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The Construction Route – what needs to change?

The ongoing growth of new technology across the electrical contracting industry, teamed with the challenges of meeting the green agenda, means that electrical skills are leading the low carbon, high-tech, building services revolution. This brings with it great opportunities to attract new recruits into the industry, and to upskill those already in the workforce. 

ECA plays a leading role in industry skills developments and is involved in many projects to help support Members and ensure they are prepared for what’s ahead. 

Review of the Installation Electrician apprenticeship

Apprenticeships remain at the heart of electrical industry training. The four-year electrotechnical apprenticeship has weathered the Covid storm well, with intake numbers holding up throughout the pandemic and even an increase in new recruits this year. 

Even with these encouraging figures, we need to be mindful that the number of applicants always greatly exceeds the number of opportunities available, so we really do need more employers to get involved in apprenticeship recruitment. 

To ensure that industry training remains fit for purpose and relevant to employer needs, it’s important that the content of the apprenticeship and the accompanying industry assessment of competence, the AM2, continue to reflect workplace requirements. 

A review of the Installation Electrician apprenticeship standard in England is now underway and we encourage Member and other businesses to get involved in the online consultation process in the coming months. 

In addition to looking at industry-specific technical needs, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) now also requires consideration of wider-reaching aspects such as mental health, diversity, sustainability and modern working methods. 

The new Domestic Electrician apprenticeship, now approved for delivery in England, introduces an industry-recognised standard, along with a rigorous assessment route, that has long been called for within the domestic market. Since it follows all the latest IfATE specifications and requirements, we may be able to use some of the learning from the Domestic Electrician development process to inform the Installation Electrician review. 

Recognising Prior Learning

For those already working in the industry, the parallel Experienced Worker Assessment (EWA) route for the Installation Electrician will also be revised to reflect the new apprenticeship requirements. In addition, a new Domestic Electrician EWA is already under development by an industry working group. Both EWAs will build on experience to date. 

For example, whilst many training providers are operating as intended, we see some who refuse to give adequate recognition to prior learning (RPL) and others who are overly generous and fail to acknowledge the EWA entry requirement for 5 years’ post-training experience. 

Action is taken wherever issues are identified, but these incidents clearly highlight the need for more prescriptive governance frameworks.  ECA, through TESP, is therefore working with awarding organisations to put these frameworks in place. To help ensure we can have a wider picture of any training providers who do not have adequate RPL processes in place, we are keen to hear of any ECA Member experiences of the problem.

Upskilling and Wider Career Progression

These two core foundations – apprenticeships and EWAs – are also the starting point for ECA’s “Electrician Plus” model for progression and qualification in new technologies.  ECA has worked with City & Guilds on its new qualifications for electrical vehicle charging and we are pleased to see that learners must hold a recognised electrical qualification to register for an EV charger qualification. We are now working with MCS to embed similar requirements for other relevant technologies.

To help ECA Members offer clearer career progression routes and identify available support, ECA is currently working on a guide to apprenticeships which may support progression into managerial, business, commercial or higher technical roles. Higher-level apprenticeships such as these can be an excellent opportunity for further development. Employers can benefit, either by using their apprenticeship levy or drawing down funding to upskill via an apprenticeship programme. 

Offsite Techniques and Systems Integration

In terms of technical skills, work is ongoing to explore the impact of new methods such as offsite construction and the increasing need for skilled personnel to ensure smart and intelligent systems are properly integrated with each other.  ECA has identified Member support for a structured training route for this specialist ‘Systems Integrator’ role, and importantly that it should be developed via upskilling of qualified electricians.

Clearly there is much in the pipeline and exciting, if challenging, times ahead. ECA is at the forefront of driving change to ensure industry needs are met. As ever, we welcome Member views on what is and isn’t working – please do keep in touch via [email protected] and give us your valuable input.