As the lingering effects of the economic downturn continue to have a stranglehold on the construction industry, it can be tempting for many electrical contractors to dismiss training as an unnecessary distraction warns Asad Majid, national training manager at NICEIC
There is now a growing case to say training in difficult times can actually be more beneficial in the long term.
The publication of the first amendment to the 17th edition of the wiring regulations is due out next month (1 July) and is sure to create an increased demand for training in the upcoming months.
Anyone involved in the design, erection and verification of electrical wiring systems will be statutory obliged to get to grips with the new regulations before they come into force on 1 January 2012.
For some electricians this obligation to go back to the books can be seen as a hindrance, but for many contractors it is an opportunity to develop new skills and strive for better things in their work.
Everyone involved in the industry has a duty to at least appreciate the new regulations so they can go about their work confidently and in the knowledge it will comply with future regulations.
This is because, ultimately, the regulations are in place to protect and enhance the safety of customers, and as professional electricians and electrical engineers, the regulations ensure standards are maintained.
The electrical sector is a fast moving industry where new products and technologies are being launched on to the market every day. Standards which might have been suitable a decade ago are now out of place and the need to update regulations has become a necessary and vital tool to ensure best practice.
In anticipation of the changes NICEIC has been running one-day workshops to give contractors an early warning of what to expect.
The sessions have been well attended and looked at subjects expected to be included in the amendment such as; the inclusion of a new electrical installation condition report, changes to legislation relating to medical locations and new guidelines which deal with the installation of surge protection devices.
What we tend to see here at NICEIC is those who are quick to invest in training tend to stay up to speed with technical developments and are often in a better position to take advantage of new business opportunities.
There is a commercial advantage to be gained by companies with employees who are skilled in a number of areas and just as the challenges may seem numerous the opportunities for electrical contractors right now are significant.
The drive for sustainable buildings, the advancement of electric cars and an increase in demand for renewable technologies means electricians are well placed to take advantage new opportunities in the market.
The challenge of exploiting these opportunities will only be accessible through the development of new skills and without the knowledge gained through training, the danger is many contractors could get left behind.
One growing trend for NICEIC in recent years has been the use of technology to provide access to training via online services such as virtual reality. NICEIC can now offer contractors online versions of several City and Guilds courses as well as the 17th edition.
Last month NICEIC registered its 1000th online customer for the for the City & Guilds 17th edition e-learning course. Since its launch over a year ago the online training facility has proved very popular with contractors who find it difficult to take time off work.
Training in the 17th edition regulations could usually involve electricians spending up to four days in a classroom – four days when they are not earning any money! The online facility means they are able to reduce this amount by half and so training becomes something which is viewed as beneficial and not a disadvantage.
Perhaps surprisingly it is not just the younger sparks who are switched on to this method of training. The 1000th online customer at NICEIC was Les Keetch of Power Distribute, in Kent. Les is 61 but said he prefers the option to train online because it allows him to train at his own pace – which is not always possible in the classroom.