Lots of people choose a career within the electrical industry because it both appeals and motivates them. Whilst the original term is ‘Electro-Mechanical Engineering’ we will simply refer to the subject as the Electrical Industry. In addition, we will stay with the UK market and especially items relating to the domestic and commercial sectors rather than global issues. Due to the huge list of opportunities available for a career in the electrical industry, we have to begin by focusing on the main areas and look at the ‘add-ons’ later on.
The electrical market has in our opinion two methods of entry. Whilst many candidates opt to join later on in their life, there still exists the more traditional route of the apprenticeship. To clarify, we’ll label each of them as the ‘Mature Entrants’ and the ‘Junior Entrants’.
Mature Entrants who join the industry later on do so with the aim of working for themselves, usually as a one person business. Whereas the ‘Junior Entrants’ train alongside regular electrical employment to pick up practical work place skills as they gain their qualifications. After they leave school a young apprentice will have many skills to learn during their first few years of working life.
The two different ways into the industry have two separate methods of preparation. It is the involvement with NVQ’s (or SVQ’s for Scotland), that differentiate the Junior Entrants. There is a particular requirement to attain the NVQ qualifications as part of the overall 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, with the possible aim of entering the market from a self-employed perspective, seem to focus on attaining the most commercially viable qualifications (without the need for the NVQ element.) Instead most of them aim for the techniques that will get them up and running as quickly as possible and give them the best return against the cost to train in the first place. This method allows for a quicker route to the market and does meet the necessary trading elements for the areas concerned despite reducing the overall qualification set.
With regard to regular earning potential we have two clear paths – one for employees and the other for the self-employed. Whilst self-employed people can choose the hours that they work, we assume that they are working full time for the purpose of this review. Certainly, whilst salary levels can be affected by knowledge and qualifications, they can also be affected by competence and aptitude.
‘Junior Entrants’ can expect a basic salary of 12K at the beginning of their training. With application and experience this figure often more than doubles in time. 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’. Often costs such as tools, clothes and even transport need to be assessed and included in the business mix overall. Self employed people also have to allow for added expenses. Aside from that, the current skills shortage within the UK still means that there’s lots of high value work out there. Therefore, working seven days a week (if a student wanted) is a possibility for most. Although by working very long hours and having assistants to help, the figures of 70-100 thousand advertised in newspapers might be achieved, it wouldn’t be easy.
It should be noted that the working week for most electricians differs between the Junior and Mature Entrant markets. Monday to Friday 9-5 would be the working week of most ‘Junior Entrants’. To be fair, if the Mature electrician is focused on the domestic market then they often find themselves working out of hours, especially to support their clients when they get home. 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. Within the domestic market this allows them to work under a range of headings without having to rely upon sub contract suppliers.
‘Green Engineering’ is another area to consider. This requires new skills and working knowledge and is one of the fastest growing areas today. The opportunity to provide both employment and potential service contracts, especially in the UK and the EEC sectors, mean that this area is of interest to both Junior and Mature electricians.