This year NICEIC and ELECSA, in partnership with Scolmore Group, will be running an Electrical Apprentice of the Year competition. PE’s Daniel Tovey travelled to Certsure HQ to ﬁnd out more.
Apprenticeships are a vital means of maintaining skills standards in the electrical trade and I would applaud any initiative that sets out to encourage more bright, young people into the industry. NICEIC and ELECSA’s launch of an ‘Electrical Apprentice of the Year’ competition back in December was a great example of an industry association taking action to ensure that the abilities of talented individuals are nurtured and the next generation of trade professionals are encouraged to develop their skills.
The competition, which recognises the talents of the brightest electrical students in the UK, is open to all Level 3 students.
Each entrant will be asked to take part in a series of different challenges with the ﬁnal eight contestants taking part in a Grand Final at partner sponsor Click Scolmore’s headquarters in Tamworth.
The competition is split into different stages. The ﬁrst stage was an online exam, throughout December and January 2016, comprising of a variety of questions relating to electrical installations. The top 20% performing students from that stage will go on to the second stage of the contest this month – a practical hour and a half exam held at one of seven locations across the UK.
The practical sessions will be marked by NICEIC and ELECSA’s Tony Cable and Darren Staniforth with the top eight making it through to the Grand Final.
“The top 20% performing students from that stage will go on to the second stage of the contest this month – a practical hour and a half exam held at one of seven locations across the UK.”
The grand ﬁnal will take place in the summer of 2016. The eight ﬁnalists will be expected to complete several practical tests and undergo a short interview with Tony and Darren before the winner of the ﬁrst ever NICEIC and ELECSA Electrical Apprentice of the Year is announced at a special awards event to be held at the Belfry Golf Resort in Warwickshire that evening.
There are a host of prizes up for grabs with the eventual winner getting a £2,000 holiday voucher which can be spent on a trip of their choice. There is a £500 holiday voucher for the runner-up and each ﬁnalist will also receive an iPad.
I travelled to Certsure HQ to chat to some of the key people involved in setting up the competition to ﬁnd out more.
Senior Marketing Manager, Julie Blake
How did the idea for an Apprentice Competition come about?
“We wanted to recognise the talents of electrical apprentices and acknowledge all the good they do.
Apprenticeships make industries more effective, productive and competitive by addressing the skills gap directly. They are the proven way to train the workforce of the future.
As one of the most recognised names in the industry we have a responsibility to take the lead and ensure we are doing all we can to work with, encourage and promote apprentices.”
How has the response been to the competition?
“We have had an amazing response to the competition. Over 300 apprentices entered the ﬁrst stage of the competition. The apprentices are keen to prove they know their stuff. We can’t wait for the Grand Final.”
CEO, Emma Clancy
The whole construction industry is facing an alarming skills shortage. How important is it for industry bodies like NICEIC and ELECSA to support apprentices?
“The construction and engineering sectors are growing and now offering more opportunities for skilled workers. There is a pressing need to ﬁll the skills gap in certain sectors – one of which is qualiﬁed electricians.
Certsure represents more than 34,000 ﬁrms in the electrical industry and many of our registrants tell us they ﬁnd it difficult to ﬁnd the right type of apprentice or qualiﬁed workers that will help them grow their business. Taking on an apprentice requires a lot of investment in terms of time and cost.
For the average small/medium business this is not always possible. They require someone who is ready to start there and then and we must do all we can to ensure the industry churns out not just enough apprentices but also those with the right skills and competencies to ensure standards are maintained.”
Is NICEIC and ELECSA running any other initiatives that encourage more skilled workers into the electrical industry?
“In addition to our Apprentice competition we also run our very successful Jobs for the Girls campaign which aims to encourage more women into the industry. The electrical sector is severely under-represented by women with estimates suggesting that less than one in a thousand electricians is female.
With the industry facing a huge skills shortage in the future we cannot aﬀord to dismiss 50% of the workforce who it has been proven are well capable of carrying out the work.”
Technical Development Manager, Darren Staniforth
Has supporting apprentices always been an important topic for you?
“I like to see people do well and improve themselves. I am passionate about helping others achieve their goal of becoming an electrician. It’s something that has followed me from my time as a college tutor. After I ﬁnished my time at college I was sure I wanted to give a bit back to the industry if the opportunity presented itself. Moving from the college to Certsure has allowed me to continue my support for apprentices but from a different angle.”
To what extent does the future of the industry depend on encouraging apprentices?
“Some recent stats have suggested out of the 1,000,000 apprenticeships created last year less than 7,000 of them were in the construction industry. This has got to be worrying news for our industry.
We need to invest in the future workforce in new ways and understand why school leavers want to do other professions instead of joining an industry that can support them through their adult life. If we don’t we will see an aging electrical workforce unable to carry out the major projects this country is preparing to take on in the future.
I believe we should change the way an apprentice completes their studies. The old model of going to a college on a day release or block programme over a number of years is ok but it doesn’t necessarily take account of the individual abilities. We should have training programs that let apprentices learn on the job and at a pace to suit them instead of being put into classes that have very little or no ﬂexibility from the tutors notes for that day. Other countries have looked at the way they use apprenticeships and I believe we should do the same too.”
How do you feel about taking a lead role in the NICEIC and ELECSA Apprenticeship competition?
“I’m very proud to be given the opportunity to work on this project. We are only at the start of this year’s competition and already we are seeing large numbers of apprentices apply to take part. We can see some really good results from our ﬁrst stage. It’s going to be really interesting to see how many apprentices believe they have the skills to make it to the ﬁnal.”