For many people, a career within the electrical industry remains an interesting and varied choice. Within this document we will not use the full term of Electro-Mechanical Engineering but use the term Electrical Industry instead. In addition, we will stay with the UK market and especially items relating to the domestic and commercial sectors rather than global issues. Since there is such a wide list of choices in the electrical industry, we’ll start by looking at the main themes first and then come back to any ‘add-ons’ later.
Essentially, we see two distinct forms of entry into the electrical market. Initially there’s the more traditional apprenticeship approach, but equally there is now an alternative, suited to those who are keen to enter later in their life. For the sake of clarity throughout, the first will be known as ‘Junior Entrants’ and the second simply known as ‘Mature Entrants.’
Mature students, or entrants, often train so that they can become self-employed and work on their own projects without having to pay wages to external electricians. By contrast, Junior entrants would seek to work with an established electrical firm and build their skill-sets as they train. Upon leaving school many apprenticeships provide a fast learning curve for young adults looking to boost their auxiliary skills.
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. Whilst the core syllabus is relatively similar to non-NVQ commercial training, there is a particular requirement to attain the actual NVQ qualifications as part of the overall training program. This means that work programs or apprenticeships have to be sought in order to arrange the necessary course work and testing phases of work.
Mature Entrants do not appear to seek the NVQ element but instead they go after the most commercially suitable qualifications. Such as obtaining documentation that gives them the best chance to gain from their training endeavours and thereby the best financial rewards. Although this may offer quicker and more commercial options, it does reduce the official requirements set for certain areas of the industry.
We should differentiate the prospective earnings into the two categories of employed and self-employed. With self-employment a person may be working on a part-time or full time basis -to that end we will assume they are working full time. The aptitude and talent for getting things done can affect the levels of salary as well as any experience or knowledge gained.
The basic salary for Junior Entrants tends to start around the 12-15k mark, but rises regularly to around 30k with the right 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’. It should be remembered however that a self employed person must often bear additional costs for items such as vehicles, tools and clothing. Furthermore, professional items such as accountancy, tax and insurance need to be considered to make the business work properly. That aside, whilst the work is open to market-forces to some degree, the current skills shortage in the UK means that there’s a high work-load available. If a student wanted to work every day of the week this would be possible in some areas. It should be understood that the 70-100k figures that we see thrown around in newspapers are not easily achieved, and would either require working long hours or having assistants (or both.)
For the most part there is a strong difference between the Junior and Mature Entrants’ working week. Most of the work for Junior Entrant electricians will be on a simple 9-5, Monday to Friday basis. That aside the Mature market is equally affected by when their clients are available – this is especially so within the domestic sector, where evening and weekend work predominates. 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 career in electrical work has been chosen, a Junior Electrician is often at the mercy of their employer when it comes to learning new skills and expertise. However, many mature entrants gain extra skills by learning those trades such as gas and plumbing work. Without a doubt the extra skills help them in their overall employ whether this is commercial or domestic work.
‘Green Engineering’ is another area to consider. This requires new skills and working knowledge and is one of the fastest growing areas today. Looking together to the UK and the EEC this activity could be of benefit to both Junior and Mature Entrants, providing new growth and opportunities to both disciplines.