The Job and What's Involved

Electricians install, inspect and test wiring systems and components in all types of buildings, structures and machinery. They play a key role in the construction, engineering, manufacturing and service industries.

Their area of work may be:

  • Installing and maintaining the electrical circuits and wiring found in every home and business - installation is probably the most well known area of electrical work.
  • Panel building - installing the control panels that operate and maintain the infrastructure of a building such as lighting, heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems, or that control supply systems in industrial, commercial, leisure and domestic premises.
  • Repairing and rewinding electrotechnical system components.
  • Instrumentation - installing, calibrating and maintaining the tracking systems found in manufacturing and building services.
  • Maintenance - servicing electromechanical equipment such as heavy plant machinery used for production and chemical processing.
  • Traffic management - installing and maintaining street lighting and traffic management equipment, such as traffic lights and highway signs and signals.

Installation electricians work on construction or refurbishment projects. They follow architects' or contractors' plans, which show where to fit wiring systems, power outlets and electrical equipment. This involves:

  • Fixing wiring systems in wall cavities, ceilings, floors and metal structures.
  • Fitting fuse boxes, circuit-breakers, earthing systems and control equipment.
  • Connecting wiring to sockets, switches, light fittings, appliances and equipment.
  • Laying the cabling which connects equipment to power supplies and computer networks.
  • Installing security systems, such as CCTV.
  • Inspecting and testing wiring systems and equipment.

Electricians use a variety of hand and power tools to measure, cut, join and fit cabling, wiring and equipment.

They may work alone or in teams, and will also liaise with other tradespeople, such as plumbers, carpenters and builders, as well as architects and site managers.

Most electricians work 37 to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday, but many work overtime, weekends and shifts to fit in with customers. If they are on call for emergencies they may need to be available 24 hours a day.

Part-time or flexible hours may be possible, especially for self-employed electricians.

They work indoors, in houses, factories, offices or workshops, or outdoors on building sites.

The work can involve climbing, crawling, lifting or bending. Electricians may have to work at heights or underground. The working conditions can be cramped, cold, dirty or dusty.

Starting salaries on Apprenticeships may be around £10,000 a year. Electricians may be paid extra for working shifts or overtime. There may also be travel allowances.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Around 350,000 people work in the electrical industry. They work for electrical contractors and building firms, electrical manufacturers, general manufacturing and engineering companies, railways, local government, hospitals, colleges, and power generating and supply companies. There are also many self-employed electricians.

There is a shortage of trained electricians and there are good prospects for people with experience.

Jobs tend to be advertised in the local press and in Jobcentre Plus offices.

Education and Training

The most usual way into this job for young people is to find an employer or organisation that offers Apprenticeships. Most Apprentices start at 16 or 17 years of age.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

To start an Apprenticeship as an electrician, candidates usually need GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) in maths, English and science. Some employers may accept applicants for training on the basis of an interview and an aptitude test.

Apprenticeships for installation electricians are run mainly by JT Limited (JTL) in England and Wales (but there are other training providers who offer electrotechnical Apprenticeships) and by the Scottish Electrical Charitable Training Trust (SECTT) in Scotland.

Apprentices may be eligible for a fast-track Advanced Apprenticeship in Electrotechnical Maintenance or Electrical Maintenance under the National Apprenticeship Scheme for Engineering Construction (NASEC). The qualifications for this are three GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) in English, maths and science.

Colleges around the country also offer part-time City & Guilds (2330) Electrotechnical Technology courses. Check entry requirements with the individual colleges.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

An electrical installation Apprenticeship usually takes around four years and includes on-the-job practical training through work experience. Apprentices also spend time at college on day or block release.

Apprentices work towards three separate qualifications: City & Guilds (2330) Certificate in Electrotechnical Technology at Levels 2 and 3, and NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in Electrotechnical Services, which is assessed in the workplace.

Maintenance electricians work towards City & Guilds (2140) Engineering Systems Maintenance, BTEC National Certificates in Engineering and Electrical/Electronic Engineering, SQA national certificate modules or NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in Engineering Maintenance.

There are new regulations to ensure that people carrying out electrical work have the skills to do the work safely. Electricians may need certification to prove they have enough training and experience. Check with the trade organisations listed below.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Electricians should:

  • Be good with their hands and able to use a range of tools.
  • Have normal colour vision.
  • Be good at maths and science, especially physics.
  • Know how to follow technical drawings and work out calculations.
  • Be highly safety-conscious.
  • Be methodical and careful.
  • Be physically fit and able to work at heights.
  • Work well on their own or with minimal supervision.
  • Be tactful and polite when dealing with customers.

Your Long Term Prospects

Electricians working for companies may, with experience, be promoted to supervisory or management positions. Further training and qualifications are essential to become an approved installation electrician and to move on to work at a higher level.

Electricians may move into electronics, computer installation and maintenance.

Installation electricians can become self-employed or set up their own contracting businesses. There may also be opportunities to work overseas.

Get Further Information

Joint Industry Board for the Electrical Contracting Industry,
Kingswood House, 47/51 Sidcup Hill, Sidcup DA14 6HP
Tel: 020 8302 0031
Website: www.jib.org.uk

Tel: 0800 085 2308
Website: www.jtltraining.com

NASEC Apprenticeships, Engineering Construction Industry Training Board,
Blue Court, Church Lane, Kings Langley, Hertfordshire WD4 8JP
Tel: 01923 260000
Websites: www.ecitb.org.uk

Scottish Electrical Charitable Training Trust (SECTT),
The Walled Garden, Bush Estate, Midlothian EH26 0SE
Tel: 0131 445 5659
Website: www.sectt.org.uk

SEMTA (Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance),
14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT
Tel: 0800 282167
Website: www.semta.org.uk

SummitSkills, Vega House, Opal Drive, Fox Milne, Milton Keynes MK15 0DF
Tel: 0870 351 4620
Website: www.summitskills.org.uk

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