for most. To be fair, high salaries bounded about by the press do require long working hours or help to achieve them.
To be fair, most Junior and Mature electricians experience very different working hours to each other. Monday to Friday 9-5 would be the working week of most ‘Junior Entrants’. The Mature market is however often reliant as to when their client base is available, especially in the domestic sector. And yet, a huge number of self-employed electricians operate during the main part of the working week by focusing on office and small business systems.
Once a Junior Entrant is employed within a company, then any follow-on knowledge they gain is often down to the employers’ activity as opposed to anything else. But by securing work within the fields of gas or plumbing many mature entrants can gain knowledge outside of their chosen path. If they are working mostly in the domestic market, this makes it easier for them to take on larger jobs across a range of disciplines (without having to sub-contract.)
A new trade example is that of the ‘Green Engineer’. This new service to the industry could fit into the overall skill-set of an electrician. With expected growth through new employment contracts and business options, this new entity is extremely attractive to many Junior and Mature Electricians, especially when considering the UK and EEC support overall.