What we set out to achieve

30 September 2021

SparkSafe Licence to Practise (LtP) has been developed to improve quality and raise standards in the NI electrical contracting industry. With the help of responsible employers we introduced the first electrical Licence to Practise system in the UK construction industry. The main factors driving the local LtP initiative included sub economic tendering, alternative apprenticeship training schemes and the use of unskilled workers. Following a five-year consultation period with the local industry, we set out to develop a system that would

  • Incentivise adult worker upskilling and stimulate Level 3 apprentice recruitment
  • Provide independent assessment and authentication of worker identity and competency via an easy to use online system
  • Improve existing trust-based gatekeeping arrangements against the use of cowboy and rogue operators
  • Include a bespoke, compliance auditing service aimed at providing rigor and accountability
  • Recover the reputation and value proposition of the industry.

Where we are now

As an independent Charitable trust, we have developed a unique online system that helps Clients reduce or remove the risks, which arise from using unqualified, underqualified and self-designated electrical workers. Client organisations are now equipped to exercise greater discernment regarding the quality, standard and composition of the electrical contractor’s workforce. The system has become established by policy and is well embedded into contract conditions for all the main public procurement organisations in Northern Ireland.

What we have achieved

The industry’s LtP initiative is the first of its kind in the UK. We have produced a system that connects the competency of individual electrical workers on a project by project basis by licence type. This appears in the form of a unique online Workforce Composition Report providing the Client with visibility, transparency and reporting tools that deter fraud and encourage improved contract performance. Building rigor and accountability into the system was a priority from the outset. With this in mind, our team developed a bespoke, independent auditing service. By using our compliance auditing service, Clients can evaluate how well the supply chain is adhering to the specified quality standards and conditions of contract.

Positive Outcomes

Until the introduction of the Licence to Practice system, most public sector procurement organisations lacked a reliable independent resource to verify the competencies of the electrical contractor’s workforce. SparkSafe LtP solves this problem. SparkSafe provides the Client with a smart, simple and easy to use means by which they can discern and positively discriminate in favour of qualified workers and employers who want to do the right thing, the right way. To date, 1400 projects have been registered on the SparkSafe system.

We can report that during the period, circa 75% of NI electrical workers have registered with SparkSafe. Our team has carried out more than 700 independent compliance audits which are aimed at preventing the supply chain from resourcing Client projects with unlicensed electrical workers. We have evidence of positive correlation between Licence to Practise audits and the pro-active steps taken by the supply chain towards improvement in the composition and qualifications of project workers. One key objective of SparkSafe’s Electrical Licence to Practise initiative was to raise the standards and improve the quality of the industry through accredited electrical qualifications. We can report that during the period 32% of restricted electrical workers have undertaken accredited training courses to become Q.E. licence holders. This achievement must be viewed as a valuable step towards improving the performance, productivity and perception of the local electrical industry.