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25 Feb 2019

Solving the Electrical Skills Gap

The world of work is changing and the range and number of jobs and careers options available to young people in the UK is greater than ever before. However, with increasing numbers of school leavers choosing to move from compulsory education, through sixth form and to university, the number of apprentices choosing to learn a trade has decreased, and the electrical industry is noticing the effects.

The skills gap in the UK has been a widely-debated issue for some time. A recent report commissioned by PwC found that a ‘lack of skills’ is one of the top 10 threats perceived by CEOs globally. This shortage is being felt by businesses across the country, no matter how large or small, but for specialist trade industries, such as electrical engineering, lower numbers of budding apprentices is a worry.

There’s no denying that university education is extremely important and is the right choice for a large number of people, however the opportunities to be gained from learning a trade or a skill should not be overlooked. Across UK industry – not just in electrical engineering – the flow of apprentices is essential in building up the next generation of skilled tradesmen. However, for some, the prospect of undertaking a four-year apprenticeship is not an attractive option and more must be done to promote the benefits and opportunities which can be harnessed by choosing this route to learn a trade.

It all should begin in schools and more effort must be made by institutions themselves, their teaching bodies and local businesses to highlight the types of career which can be had through apprenticeships. Over the past 50 years, the idea of apprenticeships has changed and there is perhaps a feeling amongst school leavers that other routes into work offer more exciting prospects, however, this could not be further from the truth.

UK industry is at the forefront of global innovation and the expertise of British engineers is regularly called on for many largescale international projects. Even closer to home, engineering projects such as HS2, the Thames Tideway Tunnel and numerous large energy projects are proof of the varied types of work that young engineers may get the opportunity to work on in the future.

For a large number of people making their first steps in their career, money and progression will be a major consideration. Whereas there may be a perception that opting for the apprenticeship route delivers neither of those things, the reality is far different. Changing attitudes and the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in recent years mean that employers across the country pay comfortable wages, provide on-the-job training and support their apprentices through college as well. More  needs to be done to publicise that learning a trade and gaining a skill can unlock a whole host of interesting – and in many cases – high-earning careers.

However, there are some instances where engineering firms are limited in terms of what they can and cannot allow their apprentices to be exposed to. For instance, with the vast majority of building sites in the UK restrict access to anyone under 18, a school leaver starting their apprenticeship at 16 may not have the opportunity to fully experience some of the more practical elements of their training.  

Whilst health and safety is of paramount importance, a dash of common sense would be welcomed. Relaxing rules a little to allow more junior team members onto building sites, where appropriate, would go a long way in helping to showcase the more hands on elements of undertaking apprenticeships. This would in turn result in qualified apprentices with a large amount of practical knowledge already under their belts.

There is no single solution to solving the UK’s skills gap and particularly in the engineering industry, employers, training institutions and schools must work together to help promote the benefits that undertaking an apprenticeship can bring. Future career prospects are excellent and young people will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in some of the world’s most interesting engineering projects.

Tim McNeilly, managing director, I.C. Electrical.


Press contacts  

Nick Brown – nick@pearl-comms.com or 07792 285486  

Lucy Blackman – lucy@pearl-comms.com or 07792 202941


About I.C. Electrical  

I.C. Electrical Ltd are an electrical engineering contractor based centrally in the UK. Capable of providing a complete in-house electrical engineering solution incorporating the design, build and installation of Control panels, HV and LV electrical systems, Communication and Automation systems along with small power and lighting installations.  

Committed to working together with our clients from cost analysis and budget stage through to project completion. Tenders are prepared and delivered, such that our clients are completely assured of the solution we offer. Our aim is for you to have complete confidence in our abilities to deliver your project on time and in budget.  

Experienced in carrying out electrical installations throughout Europe, Africa and Scandinavia our management team are specialists in process and packaging applications with many projects worth of technical knowledge to call upon. In addition, we have developed a network of suppliers and service providers to enable us to facilitate your project whether it be in the UK or further afield.