A lack of recognised standards for industry competence is hindering electricians’ ability and desire to progress their career, according to research published today.

Electrician Technician Registration in the UK studied electricians’ perceptions of their professionalism and found confusion around what constitutes ‘competence’ and which of the many industry bodies could be called upon for careers guidance.

Participants also believed that the wide array of electrical certifications and qualifications creates considerable difficulty in deciding which routes of study to undertake to lead to professional recognition.

It was felt by the majority interviewed that without a visible benefit to pursuing additional professional qualifications, there is virtually no reason for an electrician to aspire towards professional registration awards and recognition such as Engineering Technician.

The research was commissioned by the Technical Advisory Panel and Steering Group (TAPS) – a collaboration of industry bodies comprising the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), the Engineering Council, the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA), the Joint Industry Board (JIB), Unite the Union and SummitSkills. The Gatsby Charitable Foundation sponsored the project.

To address the disconnect and help electricians raise and recognise their professionalism, the TAPS partnership is now acting on key recommendations arising from the research, including:

• Developing career pathways to enable professional recognition for electricians to progress to Engineering Technician.

• Adopting a ‘one body’ consistent approach to the provision of advice nationally with an electrician technician membership package.

• Mapping the Engineering Technician professional standards to the established industry competence card schemes, NVQs and apprenticeship frameworks.

• Promoting the benefits of gaining Engineering Technician recognition to support career progression.

“Electricians deserve full recognition for the productive role they play in the industry,” said Richard Clarke, national apprenticeship officer at Unite.

“This joint study importantly reflects the voice of qualified electricians – the high number that applied to participate demonstrates they want the proper recognition they deserve. Unite looks forward to working with our partners on the report’s findings and enabling bone-fide electricians to get improved status and better recognition of their skills through professional registration, improved training and development opportunities.”

Working jointly as the TAPS group will allow the project partners to generate a stronger collective impact for the good of the industry. “With so many different industry organisations aligned, this project offers a major opportunity to promote professional standards and to achieve clear recognition for all professional electricians,” said Michelle Richmond, director of Membership & Professional Development at the IET.

“This important study demonstrates how much progress the industry can make when its institutions work together collaboratively,” added Steve Brawley, chief executive of the Joint Industry Board. “The JIB is pleased to participate and we now look forward to playing our part in implementing the recommendations arising from the research.”

The findings of the research align with existing industry feedback, with both the Engineering Council and SummitSkills aware of issues or interest in technician status.

“We welcome this report which endorses our own research into Technician Registration and Membership,” said Jon Prichard, chief executive of the Engineering Council. “The report highlights the need for clarity to be brought to the sector, both for the benefit of electricians themselves as well as the clients and consumers who seek simple, recognisable competence assurance.”

Keith Marshall OBE, chief executive of SummitSkills, said, “This research report comes at just the right time, when there is increased interest in technicians, and confirms what we have been hearing from electricians for some time. The issues identified in the report are important to the future success of our electrotechnical industry and its ability to tap into the talent and potential of those working within it.”