May 04, 2015

Time to back young talent in the electrical industry


The electrical industry is facing somewhat of a dilemma with the rapid emergence of burgeoning technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT). A Voltimum survey of 5,000 wholesalers, contractors and manufacturers revealed that 75 percent of contractors had never bought a ‘smart’ device, indicating that more needs to be done to educate and prepare the industry for the IoT revolution. A vital component in ensuring that this transition into this new world is smooth, and safeguards the future of the industry, will be apprentices.

As the largest global community of over 400,000 electrical professionals, Voltimum has seen manufacturers, wholesalers and contractors all making huge efforts to secure apprentices, and this is clearly key in ensuring the longevity of the industry – and ensuring it doesn’t fall behind. Furthermore, the ever-increasing level of sophistication and complexity of products and solutions that are emerging makes training and continuous education imperative throughout the electrical industry.

Many companies have already pinpointed the need to nurture young talent and have subsequently kick-started their own apprenticeship schemes. For example, our partner Legrand Electric Limited introduced apprenticeships to its Consett manufacturing site in 2013, and has since recruited six people to its apprenticeship programme. Five of these recruits are currently in engineering roles within the programme, while one has successfully completed a warehouse apprenticeship programme and been recruited permanently by the company.

Building for the future

The apprenticeship programme has enabled Legrand to assess its current workforce and enact a succession planning model which helps it build for the future. This has allowed them to address any outstanding skills gaps and enhance links with the local community, including the nearby Derwentside College.

Legrand UK CEO Tony Greig told us: “We are very happy with the current apprenticeship programme we have in place. A common misconception about apprenticeship schemes is that they are difficult to implement, but we have had the fantastic support of Derwentside College, who are always available to offer further support and guidance if required. This is certainly an approach that we would recommend to other companies and believe this opportunity should be communicated to businesses.”

Legrand is now considering the possibility of extending its current apprenticeship programme to new recruits, as the majority of the current apprentices are due to finish their apprenticeships this year.

Whilst apprenticeships can undoubtedly benefit businesses, they can be costly. Larger organisations can fund part of the apprentice costs, however this can prove challenging for smaller businesses, meaning they miss out on the opportunities apprenticeships can bring.

Fortunately, schemes such as The Apprenticeship Grant for Employers of 16-to-24 year olds exist to offer support to businesses that would not otherwise be in a position to recruit apprentices, however more can still be done to support the electrical sector and ensure businesses to benefit from having their own conveyor belt of young, talented apprentices.


Training courses

Things are certainly moving in the right direction for apprenticeships in the UK generally, and it’s now time for the electrical industry to get up to speed.

In addition to apprenticeships, there are existing resources available help young electrical professionals looking to make their way in the industry. Voltimum’s eUniversity provides an abundance of training courses from our partner base, along with an archive of recorded technical webinars that are available at any time.

This type of online resource could be crucial in encouraging young people starting off their careers in the electrical industry and coaching them to become the future of our industry. Training is a vital cog of every engineer’s job, from those in the first week of the job through to veterans of the industry, and eUniversity helps engineers find the right course for them from across our partner base.

If the electrical industry is to truly thrive in the age of technologies such as the Internet of Things, then bringing on board young people that live and breathe these technologies will be vital. It’s high time that businesses across the industry learned from the examples set by the likes of Legrand and introduced apprenticeship programmes that will help them to build for the future.

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