Advances in technology and new installation techniques means that modern electrical contractors must invest in regular in-depth training in order to remain competitive and to future-proof their businesses. This of course takes time, however, as Louise Smith, customer marketing manager at Schneider Electric explains, there are a number of resources on offer to make the process more manageable.

We only need to look back across the past decade to see how fast the electrical industry has diversified, and this rapid change has thrown up many challenges for contractors. When implemented properly, learning on the job can be a very effective way for contractors to keep up to speed with the latest issues. However, this method is typically undervalued – especially when it is informal.

Increasingly, those working hard to compete in tough markets are realising that their competitive advantages lie in the skills of their employees. So, in order to remain competitive, it is essential businesses keep up with the times and maintain awareness.  With government initiatives like the forthcoming Green Deal and growth in demand for smart energy saving solutions, it is clear that virtually every aspect of the electrical industry is evolving.

Two approaches to training

The current economic climate has resulted in a tough working environment for many and as a result, businesses are taking two very different approaches to training. For some personal spend has had to be reduced and training has fallen by the wayside as a consequence, yet for others, they see it as an opportunity to develop their workforces and to grow into new markets.

When viewed as part of a broader strategy, training can actually add to a company’s bottom line rather than eat away at it. What is key to remember here is that the greatest asset to any business is its people, and ensuring that they reach their full potential is not only good for them as individuals, but is also good for the business – potentially resulting in increased employee retention and improved production and profit.

Training also has a positive impact of an employee’s morale. Everyone responds well to encouragement and where a business is offering a personal growth plan, people are more likely to stay with a company and invest their time, energy and skills into that business. It can also be a great selling tool during the recruitment process. Apprentices and graduates are looking for companies which can help them to develop and grow in their chosen profession and the companies which offer development plans will be the first choice for the brightest applicants.

What’s available?

Providing the right training programme is crucial and there are many options available to businesses such as internal schemes with mentors, industry associations and government backed initiatives like the National Skills Academies. Manufacturers have also developed training programmes to help support both their own employees and the wider industry.

An example of this is Schneider Electric’s Energy University, a free online educational community to help anyone involved in energy management through unbiased, up to date energy efficiency information. The Energy University courses have also received the Construction CPD Certification Service approval so that anyone who completes a course can receive CPD points.

Recent statistics from the Energy University have shown that one of the most popular courses accessed through the site includes ‘Introduction to Lighting Basics Innovation’. When you consider that lighting accounts for around 20% of total electricity use in the UK, this is hardly surprising and presents a huge potential for energy reduction. For this reason, over the past few years, lighting control has become a popular energy saving option, helping users to drastically minimise lighting usage and control energy costs.

This is a clear example of how electrical contractors, by having the right knowledge of the most innovative technologies, can help customers to go greener, while in turn, ensuring a brighter future for their business.

It is also important to bear in mind accreditation from well known institutions and industry bodies. These are a good guide as they show how the programme, associated resources and processes have been recognised and approved by different industry bodies.

In an increasingly competitive market, it is vital to keep up to date with training on both products and industry issues to gain that edge and encourage staff retention. During these challenging times, the winners will be those who have extensive skill base knowledge.

Schneider Electric

T: 0870 608 8608