The race to the bottom in the UK electrical contracting industry is painfully obvious to most established SME’s. Others who broke through and became major enterprises, are also likely to affirm the decline in the performance and value proposition of the national industry.
Back in the early 70’s, the public perception and standing of the trade was high compared to other construction occupations. Formative structures, supported by the efforts of a dedicated Union, tackled sporadic periods of industrial unrest, allowing the industry to eventually develop and prosper.
During the period, parents of school leavers, especially in working-class Britain, identified the job of an electrician as being one of the top trades. Security of employment, higher earnings, status, and job satisfaction typically characterised the perception of the trade.
However, for the past twenty years commercial and reputational decline has negatively impacted on large parts of the industry. Successive bouts of economic recession, absence of specific legislation and poor gatekeeping have weakened and fractured most of the industry. Tribes and silos with disparate positions have formed, dissolved, and reformed. Pay and conditions have become unregulated. Poor quality, short form training courses continue to dissuade high quality, new entrants and undermine authentic apprenticeships.
Although recession has abated, the residual effects and fall out continue to hinder parts of the industry according to regional positioning. Stop start efforts to bring about effective legislation covering the work and identity of an electrician, appear to have made little headway in Edinburgh, London, Cardiff, or Belfast.
Access to the industry’s commercial contracts by cowboys and rogue operators has occurred through systematic weakening and neglect of legacy gatekeeping systems. We collectively took our eye off the ball. We permitted the entry of unregulated workers into the industry, to overcome skill shortages and counter the trend of sub economic tendering.
In the present industry, profits are generally produced from the procurement of materials and VO’s. Remarkably labour costs, skilled or otherwise, on tendered work can be taken as a de facto loss leader.
Licence to Practise is a disruptive concept which carries an inconvenient, no pain no gain proposition for the industry. The system is specifically designed to put the brakes on the deterioration of the trade and restore benefit to those who serve and use it.
SparkSafe Licence to Practise (LtP) seeks to achieve this by reinstating and enhancing gatekeeping measures that favour responsible contractors and electrical installation workers. More of the same will not do.
Our vision is to achieve positive transformational change of the industry by equipping responsible Clients with an inclusive, online gatekeeping system that exclusively favours contractors who only employ Licenced electrical workers.
Present attempts at reform appear weak, uncoordinated, and reactionary. We also think the current pace is too slow. Negative conditions on the ground are running ahead of the established control measures. Consequently, the industry is losing and not gaining control over its difficulties. Skill shortages, low productivity levels and an aging workforce are problematic across the sector.
Our ethos is aimed at ensuring open access to an electrical Licence for all competent electrical workers. To achieve this, we accommodate the interests of workers who choose to possess an occupational skills card and those who do not. We rely on the national occupational standards together with approved modern and legacy qualifications to inform and shape our thinking around competency.
We encourage you to play your part in overcoming the barriers and weaknesses that presently hinder the development and perception of the industry. Many of our problems are self-inflicted and have been brought about by past complacencies and lack of opportunity to be heard. So, why not join in the conversation? We are open to hearing and learning from stakeholders who wish to rethink, reform and modernise the trade.