Jon Graham, chief executive of JTL, discusses why the development and training of the next generation of apprentices is crucial in ensuring the pipeline of skilled electricians continues during these challenging times.
The pivotal role electricians have played during the Covid-19 pandemic has not only highlighted the growing need for quality electricians, but also demonstrated how the role is a viable employment route for any aspiring tradesperson.
A UK shortage
As the building services engineering sector returns to some sort of normality, the importance of encouraging professional development and training in the electrical sector has never been greater. From July 1, new regulations require landlords to have the electrical installations in their properties inspected and tested by a person who is qualified and competent, at least every five years. Landlords now also have to provide a copy of the electrical safety report to their tenants, and to their local authority if requested. This regulation is a major step towards ‘levelling up’ the private rented sector, making sure it will offer high-quality, safe and secure housing.
To cope with the UK construction demand, the potential impact of Brexit and an ageing workforce, the number of electrical engineering professionals will need to grow, which signifies an increased demand for the provision of professional development and training within the sector.
A 2019 Labour Market Report estimated that an additional 15,000 qualified electricians will be required in the next five years as a result of the predicted growth in the construction industry. The research also indicates that even with a 33% increase in the number of new apprentices (approximately 5,000 more than currently qualify) there would still be a shortage of up to 10,000 electricians. However, in light of the current Covid-19 situation, some employers may be questioning whether it is worthwhile taking on an apprentice at this present time.
A new wave of skilled workers
Ultimately, apprenticeships give aspiring tradespeople a skill for life and an increased chance of job security in their chosen industry, which is a welcome reassurance to many following such an uncertain time. Not to mention, apprentices have the chance to earn while they learn, as well as the opportunity to progress through the apprenticeship levels as the learner’s skillset widens.
There are still a number of misconceptions surrounding apprenticeships which could deter businesses from taking them on. For instance, some people believe that apprentices will lack motivation and may not be serious about learning a trade. However, providing appropriate training to apprentices who have already had to undertake entry assessments, is likely to contribute to high pass rates, shaping the dedicated tradespeople of the future, whilst allowing businesses to grow from the bottom up.
Furthermore, employing and training apprentices can also improve the productivity of businesses. Research conducted for the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) found that, on average, each apprentice brings an increase in productivity of more than £10,000 per year for their employer, with figures for some sectors being even higher. In addition to boosting productivity, apprenticeships can also help businesses to compete in the modern marketplace. Industry research revealed that 77% of employers agreed that taking on apprentices helped to make their organisations more competitive.
Recruiting apprentices is also a way to combat the UK’s current skills shortage. It is recognised that through on-the-job training and professional qualifications, apprentices become highly skilled and useful members of the team as they progress through their apprenticeship. As a result, apprentices can address the particular skills gaps an individual company may be facing by providing additional resources to overstretched teams, and to employers who are currently operating in an environment with changing work practices.
Combatting an ageing workforce with investment in apprentices can have a positive impact on company culture too. With valuable training, apprentices are able to support busier members of staff and learn from their experience, bringing fresh ideas to companies which may have dated practices as a result of a lack of training provision for its current workforce. Equally, hiring apprentices gives supervising staff opportunities for additional responsibility and personal development.
The importance of CPD
With the pace of technological change faster than it has ever been, it is increasingly important that industry professionals can stay ahead of the curve through Continuing Professional Development (CPD). To ensure these individuals are not ‘left behind’, CPD gives electricians the knowledge and confidence to deal with new technologies coming into the sector. It ensures that they maintain and enhance the knowledge and skills they need to deliver a professional service to their customers and the wider community. Many people now also acknowledge that CPD helps employees, both new and old, to feel more driven to succeed, resulting in a more motivated workforce and an increase in staff retention.
When it comes to employee development or future proofing your business, CPD is certainly critical. CPD will allow staff to focus on important areas of development and reduce any shortfalls in knowledge they may have. With regulations getting tighter, and health and safety measures more important than ever, investing in CPD is a great way for trade professionals to demonstrate their competency and confidence in required areas.
JTL isn’t the only organisation concerned with the next generation of electrical talent in the UK, with the ECA urging firms to hire more apprentices.