In the UK electricians have traditionally gained their initial training and experience through an apprenticeship scheme that combines formal courses and examinations with a period of at least 3 years working under the guidance of a qualified electrician. At the end of the apprenticeship they become fully qualified and can register with a scheme like the one run by NICEIC.
In recent years however it has become easier and quicker to achieve the minimum requirements necessary to register. A huge growth in the number of commercial skills training and re-training courses available – each offering extremely short times to ‘qualification’ – has resulted in an ever increasing pool of ‘electricians’ having very considerably less experience and qualifications than those trained by the traditional apprenticeship route.
There is a feeling within the electrical industry that scheme providers have lost their way a bit and are letting the trade down. If I’m honest, I have to agree. I am hearing more and more about shoddy work carried out by fast-tracked electricians who are registered with one or other of the scheme providers.
Regardless of the cause, the result is a disaster for you the customer. Customers can no longer have the level of confidence that scheme membership is something available only to skilled electricians.
I listen (on related forums usually) on a daily basis to fellow tradesmen who complain constantly that they are losing work to electricians having only fast track qualifications, or to builders who have done a short domestic electrical installer course.
Of course it is always upsetting to lose work, but, in fact, the bigger issue is the lack of experience and real training that these so-called electricians really have. In some cases they don’t even know how simple circuits work. They are potentially leaving your home in a dangerous condition, and charging you for the privilege.
‘Real Electricians’ have experience and understanding. We care about your safety, not just taking your money. Our customer relationships are important to us. Once you are our customer we expect you to be pleased enough with our work to use us for all your future needs. Most of us have come into the industry via apprenticeships because of an interest in the subject. We will respect your home and leave it safe.
How can you tell who is a ‘Real Electrician’ ?
There was a time that membership to a scheme provider was voluntary, and conscientious electricians joined to show that they were just that. The cowboys tended to stay clear, and could be spotted by their lack of membership to any scheme.
Nowadays however, in order to carry out domestic electrical work, you must be registered with a scheme provider – and the barrier to registration has been lowered!
I look forward to a day when all electricians are licensed, and it is required to really prove your competence in order to obtain a license. However, in the meantime, how can you the customer protect yourself from inexperienced electricians?
I would always advise that you use a registered electrician, and I myself will remain registered with the NICEIC. However don’t let this be your only guide. Here are some things you can do to limit your risk when engaging an electrician:
- Do look for scheme membership. At least if things go wrong you have a scheme provider to fall back on, but check they are actually a member.
- Do get a written detailed quote. This is almost like a contract and ensures that you have in writing exactly what the electrician is supposed to do for you.
- Do take up references (so few people do this). Good electricians will have no problem supplying a list of names of satisfied customers, calling one or two could save you a lot of hassle later.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for qualifications (actually ask to see the documents). Again, a qualified electrician will have no issue with providing documents on request. Check dates and determine how new to the industry they are. Are they a full time electrician? Also, be careful, there is a whole industry out there that provides fake documents.
- Trust your instincts If it feels wrong, it normally is. We all usually know when something doesn’t feel right.
- Don’t always opt for the cheapest. Ask yourself why is it cheaper that others. What is not included? Is the quote fully descriptive of what you asked for?
- Get certificates after the work is completed. Make sure you get your installation certificates once the work is completed; and that any Part “P” work is registered correctly.
Finally, I would love to hear of your experiences good or bad … Just add your comments below to share these, or to make any further discussion points.