Why has client perception and worker perspective on the value of the electrical installation industry declined over the past thirty years?

20 July 2017

Why has client perception and worker perspective on the value of the electrical installation industry declined over the past thirty years? During the same period, other sectors like gas, scaffolding, and asbestos have improved their value proposition, whereas we have slipped down the construction trades ladder and lost much of our priority skill kudos. Structured pay and conditions have leached away; net profits are meagre, cash flow remains tied to stubborn bullish attitudes throughout the supply chain, and cowboy operators continue to emerge from five-week wonder training courses.

There are exceptions. A minority of contractors and workers do quite well in and around the UK’s large population hubs. However, word on the ground continues to speak of an industry that has lost its way and become impoverished by a legacy of apathy towards the identity and value of its greatest asset, the electrical worker. Many employers and workers are vexed by the unintended but foreseeable consequences of the faulty Part P Building Regulation provision. How did that happen?

Since 2008 around fifty thousand practicing electrical workers have undertaken electrical work on UK building sites with sub 17th Edition accredited knowledge of the IET Wiring Requirements. Where are the standards? Why have so many electrical workers lapsed from essential CPD obligations?

We all know that well-intended, cosmetic type tweaking of existing systems and flashy new logos produce impact. But do they bring about sustainable, beneficial improvement to all of the industry in the long term?

As a registered Charitable Trust, we believe that profiteering from employers and workers on the issue of a Licence to Practice system is unacceptable. We are committed to improving public benefit through a UK Electrical Contracting industry that is reformed and modernised with the best of other leading industrial nations. Our approach to achieving this is based on the concept of connecting the competency of individual workers to contracts via an online Licence to Practice system.

For the industry to become more profitable, attractive and sustainable it must engage, educate and empower clients to exercise social procurement and discernment choices when selecting, appointing and monitoring an electrical contractor. The appointment of an electrical contractor must be strongly tied to the competency and composition of the electrical workforce.

An abundance of evidence exists to suggest that the current gate-keeping offerings aren’t working. More than half of the two hundred and fifty thousand UK electrical workers operate outside of the main registration body.

Too many under-qualified, unqualified and self-determined electrical workers have entered the supply chain displacing competent workers and destabilizing pay rates. The best of the annual school leaving population are being not attracted to the industry, and there has been a significant lack of commitment towards CPD obligations during past thirty years.

Do we stay the same, tweak or go big? Going big means change and change involves employers and workers investing time and money to help the industry become fitter, smarter and stronger. We believe that all employers and SME employers in particular and their workers must have greater input over the future affairs of the industry. There must be more electricians in the room. There must be greater engagement with clients. There must radical change; otherwise, we will continue to see increased deskilling and further acceleration of the race to the bottom culture.