• Training - Staying ahead of the game

    The Electrical Contractors' Association (ECA) and leading awarding body EAL have   worked together to develop qualifications specifically tailored to meet industry needs. Here, Iain Macdonald (pictured), Head of Education and Training at the ECA, and Ann Watson, Managing Director of EAL, look at issues faced by contractors, and the importance of training to stay ahead of the game

    Challenges to Training

    Iain MacDonald outlines the challenges to training:
    Recent years have seen dramatic and rapid changes to training and skills requirements in the electrotechnical industry, resulting from; advancements in technology, changes in regulation and legislation, and the government's sustainability agenda. To remain competitive, firms are faced with the issue of keeping operatives up-to-date, leading to an increased need for workforce training.

    Training is costly and requires a significant investment of time off the job. In light of this, I believe it would be fair to say that many firms only train when they have no other choice; when legislation dictates or accreditation is required by third parties. In an increasingly competitive market, this attitude to improving and consolidating skills may now put the future of businesses at stake. In an era where clients and specifiers are increasingly asking contractors to demonstrate competence and qualifications in the work they carry out, one of the best ways for them to do so is to train their workforce.

    Faced with a wide choice of contractors in a highly competitive market, clients are increasingly likely to employ firms with the credentials to satisfy their expectations and legal obligations. Those with a trained and qualified workforce make a statement that they are likely to be competent and up-to-date with industry best practice.

    There are, of course, always firms that rely solely on their track record, reputation and experience to win business, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, in a market that is increasingly defined by specialist areas such as fire, security, datacomms and now, sustainability, conventional electrical contractors that would traditionally see such work as ‘their' business are finding that clients are increasingly looking for proof that a firm is ‘qualified' to carry out the work. The result is a rapid growth in the certification of firms, often underpinned by a requirement to prove the skills and qualifications of the workforce.
    There are many reasons why contractors should ensure that training remains a priority even in the current downturn, however, the ECA's ‘Incentives and Barriers to Training' report, published last year, identified several significant challenges to training. The two central issues were financial constraints, and a lack of understanding amongst employers of competency requirements and the wide range of training options available. These challenges, and ways around them, will be analysed in more detail later. First, let's examine the main drivers of change:

    The government has set an ambitious target of 60% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. The construction industry plays a key role in this and is experiencing a marked impact in terms of growing legal and technical requirements on projects at all levels from design to completion.

    As the demand for intelligent building solutions grows and technological advancements increase, specialist firms will undoubtedly capitalise on the business opportunities their skills and qualifications provide by creating a niche market for a particular discipline, thus presenting ever more competition for the general electrical contractor.

    Standards to underpin training and qualifications in support of sustainable technologies are still to be developed and, in the meantime, firms should be careful to obtain qualifications from reputable sources. It is hoped that, once developed, qualifications such as this will provide contractors with quality-assured instruction, assessment and certification, enabling them to comply with increasingly strict environmental legislation, and distinguish themselves from competitors.

    17th Edition
    Last year we saw the most complete overhaul of the basic industry regulations in sixteen years, in the form of BS7671: 2008 The 17th Edition of the IEE Wiring Regulations.
    Significantly, the new regulations now impose a legal requirement on the client to take responsibility for ensuring that any work commissioned is in compliance. The client's duty is no longer to simply go with the best price, but also to ensure competence, safety and quality by contracting those with sufficient technical knowledge of the regulations. As a consequence, we now see clauses in contracts specifying that contractors demonstrate competence to carry out work that complies, with the most effective way of satisfying this requirement being proof of up-to-date industry recognised qualifications.

    These changes will have had most impact on those contractors with plentiful experience but little in the way of formal training. New entrants to the sector, and operatives who have not undertaken any formal qualification on the 16th Edition since 2001 require a full course, while those with qualifications taken after 2001 may only need to undertake a shorter update course. The ECA has worked with EAL and other awarding bodies to offer both the full and update 17th Edition diplomas. Another valuable qualification is the Level 2 Certificate for Domestic Electrical Installers, incorporating the necessary knowledge requirements for the majority of Part P Competent Persons Schemes.

    Business Benefits of Training

    Ann Watson continues on the business benefits of training:
    We have seen that during times of financial uncertainty, training and the additional associated costs become less of a priority for businesses. In the current financial climate, many companies will be tempted to slash training budgets. But during a recession, companies investing in training are 2.5 times less likely to go under. So, however difficult it might be to sustain investment in training during this time, to do otherwise could lead to substantial problems in the long term.

    There are significant business advantages associated with investment in training. Whilst it may be tough to secure the required budgets during the recession, if training can be sustained, the return on that initial investment will include benefits for both employers and employees alike. For example, certain qualifications and training courses can help improve business knowledge, performance and productivity, making companies more robust and successful. By increasing efficiency and effectiveness in the workplace, training can aid turnover and reduce business costs, as well as boosting employee confidence, morale and motivation, therefore assisting with recruitment and retention. Similarly, demonstrating the high quality performance of a skilled and motivated workforce to existing and potential customers could lead to new or repeat business.

    By providing employees with the opportunity to work towards nationally recognised qualifications and obtain transferable abilities, skills and knowledge, training will aid employees' career development opportunities. With the future of the industry dependent on training as a method of easing the skills crisis, investment in training is crucial in order to secure the future strength of the industry.

    Funding & Advice
    Government funding to undertake training programmes may be available to employers, regardless of their business size, through initiatives such as Train to Gain. Further information and advice on these initiatives, including details of how to apply, are available from Sector Skills Councils such as SummitSkills. Members of the Electrical Contractors' Association (ECA) may also be able to access the ECA Training Fund, a £10m fund created to help member firms by reimbursing the course costs of approved adult training programmes. Level 3 and Level 4 Electrotechnical NVQs approved by SummitSkills are included in the ECA's list of qualifications that are available for funding, such as EAL's Building Service Engineering Technology and Project Management NVQs at Level 3 and 4, along with NVQs focusing on management and in-company career development programmes.

    In Summary
    I believe that through sustained investment in high-quality training relevant to business objectives, employers can ensure that their organisations are equipped with a competitive edge in preparation for eventual economic upturn. High standards of skill and expertise remain very much in demand in the electrical industry. By undertaking the necessary training and striving to deliver best practice, electrical contractors of all sizes can remain competitive. Firms that face the challenges brought about by changing training requirements and turn them into business benefits will be best placed to survive difficult times and prosper in the future.

    Securing the future of the industry is of paramount importance, and this can only be achieved through sustained investment in training. We will continue to work with industry bodies such as the ECA, along with our own specialist in-house experts, to ensure that our qualifications are fit for purpose, flexible and of the high quality required. Doing so will enable us to assist businesses and the industry as a whole to remain strong, despite the current downturn.

  • Cross-skilling to reduce costs with MCP’s Mechanical to Electrical Training

    Maintaining and upgrading the skills of operators and technicians is imperative to success  and can be achieved through cross-skilling.  Teaching operators basic electrical skills such as MCP's Mechanical to Electrical training course provides them with the knowledge they need to perform maintenance and fault-finding on the production line.  With 24 hour manufacturing, operators skilled in basic electrical skills will have the level of competency required to get a line up and running quickly should a fault occur.  It also reduces the need for qualified electricians to be called out.

    MCP has trained over 1000 people in the City and Guilds accredited Mechanical to Electrical training course.  The programme is designed for technicians who have no previous electrical background, to enable them to work on specific electrical tasks competently and safely. 

    Organisations who have participated in MCP's course include Muller Dairy, United Biscuits, Johnson Controls, Stansted Airport, Scottish & Newcastle, Haydens Bakeries, Mars Snack Foods, Robert Wiseman Dairies, Apetito, Tilda and Sara Lee.

    Book onto MCP's Mechanical to Electrical Course now, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or call 0121 506 9034.  www.mcpeurope.com/training

  • Cummins Power Generation delivers IET endorsed training

    The design and specification for diesel generator set installation can be a challenging task for project engineers. Whether existing systems are being updated or new installations selected it's vital the specifying engineer understands the size, type and characteristics of the load to be supplied by a generator in any particular situation in order to deliver a smart solution that saves  time, labour and money.

    In response to this, Cummins Power Generation, a world leader in the design and manufacture of power generation equipment, provides the industry's first training course specific to high speed diesel generator technology to be fully endorsed by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

    The two-day power training course, held at its European headquarters in Ramsgate, Kent, is aimed at those involved in specifying and designing diesel generator systems. It provides engineers with an understanding of the mechanical and electrical aspects of installation. Covering fundamentals of installation, controls, generator ratings, exhaust emissions and sound attenuation, as well as ISO application model expertise in generator set sizing, the information is delivered through a mix of classroom presentations, hands-on product demonstrations, a plant tour of the 300,000 sq.ft. facility, and an open discussion forum.   Delegates  have the opportunity to expand their understanding of diesel generators and learn how to avoid common pitfalls of the specifying process.

    Information is delivered directly by experts in the field. The course instructors each draw on decades of application and installation experience with diesel generator systems. Andy Underwood, general manager, Cummins Power Generation Europe says, "Engineers are not experts in terms of diesel generator technology, it's a small part of their job, but if they are not armed with an understanding when specifying diesel standby systems, it can result in wasted time and money. By learning from the experts, the course arms them with the knowledge they need to provide smart solutions, shorter quoting times and reduced specifying times."

    Power Training runs four times a year and covers all aspects of specifying solutions from standard to non-standard applications. For standard applications, the delegates are shown the benefits of using standard fully integrated and pre-integrated products as a cost-effective solution. These products are beneficial to the end user in terms of saving time, labour and money, as well as reducing space requirements of added equipment and reducing installation costs.

    The course is designed so the information the experts deliver is not only presented from the point of view of Cummins Power Generation generators but is also easy to generalise to other manufacturer's products.

    Further Power Training course dates are now planned for 6 - 7 July, 14- 15 September and 7 - 8 December 2009.   For more information or to register please visit cumminspower.com/en/services/training/powertraining/

  • ECA and LIF tackle training and efficiency

    Two trade associations representing the electrical contracting and lighting industries have become partners to bring lighting training and qualifications to the electrical contracting industry. 

    Under the agreement signed this month by David Pollock, group CEO of the Electrical Contractors' Association (ECA) and Eddie Taylor, chief eExecutive of the Lighting Industry Federation (LIF), the two bodies will collaborate to jointly build training qualifications and expand the development of the existing training courses to satisfy the changing needs of those engaged in lighting installation and maintenance work.

    David Pollock said "We are delighted to be able to work with our LIF colleagues to progress qualifications and training standards for electrical contractors involved in the hugely important lighting sector. ECA and LIF also share a mutual objective to drive forward the energy efficient lighting agenda".

    The agreement paves the way for the development of joint courses and other training projects, and both Associations are keen to promote increased specification and installation of cost and energy saving lighting solutions within existing buildings as well as new properties.

    Eddie Taylor said "Training in lighting knowledge and skills is vital to the development of our members' businesses and the customer service they offer. ECA and LIF have co-operated closely over many years on areas of common interest to both industries, I'm very pleased therefore with this new initiative with respect to training between the two organisations."

    The partnership also brings immediate benefits to members of both Associations, who can take advantage of reciprocal member rates across existing ECA and LIF training courses.

  • Update for troubleshooting training software

    Simutech Multimedia, a specialist in simulation-based electrical troubleshooting training software, has announced the release of Version 4 of its Troubleshooting Skills Series software, for immediate availability. The new version of the software has been completely re-designed and re-developed with comprehensive learning modules, improved simulation capabilities and an enhanced evaluation system.

    The updated titles in the Troubleshooting Skills Series V4 include Troubleshooting Electrical Circuits, Troubleshooting Control Circuits, and Troubleshooting Motor Circuits.

    A significant improvement in the Troubleshooting Skills Series V4 is the inclusion of more informational content. Each title in the series now includes in-depth instructional content modules that teach specific troubleshooting skills and strategies. These content modules contain much more information and feature new videos that demonstrate specific concepts and techniques.

    "The additional content really focuses on helping learners to develop a strong foundation of the most critical troubleshooting concepts," said Warren Rhude, President of Simutech Multimedia Inc., and former troubleshooting trainer. "The new hands-on practice simulations and labs provide users with immediate practice and valuable experience using newly learned techniques."

    Using a completely new development platform and completely rebuilt simulations, the new version of the Troubleshooting Skills Series offers improved simulation environments with more realistic simulation behavior. Users now have the ability to remove multiple wires, trace wire paths, and inspect components in the circuit for defects.

    The enhanced simulations also offer more accurate component behavior, such as realistic behavior under fault conditions, accurate transformer regulation, and accurate motor voltages and currents under varying load. Another added feature is the ability to customize regional settings for North American or European standards including prints, diagrams and equipment design considerations.

    The new programs are also equipped with a powerful evaluation system which offers more thorough scoring and makes this version of the software a much more valuable training tool. Streamlined Fault Evaluation summaries and at-a-glance Level Evaluation summaries allow both learners and instructors to easily track and evaluate progress and find areas for improvement.

    With this new release, each title now includes more built-in faults and is available in four editions. The Student and Expert Editions are available for personal use, while the Business and Enterprise Editions are available for use in business and industry, as well as the educational sector.

    Simutech Multimedia


  • NICEIC introduces alternative to classroom training

    17th Edition training can currently involve up to three days in a classroom, plus a fourth day allocated for sitting the online examination.

    NICEIC has recognised how difficult and expensive it can be for electricians to take four days out of work to attend classroom-based courses. Working with e-learning experts, Virtual College, NICEIC has put the face-to-face training delivery into an online course.

    This means delegates can access 17th Edition training at a time, place and pace to suit them, potentially saving them from losing four days of site work.

    The online course keeps track of your progress and bookmarks where the delegate has got up to; so small bite-sized chunks are just as possible as larger online training sessions.

    Delegates can sit the course over a number of nights, weeks or months - it's totally flexible and NICEIC has structured the course into short interactive e-learning modules. Once these are completed one can undertake a number of online revision tests that will check the user is ready for entry to the final assessment.

    "The fact electricians can now access a 17th Edition course at a flexible time and place to suit them is an important step, especially in the current economic climate," says Alan Wells, head of electrotechnical, NICEIC Group. "This online learning facility, as well as the introduction of our virtual reality PIR course, means NICEIC is truly pioneering electrical training methods in the UK today."

    The course is available from 1 February 2010. For more details visit www.niceic.com and click on training or call 0870 013 0389.

  • Training - 2010 – The year of educational alternatives

    Following a year in which education and training were closely examined by the press, Ann Watson, Managing Director of awarding organisation EAL, looks back at 2009's key moments and reveals her hopes for 2010

    Last year was an interesting time for education and training, with the recession having a huge effect on those involved in our sector. The year saw a sharp rise in graduate unemployment, a record number of university applications, and thousands of new apprenticeship places created as the government attempted to combat rising unemployment. 2010 looks to be equally interesting as these new incentives bear fruit. With an election and potential change of government also on the horizon, this looks set to be a fascinating time for the education and training sector.

    The university system was featured regularly throughout the year, and sadly not always in a positive way. Back in the spring, the newspapers reported large numbers of cutbacks in traditional graduate job areas, one assumes as a result of the recession. This will have a significant impact on the graduates of 2009, potentially the hundreds of thousands of graduates embarking on new careers. Despite this, the summer and autumn brought news of rising university applicants, as the younger generation were pushed towards higher education in hope of boosting their employability.

    Away from the world of university, apprenticeships occupied significant column space when the government created thousands of new places, enticing employers to invest in the young professionals of the future. Incentives like the £2500 "golden hello" mentioned in December's White Paper are a step in the right direction, but a better move would have been to offset apprentices wages against companies pre-tax profits, or to offer the sum as a contribution to the apprentice's first year salary.

    While there will always be questions around the various enticements, any pro-active moves by the government relating to apprenticeships are warmly welcomed, due to their largely positive effect on raising the profile of apprenticeships. This directly benefits the young people who may not have considered this route by making them aware a way of entering their chosen industry in a way which allows them to earn a living while they study. The government has seen an increase in apprenticeship places of more than 165,000 since the 1996-97  academic year, and these numbers will hopefully increase following the introduction of the Young Person's Guarantee at the end of 2009. It would be great if 2010 saw apprenticeship numbers continue to rise as the gap in numbers of people studying vocationally and at university continues to decrease. This may be a hard ask as employers, who provide vital apprenticeship places, continue to feel the squeeze as a result of the recession. 

    I hope this year will also see the recognition of the value of NVQs. Despite being used across a wide range of industries for more than 20 years, in some quarters they are not being given the recognition they deserve. Shadow education secretary David Willetts' comment in September 2009 that "NVQs have negative value on the labour market" was uninformed. His view dramatically underplays the value of the qualifications, which are accessible to a wide range of learners. They often form a key aspect of the apprenticeships which play a valuable role in the development of the next generation of skilled workers. As well as providing proof of competence, they give the individual confidence in their own skills as they receive recognition of their accomplishments. I hope that 2010 will see these qualifications gain the respect they deserve.

    The endorsement of apprenticeships and the skills sector by the Shadow Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and higher education John Hayes MP at EAL's recent Skills for Economic Success debate was most welcome, if a little at odds with his colleague's views. Given the vital importance of training as a means of safe-guarding the future success of our sector, any new policies must be carefully considered before they are introduced. Regardless of which party is in power, there needs to be a cohesive party line if legislation affecting the vocational sector is going to be brought in.

    2010 is shaping up to be an exciting year for education and training, and we welcome the challenges which it may bring. We are proud of the fact apprenticeships are becoming more commonplace as a means of entering a new industry, and hope that their growth will continue to have a positive effect on the way in which vocational training is regarded. For those who are currently in training or considering it I urge you to take any opportunities offered to you in 2010 that will broaden your skill set.

  • Training - The new AM2 - demanding, but worth it!

    NET Business Development Manager, Stephen Plant, explains why the AM2  assessment has been modernised after consultation with the electrotechnical industry

    The AM2 has been the gold standard for the electrotechnical industry for the last 25 years, but as technology grows at a pace, the assessment must change to reflect the demands placed on today's electricians. From April 2010 we will be introducing a new AM2 assessment, which has been modified after a two-year consultation period. We hope the modifications to the assessment will further boost the next generation of electricians' confidence in their own abilities, while reinforcing AM2 as the evidence that they and their employers are capable of providing the best level of service to their clients.

    Contrary to many people's understanding, the AM2 is not solely a standalone qualification; it is an assessment of occupational competence, which forms an integral part of an electrician's apprenticeship, as well as being available to those who need to undertake it in other contexts, such as adult trainees. Passing the assessment is a useful proof of proficiency at a time when standards are becoming ever more demanding.

    Updating an established assessment such as the AM2 presents an interesting challenge, namely how to maintain the assessment's standing within the industry. The AM2 has provided valuable proof of competence for tens of thousands of electricians, so it was imperative any modifications to the assessment did not affect its position as the industry's benchmark of occupational competence.

    Over the last two years, NET has carried out a systematic consultation process involving apprentices, employers, practising electricians and examiners. We took every opportunity to get as much feedback as possible before we made any changes to the assessment. The review presented an opportunity not just to look at the assessment itself but also the marking system, administration and candidate guidance.

    One of the conclusions that came from the consultation was the need to make the assessment reflect current working practices, including the use of modern connection and wiring systems. As a result, the revised assessment is now entirely competence, rather than systems, based. It encompasses methods of installation and termination, safe isolation, risk assessment, inspection, testing and fault finding.

    We have also updated the marking system, reflecting the need to make the assessment more efficient and provide meaningful feedback. In the past, some candidates undertook the assessment before they were fully prepared. The new assessment will have much better candidate guidance to ensure, whilst it remains challenging, candidates can better assess their state of readiness.

    We have introduced a recommended pre-requisite checklist. This will allow candidates to check their competence against the individual elements of the assessment. When they feel comfortable with each component of the assessment, as outlined in the checklist, they are then ready to undertake the AM2. We have also increased the level of support and guidance that we provide candidates before, during and after the assessment.

    Those who already possess an AM2 certificate will not be required to re-qualify against the new assessment. However, due to the change in content, those who need to re-sit the current assessment must do so before April 2010 before the new assessment is introduced. We would urge all those who need to book their re-sits to do so as soon as possible to ensure that they are assessed under the present system. NET's mobile assessment centre (pictured) will be deployed on a regional basis to support AM2 centres in delivering an effective service to those requiring re-sit facilities.

    Altering something which has become a benchmark for an individual electrician's competence was never going to be simple, but we feel that the changes we have implemented reflect the skills required by the electricians of today and future.

  • Schneider Electric expands training course topics

    Schneider Electric has enhanced its training courses to now offer contractors and electricians more support, adding new topics to the events to include areas such as energy efficient solutions and the latest lighting technologies.

    The events are held by Schneider Electric in partnership with its network of authorised distributors to highlight the extensive range of solutions available, which installers can capitalise on to boost the profitability of a project.

    The free events are taking place at distributors' branches and conference facilities across the country and as well as new topics, will focus on core product areas including wiring accessories, home networking and lighting control applications.

    In addition, the training will advise installers about the latest cable management and circuit protection offers, which can reduce installation times, ensuring they meet project deadlines and helping end users save money.

    At the events, attendees will also be able to share ideas and network with other contractors and will have access to Schneider Electric's technical and sales experts.

    Hamish Bingley, customer marketing engineer from Schneider Electric said: "The free events provide a great opportunity for contractors and electricians to keep abreast of the latest technologies, which is particularly important in the current competitive market. One way they can add value to the service they offer customers is to play an advisory role, guiding them through the range of solutions available and making recommendations. Also, with energy efficiency so high on everyone's agenda, there is plenty of scope to have an input on refurbishment as well as new build projects, helping customer to meet environmental obligations while lowering CO2 emissions and energy bills. "

    Attendees will also receive vouchers for 15% off featured products and support literature.

    For further information, and to obtain a list of venues across the country, call 0870 608 8 608 or email customer services at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • Authorised persons training for EDF Energy

    One of the UK's largest energy companies has chosen leading energy management specialist Schneider Electric to provide authorised persons training.

    EDF Energy - which generates about 20 per cent of the UK's electricity and distributes electricity to 7.9 million homes and businesses - identified a need to engage an external training organisation to provide refresher training for their authorised persons that work in their un-regulated business unit. This was driven by the EDF Energy requirement that all operatives working on the network must attend a refresher course every three years.

    The infrastructure services section of EDF Energy selected Schneider Electric to provide the AP training, which was well received by the delegates and a very successful programme. The course incorporates both practical and classroom based training, ensuring participants are offered a comprehensive programme.

    Schneider Electric
    02476 847564

  • Opinion/training - Pulling together

    Confusion reigns but QCF promises to deliver tangible benefits to the electrical  industry says Ann Watson, managing director of EAL (EMTA Awards)

  • Opinion/training - Green light for the electrical industry to flourish

    Iain Macdonald, head of education and training at the Electrical Contractors'  Association (ECA), discusses what the sustainability agenda and the Low Carbon Skills Consultation will mean for the electrical industry

  • Opinion/training - Funding shortfalls

    It has been widely reported the new coalition government refuses to rule out a rise in university tuition fees. It has also been widely reported that the Russell Group of leading universities is calling for a fee rise, arguing that students should pay more towards the cost of their courses. Engineering degrees are expensive to deliver, and the natural worry is the subject could see dramatic fee increases, which would deter students from applying, exacerbating the country's skills shortages

  • Baseefa secures training contract with EDF

    Baseefa of Buxton, a specialist in hazardous area certification, has landed the largest single training contract in its history - with EDF Energy.

    The bespoke, modular DSEAR practitioner training course was designed specifically for EDF Energy and will be used in its eight nuclear power stations in England and Scotland from October. EDF Energy supplies about 9,000 MW annually to the National Grid.

    Ron Sinclair, managing director of Baseefa, commented: "This is a major achievement for our fast-expanding training arm, and we are delighted to be working with the largest energy company in the UK."

    The deal was set up by Allan Ogden, Baseefa's DSEAR and services manager, and Jeff Healey, one of Baseefa's hazardous area training specialists, and involved running a pilot scheme at EDF's Heysham plant in Lancashire in January.

    Each module requires the preparation of a set of detailed student notes to supplement the set of Powerpoint slides with presentation notes. The students' notes are designed to provide sufficient information to limit the need for course participants to refer to numerous other standards or reference documents. It is hoped a training course for more specialist operators will be set up later in the year.

    Jeff Healey commented: "I was very impressed by the enthusiasm of the EDF people who were on the pilot course. People showed a lot of interest and we had lots of questions. Safety is obviously vitally important in the field of nuclear energy generation."

    David Drury, head of technical training for EDF Energy, said: "It is vital we find the right partners to help us deliver key training across the fleet. After the success of the pilot course at Heysham we will now be rolling this out across all our nuclear stations."

    Picture courtesy of David Long.
  • Demand calls for increased training

    Niko UK has announced it is expanding its training programme for 2011 following an increase in demand. The training programme provides free one-day courses to electricians and installers on how to install and programme the Nikobus home automation and lighting control systems, are delivered at the company's purpose-built training suite in Toddington, Beds, just off Junction 12 of the M1.

    Commenting on the expansion, Niko UK's sales director, Stephen Calder, explained "We recently established a joint training programme with the NICEIC - and this has seen a substantial uplift in demand for places on the courses. As ever, we like to respond positively to the demands of the market, so we are in the process of revising our training programme for 2011 to accommodate as many installers and electricians as possible."

    Anyone interested in booking a place on a training course should contact Niko UK as follows on 01525 877707 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • Modular Wiring Systems opens new training facility

    Modular Wiring Systems, a subsidiary of electrical cable manufacturer Tratos, has opened a new demonstration and training facility at its Slough offices.

    The Modular Academy is a showcase for Modular Wiring Systems' product ranges and services. The large ground floor room has been divided into three key sections - power, lighting and bespoke equipment - each with working equipment, allowing customers to see and interact with product in action.

    "The new Modular Academy will allow us to clearly show how modular wiring systems work" states Neil Ancell, Mmanaging director of Modular Wiring Systems. "Despite such systems being on the market for some 25 years, many specifiers, developers and contractors remain unfamiliar with them and are therefore reticent to move away from the traditional approach of fixed installations which are labour intensive and costly.

    "We are also keen to show how our systems differ from others in the market. Having the equipment on show in a working demonstration allows us to do this as the quality of the product is immediately obvious, from the cabling to the connections. Customers can see the difference first hand."

    The new Modular Academy is available free of charge to anyone who wants to learn more about the concept of modular wiring systems, including specifiers, electrical and mechanical contractors and training providers and their students.

    For more information, please visit www.modularwiring.com.

  • Training - The sustainability agenda: Is the electrical industry ready for the challenge?

    This is not just a sustainability challenge; this is a skills challenge, says Iain Macdonald, Head of Education and Training at the ECA

    It is no secret the UK faces a huge challenge if it is to meet current carbon reduction commitments, which require an 80% reduction in our carbon emissions by 2050.
    Drastic energy savings will need to be made to meet this challenge, and it is our built environment, which accounts for nearly half of the UK’s carbon emissions, that offers the best route to achieve this. If we are serious about meeting these targets, every home, office, and commercial and industrial space in the UK needs to become energy efficient.
    If done correctly, this challenge can be turned into an opportunity.

    The role of the electrical industry
    Electricity is the lifeblood of every building, and the majority of sustainable technologies, such as energy efficient lighting, controls, sensors, and photovoltaics are powered by electricity. This means electricians have a vital role to play advising and installing the energy efficiency technologies which will be key to achieving carbon reduction targets.

    Although current operatives may need to update their skills to gain specialist expertise, none of this calls for a new breed of ‘green’ installer. Fully trained electricians already possess the core skills to act as the frontline troops in the fight to cut carbon emissions.

    However, meeting this challenge will require significant numbers of operatives. In the domestic market alone, 2,000 homes per day will need to be refurbished, which will create significant demand for people to carry out this work - something which has the potential to secure a new and ongoing market.

    Skills challenges to the industry and UK plc
    The UK must be in a position to respond to this demand, and obstacles to training the workforce, in particular, employer engagement must be overcome.

    Apprenticeships are the traditional and best entry route to a vocational career in our industry. Historically, electricity boards were the main employers of apprentices, but since privatisation, this is no longer the case, and the onus has increasingly fallen on the SME.

    The current recession also means companies don’t always prioritise training. Despite the best efforts of electrical contractors, the number of apprentices continues to fall.

    With a lack of new entrants coming into the industry and the average age of a qualified electrician in the UK being 45, we could soon face a skills crisis where we will not have the skilled workforce to cope with demand.

    If this skills challenge is to be addressed, a business culture that encourages companies to train must be created. Thousands of new apprenticeship places will have no value if employers are not in a position to take advantage of them.

    The ECA believes efforts should be directed towards achieving industry-recognised outcomes, which lead to jobs and employability. We must work together with government to ensure the investment we make in skills is appropriate and develops a sustainable skills base for our young people and our industry.  

    ECA solutions
    If we achieve this, we will win the public’s confidence in ‘green’ solutions. It is imperative clients have confidence the right solution for their circumstances has been recommended and fitted, as well as confidence that energy-saving measures and renewable technologies are fitted safely and correctly the first time round.

    There already seems to be recognition of this amongst electrical contractors, and at ECA we have seen real appetite for micro-generation courses and the Micro-generation Certification Scheme (MCS).

    To help members better understand this market, the ECA has taken to the road with a Green Opportunities Roadshow featuring seminars and a specially fitted truck kitted out with renewable and energy-efficient technologies. The roadshow truck and seminars will help electrical professionals gain an in-depth understanding of renewable and energy-efficient technologies, as well as the business opportunities afforded to them by the government’s low carbon agenda. For more information on the ECA roadshow visit: www.eca.co.uk/roadshow.

    A sustainable future
    The sustainability agenda presents a challenge, but significant opportunities can also be found. We must view this agenda as an ongoing project, as we do the maintenance of the Forth Bridge. Following initial installation, technologies will need to be maintained or replaced several times between now and 2050 creating a flourishing business environment for those involved in this market.

    To create a sustainable environment, we must create a sustainable workforce by setting a path that prioritises the acquisition of skills at the right level, and in sufficient numbers. Only then can we look to the future and meet the challenge of the sustainability agenda.

  • Training - The assessment of occupational competence at Level 3

    Stephen Plant, business and development manager of NET, discusses how the decision to make the AM2 a formal unit of the new Level 3 NVQ will ensure greater competence within the electrical sector

    The coming year will be marked by a change in the vocational education sector.  The Qualifications Credit Framework (QCF) – which was introduced by the Labour Government in 2009, and came into force in January 2011 – will alter the way vocational training is delivered; it is undoubtedly the biggest change to take hold of vocational education since NVQs were brought in during the late 1980s. The shake-up is the result of a shift in popular opinion, predominantly led by the government, which is increasingly citing skills-based careers as the driver by which the UK economy will be rebuilt.

    What is the new framework?
    The QCF offers a simplified learning process, allowing those responsible for training and development to invest in a more flexible qualification structure for their staff.  They can now do this because the modules that make up QCF qualifications can be taken at the employee’s pace, allowing career development to fit around professional and personal commitments.
    Qualifications will be built up in units, with each unit having a level and a ‘value’.  Learners will be awarded credits for every unit they pass, where one credit represents 10 hours of learning time. From April 2011, the electrical industry’s Assessment of Occupational Competence (AOC), the AM2, will be a compulsory unit for anyone signing up for an electrotechnical NVQ Level 3 qualification:
    s Level 3 NVQ Certificate in Installing, Testing and Ensuring Compliance of Electrical Installation Work in Dwellings
    s Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Installing Electrotechnical Systems and Equipment (Building Structures and the Environment)

    As clarification, the term NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) will still be used in titles where the qualification is competence based, and directly aligned to National Occupational Standards. So, for all trainee electricians studying for a Level 3 qualification the NVQ title will still apply.

    The AM2 has long been a formal part of the national UK work based apprenticeship; but until now, it was not a compulsory requirement under the equivalent Level 3 NVQ qualification taken by adults training to enter the industry.  Embedding AM2 in the new NVQ structure under the QCF is visibly the right way forward, as it aligns requirements for all electrical trainees at Level 3, be they apprentice or adult. This will undoubtedly have a positive effect on the wider electrical industry, raising standards across the board.

    The AM2 – at the heart of industry
    As the AOC for the electrical industry, AM2 is the practical assessment that proves an individual’s competence in electrical work. The assessment was launched by the industry in 1985, and redesigned last year with the demands of today’s environment in mind, and with an enhanced emphasis on safety. The AM2 aims to reflect ‘real life’, assessing competence in the typical tasks and time conditions that a qualified electrician would experience at work within a property or site.

    AM2 is generally the final stage of an apprenticeship or NVQ; it is taken at the end of the training period when the candidate is almost fully trained and therefore likely to be ready to have their practical ability tested across the breadth of electrical work. However, before sitting AM2, candidates have the opportunity to consider if they are in a good position to pass the assessment, by means of a pre-assessment exercise based on the tasks they will have to perform in the AM2.

    Benefits to learners, employers and industry
    By incorporating the AM2 into the Level 3 NVQ, employers benefit as much as learners do. Every qualified NVQ Level 3 holder will be able to provide evidence they are equipped with the right skills and employers can be confident taking on an electrician who has come through the NVQ route, rather than through an apprenticeship, is equally competent to support their business appropriately. This will be particularly important as the UK embarks on the government’s low-carbon initiatives, which will require a large number of qualified electricians to play a key role over the next 40 years.

    NET has been working closely with the UK’s two awarding bodies for the electrotechnical NVQ Level 3, EAL and City and Guilds, as they incorporate the AM2 into their suites of NVQ Level 3 electrical qualifications. From next year all relevant qualifications will list the AM2 as a compulsory component, and learners enrolled on these level 3 NVQs will be required to sit the AOC irrespective of their training provider or college.  This highlights the role of the AM2 in ensuring competence within the electrical industry.

  • Free voltage optimisation training seminars

    Companies in the Midlands and the North West will be able to find out how voltage optimisation can help them cut their energy costs and reduce their carbon footprint at free training seminars to be held in May and June by EMSc (UK) Ltd, manufacturer of the Powerstar system.

    North West seminar - Warrington

    The North West seminar, which is in partnership with the Energy Institute, will be presented by Powerstar sales engineer for the North West Ray Booth and will take place at The Centre in Birchwood, Warrington on Tuesday 10 May

    Mark Hobbins, who is a registered energy engineer with Energy Institute, as well as a Low Carbon Consultant with CIBSE, will speak at the event about energy and environmental projects in business and industry, including legislation, controls, metering and lighting.

    Midlands seminar - Warwick

    The Midlands seminar will be presented by Mick Meakin, the Powerstar sales engineer for the Midlands and will take place on Tuesday 14 June at the Radcliffe House Conference Centre, at the University of Warwick. There will also be a presentation from an independent keynote speaker on the latest developments, trends, government legislation and examples of best practice in relation to carbon reduction and energy management.

    Both events. which are free to attend, run between 10am - 1pm and include a buffet lunch. All attendees will be presented with a CPD (Continuous Professional Development) certificate for completing the introductory course to voltage optimisation and energy management.

    People interested in attending the events should contact Nick Lee on 01709 836 200 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. There is also an opportunity to register online at: powerstar.co.uk/seminarbooking.html.

  • Installer training programme

    Emitex has developed an affordable, comprehensive training course. The Emitex Approved Installer Programme is a single day course taught with the electrical contractor in mind, at various locations throughout the U.K on a weekly basis.

    The one day course is designed to give contractors an introduction to Cat 5E and Cat 6 structured cabling systems, installation practices, network hardware, horizontal and backbone layouts, cabling standards, hands on termination, continuity and certification practices.

    Investing in the Emitex Approved Installer Programme will provide engineers and contractors with the competency levels needed to install structured cabling systems. And by gaining the EM1 registered installer status you would enhance and diversify your business to todays market demands.

    All Emitex systems installed by an Emitex approved installer (EM1 programme) have a full life warranty.

    01952 270 271