Richard Grace, Managing Director of Powercor, discusses the worker shortage that is impacting the electrical industry, and offers some solutions.
With businesses and working life slowly getting back to normal, the electrical industry is as busy as ever. Recruitment is at an all-time high across the sector, but filling the vacancies is increasingly more difficult and competition is high. More apprenticeships are required but with many businesses short on qualified staff, taking on apprentices is difficult.
What do you think has caused the shortage of qualified electricians?
As we have seen in the haulage industry and the massive shortages of drivers, our sector is experiencing the same problem on a smaller scale due to Brexit. Many European electricians have returned home leaving a gap in skilled workers. At the same time, the growth of green technologies has increased. So the demand for electricians is extremely high, an estimate from Statista Research notes that an additional 15,000 electricians and electrical fitters will be needed over the next five years to join the more than quarter of million of us in the industry in the UK right now.
What do you think are the opportunities at the moment?
It is a very exciting time to be an electrical engineer. New technologies are growing from installation of offshore wind farms to EV chargers. The demand for a sustainable way of life is also driving an exciting new industry with the latest smart and clean energy equipment, including smart meters and solar panels. For anyone who has dreams of saving the planet – here’s your chance!
There is an abundant choice of opportunities for anyone entering the industry. There are competitive rates of pay making it a lucrative sector to work in. There’s an opportunity to work at different sites throughout the UK and meet a wide range of people. For the self-employed, the demand is very high with the chance to work on innovative and exciting contracts.
Do you think school leavers are keen to enter the industry?
Becoming an electrician is appealing to young people. Powercor receives many applications from school leavers, and we are keen to grow our apprentice numbers. Many of our team members joined us as apprentices and have risen through the ranks.
We will take on three apprentices this year but would like to take on more. We’re even thinking of creating an academy. However, our apprentices learn their skills on the job, simply because the team is so busy, it’s not as easy to carry out training too. The solution is simple: if we can recruit more qualified electricians, we can recruit and train more apprentices.
How can the shortage of electricians be solved?
As we have seen with the haulage industry, the Government has provided visas to European workers to help fill vacancies. There needs to be an industry-wide campaign to recruit and entice qualified electricians here to the UK and to encourage people who have left the industry to return.
We also need to show we can be more diverse, that women and people from ethnic backgrounds can be electricians and have a fulfilling working life. We need to ensure we offer more part-time roles, offer childcare support and maternity and paternity pay. It takes up to five years to train an electrician. That is a big commitment for a business, however.
What’s the future for the industry as a whole?
The opportunities are endless. We can all be involved in exciting new projects and technologies. Smart lighting is the future where you have full control of the lighting in your home from your phone. Lighting for schools that actually improves learning. Just taking lighting alone, the innovative products, whether its mood lighting or energy-saving, is inspiring.
We all want to be more energy efficient and there are so many innovative products and installations from EV chargers to solar panels. We are very lucky to be the crusaders for saving energy and saving the planet.
For electricians, there are good rates of pay and a good work life balance. It is a job for life with plenty of training opportunities. Encouraging people back into the industry will help fill some of the vacancies and we need to continue to encourage and train apprentices.
How did you get started in the industry and what would you say to someone looking to enter the industry today?
I became an electrician because I could see that it was an exciting sector with plenty of opportunity. Starting out as an apprentice I took a college course and joined a large electricity supplier. I joined forces with my business partner Chris Wright and founded Powercor over 23 years ago.
So I would say to anyone entering the industry that it’s one of the most exhilarating industries to work in, with all the new technologies and innovations across the sector, being an electrician offers a very satisfying career choice.