Training To Become An Electrician

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 Sector

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 Sector

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.

Get Trained

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

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.

In-Work Training

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.

Understanding Ride-Sharing Apps

Ride-sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft have provided us with the opportunity to make a little extra money in our spare time. But should we be wary of using our own cars as taxis and how will it affect our existing insurance policies?

Uber allows users to hail a taxi using a click of their thumb, any drivers local to them are alerted to their journey request and the user can see the details of their driver before they arrive.

How do I get paid?

Customers pay their fares using the app at the end of the trip, the app client who then pay the driver on a weekly basis, and how much money you earn depends on how hard you’ve worked.

The flexibility afforded by such apps is tempting to those who want to earn a bit of extra cash in their spare time, but what effect can it have on your existing vehicle insurance?

Can I begin driving immediately for a ride-share app?

Before you even begin as a driver you must have the relevant paperwork in place, including Private Hire licences issued by local councils to taxi drivers and specialist taxi insurance, which you’ll need to get on top of your existing car insurance policy in order to cover yourself.

UPDATE: As per Gov.uk’s announcement, you no longer need to apply through your local council and pass a DVSA taxi assessment to be eligible to drive a Private Hire Vehicle (PHV). You may visit this website to see how you can apply for a driver’s licence for taxis and PHVs.

Do I need any additional insurance?

Your personal car insurance policy will not cover you against commercial use, so having additional taxi insurance is essential if you want to make use of such schemes.

Uber and others do not offer insurance as part of the service but do conduct background checks on potential drivers, and will look at aspects such as driving convictions when selecting if you’re suitable.

Having a public liability insurance policy helps to cover you against claims made by passengers who may get injured or lose possessions whilst in your car. Because of the unpredictability of your passengers and situations, having said insurance in place can help protect you as you’re doing your rounds.

Can I use my current car for such a scheme?

Uber and others will usually have criteria as to what vehicles can be used as taxis, with minimum requirements for each level of service, including vehicle age and size

For example, some can be used but must be at least a saloon model, while some may be classified as higher-type vehicles and therefore qualify for a different class of pay.

Say you have an 8-seater MPV and are able to transport more passengers as a result, if you wanted to use it for a service like Uber it would fall under a different category due to the size of the vehicle, which may lead to a higher rate of pay but could also incur extra costs.

You can usually find a list of suitable cars on the company’s website, so it can be worth double-checking if yours if eligible before starting out.

How much is it going to cost me?

Tariffs are worked out according to the length of a journey, with factors such as traffic and any subsequent delays adding to the estimate as you go as these are determined using speed, time and distance.

When the customer pays the app you’re then paid a percentage using a weekly payment, so the more pickups the more you’ll take home.

Bearing in mind you’ll have other costs, such as petrol to keep it running, maintenance costs as a result of an increased use and the additional insurance you’ll require on top of what you already pay.

Is it for me in the long-term?

For some, it’s a useful little extra earner, but it doesn’t suit everyone so research is key when deciding if it’ll work for you, be sure to weigh up all the costs before committing.

Also, keep in mind that all those extra miles you’re putting onto the vehicle, as a result, could add to the cost of your car insurance in future, particularly as it would have increased the distance of travel per year.

If you’re thinking of embarking on ride-sharing as an additional job it can be worth researching into taxi insurance to see how much it’s going to potentially cost you.

Topping Up Your Pensions

With both tax-relief and tax-free growth, a pension contribution is the most attractive financial investment you will ever make.

But are you making enough contributions towards it to ensure that you retire with a substantial pension pot?

If you have an employer or workplace pension scheme, then you should remember that the minimum contributions are relatively low and it will not be enough to provide you with an income to lead a comfortable retirement lifestyle.

If you have a personal pension plan, the more you contribute, the more you retire with.

So, should you be contributing more towards your workplace pension or should you top up your state pension? Is an SIPP a better option for you?

Employer Scheme vs SIPP

Irrespective of whether you are trying to up your contribution or add an additional scheme, sticking to your workplace pension scheme makes more sense.

With the new auto-enrolment reforms introduced in 2012, your employer is obliged to make a minimum contribution towards your pension pot.

That’s free money for the taking. Additionally, you have the option of paying your bonuses into the scheme making it easy for you to top up when the opportunity arrives.

The only drawback is that some employer workplace schemes have limited fund options to invest in. And many times, you do not get the personalised attention or support you desire.

That’s where an SIPP can be advantageous.

It provides an investor better control over their retirement savings. There are a plethora of fund options along with equities to choose from. You get personalized attention; you can check valuations and even switch funds in a blink.

An SIPP is a great way to consolidate existing workplace pension schemes that you may have if you have switched jobs recently.

For example, if you have three different pension pots, one from your current employer and two from your previous ones, you can consolidate the other two with an SIPP.

But the extra functionality offered by SIPP comes at additional charges which are higher than the charges on personal or stakeholder pensions.

So, unless you are not adept at making independent financial decisions or do not have multiple pension pots to consolidate, an SIPP might not be the best choice for you.

Additional Voluntary Contributions

If you are the member of a final salary or defined benefit scheme, then any top-up contributions you make will go into a separate AVC plan.

This is akin to a money purchase plan which means, that the eventual value of the plan depends on how much you contribute and how the investments perform.

However, if the AVC is linked to your main defined benefit scheme, you can avail of your 25% tax-free cash lump sum from your top up contributions keeping your defined benefit pot untouched.

Tips to Top Up

While topping up a pension scheme is a desirable proposition, it is not always the most practical one, especially if your current financial circumstances do not allow it.

The rules for contributing more remain the same old tried and tested methods.

Spend Less: The lesser you spend, the more you save, and a part of that savings can be diverted towards your pension funds. Reassess your finances, track expenses, weed out unwanted expenses and find a way to squeeze in that little extra every month to contribute towards your pension top up.

Bonus Sacrifice: If you have a workplace pension scheme then a bonus sacrifice is a great way to top up your pension pot in a tax-efficient manner. For example, if you were to receive a £20,000 bonus, it would be taxable, and you will also have to pay National Insurance contributions to it. If you are a higher rate taxpayer, you could end up with as less as £11,600 in cash. On the other hand, if you decide to pay it into your pension via a bonus sacrifice scheme, it would be tax and NI contributions free. Also, it will help your employer save 13.8% NI savings and most employers are generous enough to pass it to you. So, instead of £11,600 in cash, £22,600 could be added to your pension pot instead.