Electricians play an important role in ensuring that things work and continue to run smoothly, both within our homes, in factories, and out in the field at sub-stations and pylons.
If you’re looking to change career or want to start your career as an electrician, where do you even think of starting?
What Sector Do I Want To Work In?
There are two main areas of expertise for electricians – Domestic and Commercial – both of which come with their own specific ways of working especially with regards to the environment you’ll be working in, so what does each involve?
Domestic electricians are those who attend jobs at homes and businesses, and usually work as sole traders or for small businesses. Their main roles can include the installation, testing and maintaining of electrical systems and the maintenance of appliances, lighting and security systems.
The types of job they deal with can include anything from repairing fuse boxes, rewiring light switches to PAT testing appliances and connecting network cabling for home computer systems.
Commercial electricians are usually those who have worked in the domestic field and have moved onto working with more powerful voltages and more specific equipment that could be sensitive to even small changes in resistance.
Clients and employers can include more industrial locations such as factories, warehouses, and power stations, and additional training will be required to accommodate factors such as working at height or with extremely high voltages.
Qualities And Requirements
So what qualities do you need to be able to work effectively as an electrician?
- Good manual dexterity – some wire work can be very intricate, so being able to keep a steady hand when working with wires and tools is essential to becoming a good electrician.
- Ability to effectively analyse technical drawings – including CAD drawings and technical manuals – and to interpret measurements of electrical charges, such as voltage and resistance.
- Ability to problem solve – the ability to identify and solve problems is vital to the job, including when rewiring and laying cable.
- Communication and interpersonal skills – electricians should be able to clearly explain what is required to customers and clients, as well as be friendly and approachable when dealing with enquiries.
The most important part of becoming an electrician is knowing your stuff, so if you want to get your foot in the door, you need to learn all you can – both in theory and through practice – and there are a number of different avenues you can go down to gain qualifications.
College courses can help you obtain the qualifications you will initially need, including City & Guilds qualifications to get you started on your journey. There are a number of qualifications available for those looking to start in the business – including NVQs – and you’ll need to have one of these at least before you can even think of getting your foot in the door.
It can be worth looking into local colleges to see if they offer these entry-level courses, and there are some which offer part-time study, allowing you to train as you work if you want to.
Apprenticeships can be handy for getting yourself started in the industry, the availability of them will depend on the jobs market at the time and they are usually quite well sought after. If you have an existing skill set you want to top up, apprenticeships can be a good way of diversifying into another area of electrical work – such as starting as a home installer and then moving into commercial.
Once you’ve secured a job as an electrician, your employer may then offer you some further training as part of your employment – including the following which is essential for any electrician:
- Periodic Inspection and Testing – a periodic inspection is used to check and ensure that electrical items are safe and in a satisfactory condition to do their job. After testing, an electrician would be required to produce an Electrical Installation Condition Report detailing any damage found.
- 17th Edition (IET) Wiring Regulations – this is a national standard for electrical installations in the UK and ensures that electrical wiring in domestic, commercial and industrial buildings are of good quality.
- PAT testing – PAT testers carry out basic safety checks on electrical equipment, both to check current flows safely and a resistance test, leading to either a PASS or FAIL status for that piece of equipment. Advanced PAT testers, when trained up, can also test fuses and insulation resistance, especially in industrial settings.
You’ll also need to complete a Part P certification in order to be able to check your own installations to check if they are within standard. Part P of the Building Regulations determines that some household electrical has to be approved by a certified contractor or building inspector.
Who Can Advise Me?
If you’re looking at starting out as an electrician, it can be worth looking into joining organisations such as the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC) – which is privately owned and can provide useful resources for those looking to move into working as electricians.
Through NICEIC, you can gain qualifications – from City & Guilds to ELECSA – in a variety of subjects including PAT testing and data cable installation.
Variety Is The Spark Of Life
Once you’ve gained your qualifications, there are a number of different areas in which you can work as an electrician or electrical engineer, including:
- Planning – producing plans using CAD systems to map wiring in potential build sites and for rewiring jobs in existing premises
- Maintenance – regularly checking systems to ensure safe running
- Installation – installation of wiring and electrical equipment in a variety of buildings
- Electrotechnical panel builder – building, installing, and maintaining operating panels and control panels that regulate electricity or operate electrical systems
- Repair and rewind – repairing and maintaining motors and transformers of electrical equipment to ensure safe and efficient running
- Highways – maintaining and repairing street lighting, traffic signs, and traffic management systems
Whatever route you want to go down, ensuring that you are properly trained is essential before you start working as an electrician, and once you get started in your career, you may find more opportunities opening up for you.