A short circuit in the system?

Some four years ago, at the Select Committee meetings, we highlighted the worrying trend of very short courses being offered by training providers, claiming to be sufficient to train anyone to be an electrician in stupidly short time periods. Five day courses were being advertised by some well respected bodies, sold as 'Domestic Installer' courses suggesting that anyone could be qualified to install domestic electrical systems after 5 days! Some of these were rapidly removed by some of the more respectable bodies (but not before I had printed off the details) but many other providers have gradually climbed back on the bandwagon, providing courses of a few days to a few weeks.

It is worrying enough that any serious, respectable training provider could suggest that they can train anyone to be suitably competent electrician in such a short time, It is even more worrying when you see industry bodies allegedly supporting these providers and courses. Don't take my word for it, I have pasted below an excerpt from a provider with some surprising advocates!

"Why Take This Domestic Installer Course?"

The skills learnt on this course will enable you to carry out all kinds of installations in a domestic setting. Essentially you will be competent and safe to work on any kind of domestic project, be that a house re-wire, extension or simple jobs such as new sockets and light fittings. Under current building regulations anyone carrying out such work must be able to prove they are competent and safe to do so.

Once you have completed this course you will have the skills, knowledge and qualifications to enable you to find employment or work on a self employed basis as a domestic electrical installer. In fact the majority of people who train on this course eventually go on to set up as self employed domestic electricians. When you do train with us we can save you some money when you choose to register with the NICEIC or ELECSA who have agreed all XXXX XXXXXX students qualify for a £50 discount on their first years membership.

What can you officially do with these skills and qualifications?

This course will give you training, qualifications, skills and knowledge to enable you to register with scheme providers such as the NICEIC or ELECSA on their domestic installer

schemes and self certify your work. The scheme provider is likely to want to see that you have experience of real installations before or after your training. Alternatively you can complete an installer’s Part P certificate for building control for notifiable work. Building Control will take your competency and qualifications into account when certifying your installation.

This course is the ideal starting place for anyone (over the age of 18) looking to work as a domestic electrical installer but have little to no electrical installation experience or have been working in an allied trade. It covers all the core competencies required to start up in the industry and work on electrical installation in a residential property.

The provider is also an IET Centre of Excellence ! Yes, the Institute of Engineering and Technology, the same body that many of us look to for guidance and advice, and support through membership.

The course includes four City & Guilds qualifications according to the advertising, including the 2382-15, (17th Edition Regs), 2392-10 (inspection and testing) and 2393 (Building Regs). So what is my problem?

I have a real issue about the idea of 'Domestic Installers', again it is just my personal opinion, but I believe you are either an electrician, or you are not. Domestic Installer has created a kind of sub-class of electrical installer, based on the idea that wiring houses is easy and does not require the same level of skill and understanding and knowledge that the electricians installing in commercial and industrial premises have to possess. True enough, the basic concept of wiring circuits in houses seems fairly straight-forward to most of us, but just because an electrical circuit works, does not mean it is safe, as the photo above clearly shows!.

I firmly believe that we need to be especially careful when working in domestic properties, to ensure that proper design and installation is carefully carried out, and then fully inspected, tested and certified. Once we leave the premise, the installation is at the mercy of the occupier, to use or abuse as they see fit, and invariably there is no thought of maintenance such as quarterly testing of RCD's.

It is a sobering thought that since Part P came into force (2005) fires reported by London Fire Brigade as originating in consumer units have risen ten-fold from 25 to 250 every year! The last amendment to BS7671 addressed that by introducing the requirement for non-combustible consumer units. So the fire still happens but is contained in an enclosure! Is it just coincidence that this increase in fires has happened since the introduction of Part P, the competent person scheme and Domestic Installers? Who knows? Or is it more to do with the lack of legislation or professional status within the electrical industry which means that anyone can, with the minimum of knowledge, install electrical installations, especially in domestic premises.

Whatever the reasons, I am a little disappointed to see some of the industry bodies such as the IET, NICEIC, and ELECSA apparently supporting the idea of these short courses? I cannot think why they would allow themselves to be associated with them? The training providers are a business and as such their priority is to sell training, so I do not particularly blame them but the industry has a responsibility to encourage correct and ethical practice.

Many electricians I know spent three or four years training for their basic qualification, and then spent more time and money on inspection and testing courses, regulations, and other CPD. That level of knowledge and understanding of electrical theory cannot be gained in a few weeks! And there is no way that anybody completing these shorter courses should be compared equally with properly trained and time served electricians.

What was that you were asking? How long is the course described above? 18 days, all in!

Stay safe people.

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