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Former Student Invents the Speedy Sparky!

Posted by Michaela Elcoat on 21st October 2016


We recently came across a new interesting product when browsing through a trade website and were excited to find out more about it. After a little digging, we found out the new creation on the scene, Speedy Sparky, was actually invented by one of our former students Barry Shaw from Hemel Hempstead!

We contacted Barry to find out more about his product, what inspired him to create it and how Trade Skills 4U helped him.

Barry explains the idea of the Speedy Sparky first came about in 2011 when he was completing the first-fix on a run of three-storey town houses. He realised he would be duplicating work across all the properties and knew there was a way he could speed the process up. That was when he had a lightning bolt moment, he carefully thought of a new tool that would comply with regulations and help his workflow and speed on site.

That evening after work, he decided to create a makeshift stencil that would pinpoint and mark up where each socket would go, ensuring they were level and conformed to BS7671 and Building Regulations Part M.   

The next day, he took his new homemade tool into work and finished his job in no time. He claims the new piece of equipment sped up his work five-fold and was completed to a high standard. Barry admitted his first proto-type needed some extra thought and attention with regards to the design so decided to flatten the model and incorporate a spirit level for extra accuracy.

The overall Speedy Sparky design now consists of:

Tough, lightweight plastic with structural ribbing on the back

30°angle markings to clearly position your sockets

40°angle markings for drilling holes

Spirit level to ensure precision

The tool can be used on various surfaces including; plasterboard and worktops which Barry demonstrates in his video below:

So how did Barry go from being a complete novice to an inventor?

Barry had a few different roles before becoming an electrician including, graphic designer and a model promotional staffing agency owner. After doing these jobs for several years he decided he wanted a reliable income, and thought to himself he had never come across a tradesman who struggled financially so he decided to retrain as an electrician.

He found Trade Skills 4U and initially did the C&G 2330 Level 2 and 3 in 2009 (now C&G 2365). Since then Barry has completed the Inspection and Testing courses as well as Commercial Solar PV installation too.

Since finishing his initial training he has worked with a few electrical training companies from building firms to solar installation. It was within the first 5 months of finishing the training he came up with the Speedy Sparky invention.

Barry believes his time at Trade Skills 4U helped him develop the problem solving knowledge and thought processing techniques to enable him to create the Speedy Sparky product.

Here at Trade Skills 4U we are really impressed with Barry and his product, it's always great to hear back from students who have achieved success once they have finished their qualifications.

We wish you the best of luck for the future Barry! 

Categories: ex student, speedy sparky, inventor

Case Study - Luke Lowson

Posted by Michaela Elcoat on 12th October 2016


We caught up with Luke to see what he is up to now he has completed some qualifications with us at the Gatwick training centre. Luke is one of the youngest students we have had train through the company, he completed his first qualification in back in 2013 and has been coming back for numerous qualifications since.

How did you hear about Trade Skills 4U? 

My parents told me Trade Skills 4U were having a taster day for young people who were interested in electrical careers. As I wasn’t sure about my career at the time I thought I’d give it a go to see if I enjoyed the course as well as find out more about how to become an electrician.

Which courses are you studying and when did you take them?

C&G 2365 Diploma course and 17th Edition which I finished about four years ago; since then I have been back to do a PAT testing courses which my current employer has paid for.

How are you finding the courses?

Really good, I really enjoy the classes. The tutors are really helpful in breaking things down in a way that I can understand. I’ve always found the maths slightly difficult, however the more I’ve practised the easier it’s getting. One way I’ve overcome the maths barrier is applying the maths to a practical situation. For some reason this helped me understand how maths is used by an electrician.  

What did you most enjoy about the course? 

I really enjoyed learning the science behind how electrics works. The practical’s were also great because it broke the day up between theory and practical.

Have you found employment since taking the course and who is it through?

Before the course I tried to find some hands-on experience, so I helped on the electrical team at Chessington World of Adventures. Then after enrolling on the course I spent about eight months self-employed. More recently I have started working for Fishers Farm Park as a maintenance electrician.

What made you choose Trade Skills 4U?

The taster day really swayed it for me. The tutors were friendly and approachable, it made me realise this is really what I want to do as a career.

What were your initial goals when training for Trade Skills 4U?

To learn about the electrical trade and start a career.


Would you recommend Trade Skills 4U?

Yes definitely. I keep coming back to do the courses and each time I’ve had the best experience so they must be doing something right!


We think it’s great Luke has managed to find employment in the electrical industry at such a young age. Since coming to the taster day a few years back, he has been dedicated to achieving his goals through hard work and with a genuine interest for the trade.

We wish you the best of luck Luke.


Categories: case study

Have you heard of the Calcard?

Posted by Michaela Elcoat on 28th September 2016

The Calcard was introduced in September 2009 to regularly check the accuracy of an electricians multi-functional test instrument. The card is useful for those working on electrical equipment and installations where inspecting and testing is performed on a regular basis.

Its approval by the NICEIC and NAPIT just to name a few, means electricians can test up to five insulation resistance values themselves including: 0.5MΩ, 1MΩ, 2MΩ, 10MΩ and 20MΩ, which are all tested to 500V. It can also be used to verify five continuity tests including; 0.25Ω, 0.5Ω, 1Ω, 2Ω and 5Ω.

It’s recommended these tests are performed once a month and figures are recorded for your own reassurance. As this card has a three year guarantee it is accepted between formal calibration periods of the test instrument. The periodic check results should be kept for a minimum period of three years.


The Calcard is a great size, around the same as a credit card. It also displays the readings you should be seeing when you test the meter and probes. It’s made from laminated glass and fibre which ensures it doesn’t break or bend when carrying it around with you. The pads shown below enable you to test the probes without removing the tips from instrument probes, again making it easier to perform your monthly tests. It also comes with a unique serial number, identifying it to your meter. 

Although the Calcard has been highly recommended and considered value for money by electrical bodies, it will only confirm resistances in respect of low ohms reading testing and insulation resistance testing. The full calibration tests will still need to be conducted annually by your local electrical provider.

So the question is, are they worth the money and do they add value? There’s been mixed reviews on forums about Calcards and if people find them useful or not. Theiet.org forum have praised the Calcard for:

Ease of use

The prompt it gives to check the meter monthly

Providing peace of mind to those who are concerned for the accuracy of their meters

Those who purchased the card on tester.co.uk have also responded positively, saying the card provides accurate readings and state it’s fit for purpose.

Others have argued the Calcard isn’t worth the money, users from the Electricians Forum have said:

The 12 month calibration test covers all basis

They don’t believe the Calcard extends the life of the multi-functional meter as stated

Due to not being able to test all functions means it’s pointless, and electricians should just wait for the 12 month annual calibration test.

The only benefit they believe the Calcard has is if you happen to drop your meter and you’re concerned about its post accuracy, some also say if the temperature can effect the readings for example if a metre has been left in a cold or hot place overnight.

So there’s slightly mixed reviews regarding the Calcard, but we believe it does have many uses, especially if you are newly qualified and want to ensure your meter always produces the correct readings. It’s also important to consider why companies including; NICEIC, IET, NAPIT and ECA are promoting the benefits of the card if they didn’t believe it was worthwhile.

We think it’s a great product to invest in, the affordability combined with the verification of the meter and probes definitely means it’s worthwhile for an electrician. If you would like to order a Calcard click here

Categories: electrician, calcard, product review, multi-function tester

Trade Apprenticeships on the Rise. How Does Each Trade Compare?

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 23rd September 2016

The number of people registering to become an electrical apprentice is increasing each year due to the government actively investing and promoting apprenticeships across the UK. When we look at the data below we can see a significant increase over the last year and data for 2016 which is yeat to be finalised suggest this will incre\ase further. 

So what happened in 2008?

Electrical apprenticeships increased to a peak of 6520 starts in 2008. The increase was driven by a booming construction sector. In order to complete an apprenticeship it is essential to have a job or apprenticeship placement. As such apprenticeships can be a good indicator of the strength of an industry and it’s employment prospects.

So when the crash happened in 2007 we saw overall starts for electrical apprenticeships decline in the following years. They have been a little up and down since then but have finally hit their stride over the last couple of years getting close to pre-2007 levels. Data for the period August 2015 - April 2016 is still to be completed but total starts for that period is almost equal to the year before already with 5480 apprentices starting. 

Whats going to happen in coming years?

Well there is a major shift coming in the next few years. Apprenticeships as a whole are set to become more common across all industries. The reason for this is that the government is going to be enforcing an apprenticeship levy on all employers who have a wage bill of £2M or more. This means that those employers will have to spend 0.5% of their wage bill on apprentices. If they don’t that money will get paid into a pot and then be used to facilitate more apprenticeships. Essentially it will be a use or lose it approach so most employers are likely to use it.

We expect that overall apprenticeships will rise but also there will be an increase in demand for mature apprentices who can enter the industry. This also will mean an increase in demand for students who have self-funded their training and maybe need an employer to sponsor an NVQ.

How are other trades performing?

It’s no surprise that apart from general construction skills plumbing comes second in terms of the number of apprenticeship starts over the last few years. We can also see a similar pattern in terms of a peak in 2007 and then a lull before things start to improve in the last few years.

Why it makes sense to hire an apprentice?

The current government and private education sectors have recently been encouraging employers to consider taking on apprentices because they’re generally easier to train and mould and are also cost-effective for the business. Another added benefit which GOV.UK recently reported is that 89% of employers who hired an apprentice saw their business improve the quality of their product or service.

There’s also many long term benefits for employers and apprentices, as GOV.UK also published statistics stating that 90% of apprentices will stay in employment with 71% staying with the same employer.

What’s clear is that apprenticeships and trade based careers are seeing a resurgence of interest over the last few years. With the rise in university tuition fees and the ability to get earning much quicker in many trades it is no surprise to see a large number of younger and older students choosing to ditch the books and pick up the tools.



Categories: apprenticeships

Funny Apprentice Stories

Posted by Michaela Elcoat on 5th September 2016


We asked people to send in their funny apprentice stories for a chance to win a Megger Multimeter courtesy of YESSS Electrical.

Our winner was Brett Dawkins who made a mistake during one of his first jobs. Well done Brett, let’s hope you learnt from this!

When I was an apprentice I was left alone to finish off connecting the new kitchen sockets because the electrician's partner had gone into labour. I cross connected the lives and the earths on a fused spur which was feeding the pump to the customer's outside fish pond. Luckily, the fish were at the same potential as the water and didn't fry, but the lady who lived there couldn't work out why she was getting a crack up her arm every time she fed the fish! Flowers and chocolates were sent her way.

We also researched other stories to give you a giggle!

Wake Up Call

I was scheduled to work on a Saturday, the electrician and the foreman came to pick me up at 6am to work in London somewhere, I did not know what time it was (or even what day).

On the Monday he said to me I was outside your house beeping the horn, everyone on your street woke up, where were you?

I said my bedroom was at the back of the house.

You only wake up late once, now it does not matter what time I need to be at work, I always get there early!

A Lesson Learnt!

On one of my first jobs as a trainee I had to change a light switch in the kitchen where the board was, I thought I'd do the clever thing and check that the circuit I was preparing to work on was off. When I looked at the breaker it was on green, obviously I thought that this meant on so I flipped it over to the red, thinking that meant off, just like my telly or something, then I proceeded to remove the switch and started twisting the live and the neutral simultaneously with each hand and got a nasty belt! Learnt my lesson that day.

Take Caution

My electrical team was finishing a job on a bank refit, along with the ceiling fixers who were packing up they're tools. Meanwhile, our apprentice was wobbling on the top step of the smallest pair on site, unscrews a temporary fitting off the slab above the ceiling, when he removes the last screw it pulled him off balance and he belly flopped onto the ceiling grid bringing down 20% of it!

I was laughing until the ceiling lads calmed down!

We found this story was the funniest, but was not our winner.

When I was an electrician I had a naive apprentice. I told him to go to the wholesaler and gave him a list. In the middle of the list I wrote "1 set of fallopian tubes" after a plumber mate of mine had done the same thing to his apprentice.

Off he went to the wholesaler, meanwhile I had told pretty much everyone on the building site we were working at what I had written.

About 30 minutes later he came back with two bags full of gear and him shaking his head. Most of the building site had stopped to see what he had to say.

I said "what’s wrong?" He replied: "well I asked for the F&*%ing fallopian tubes, didn’t I"

I said "Yeah did they have any?"

He says "The guy behind the counter said they had none in stock, but a lady upstairs may have some but he was unsure if they were for sale!"


We hoped you liked the stories, if you have any you would like to share visit our Facebook page

Categories: apprenticeship, funny stories, electrical training

Gate Safe introduce new MOT service

Posted by Michaela Elcoat on 19th August 2016


Gate Safe, the charity that originally started the campaign toward safer automated gates, has recently launched a ‘Gate Safe MOT’ initiative. The drive aims to create more awareness of correct installation and the on-going maintenance of the gates within people’s home. The annual MOT also allows customers and members of the public to recognise a safe gate with the newly designed sticker that will be prominently displayed near or on the gate.

We spoke to Gate Safe founder Richard Jackson about why they have introduced the MOT service and how electricians can get involved.

What were the reasons behind the MOT launch?

We have wanted to introduce gate safety awareness since 2010 but didn’t have enough people to follow through with the project. Since then, we have been working hard to develop the programme and have over 750 people qualified to undertake a gatesafe MOT across the UK.

What does the MOT mean?

The MOT enables gate installers, electricians, house owners and members of the public to have a clear indication that the gate is safe. By displaying the new sticker that identifies the month and year of issue to gate users they will know the device has had the adequate safety checks or is overdue a service or maintenance visit.

How is this going to benefit electricians?

It will benefit electricians as they can add another string to their bow. They can attend gate safety training which we hold across the UK every other month, early bird bookers will receive the price for £195. Whilst on the training, electricians will gain a level of understanding of how to install an electric gate safely taking into consideration the foundation and the wiring.

Once the training is complete, electricians will be eligible to conduct an MOT within the home. They are also given a manual to take away as reference as we know this isn’t something they would install or check on a daily basis!

We here at Trade Skills 4U, believe this is a great certification to possess. We know it’s rare for an electrician to be asked to install an automated gate but we need to remember that these gates can pose a serious danger to customers when installed incorrectly. By understanding how to install and conduct an annual MOT legally and correctly will limit the amount of accidents that occur with electric gates. The certificate will also protect an electrician if anything went wrong, in the past, many electricians have been taken to court over incorrectly fitted gates resulting in hefty fines. The MOT will protect customers as well as the electrician.

To find out how sign up to a Gate Safe MOT course click here.

Categories: electrician, gatesafe, automated gates, electrical gates

Halogen Ban 1st September 2016 - What You Need To Know

Posted by Michaela Elcoat on 11th August 2016

As part of the European energy saving scheme, the European Commission (EC) has been voting on when to ban halogen light bulbs in favour of CFL bulbs and LED’s.

The initial vote was to start the ban in September 2016, but recently there has been conflicting information regarding when the ban will take effect. The EC set the September 2016 date back in 2009, giving the industry a 7 year preparation time to gradually phase out the use of halogen light bulbs in households whilst also enabling suppliers to sell halogen stock.  However, there is also conflicting news indicating the ban will be postponed until 2018. 

So which date is it?

Well the answer is both are right and that it depends on which type of halogen bulb you are looking at. 

As a simple rule directional halogen reflector lamps given a D rating (also known as GU10 lamps) will be phased out on the 1st September 2016

The ban on on non-directional halogen lamps has been pushed back and is currently scheduled for 1st September 2018.

The ban on non directional lamps has been pushed back to September in 2018 due to the industry not being ready to produce the adequate amount of LED’s that will be demanded by consumers. The industry also argued the quality of LED’s would not be developed in time for the 2016 ban, as required features such as dimming, multi-directional light-beam and good colour rendering would not be ready for consumers at an affordable price.

Why are halogen bulbs being phased out?

Halogen bulb consumption is 5 times higher than its rival the eco-friendly LED bulb. Many Halogen bulbs fall under the energy efficient class D which has resulted in the EU phasing the energy guzzling bulb out. There is also the cost of running halogen bulbs against LED’s and the amount of Co2 produced that has prompted the EC to consider the best course of action.

Below is a comparison of the halogens and LED's

Bulb Type5W LED50W Halogen
kWh PY 9.1391.25
Cost electricity PY£1.37£13.69

Although halogen bulbs are generally cheaper to purchase, switching to an LED or CFL bulb would last the household owner for a longer duration, cost them less in electricity bills and will produce less Co2 throughout the year.

Clearly LED’s are winning in the energy saving department, but there has been some complaints from users. Including the amount of time it takes to reach full brightness, the white clinical colour compared to the warm glow of halogen and the light quality that LED’s emit.

Why the delay?

The delay, some suggest it’s down to giving manufacturing companies time to produce high value creation for the market whilst ensuring there are employment opportunities. It’s predicted there will be 6,800 job losses if the halogen policy passes; gradually phasing the ban can help overcome some of the negative impacts.

What does this mean for electricians?

It’s important for electricians to start communicating the new changes to customers and explain why opting for the slightly more expensive LED will save them time and money in the long-run. It would be a handy idea for electricians to keep up to date with the policy changes as companies continue to develop better quality, cost-effective and a larger variety of LED’s. Obviously moving forwards it will be important to make sure that you are not fitting the banned directional D rated lamps.

Categories: electrician, light design, policy

Warrington Apprenticeship Taster Week

Posted by Michaela Elcoat on 2nd August 2016

Are you looking to start out as an electricians mate or apprentice? Not sure if it is the right career for you? Well to help we are hosting our first free apprenticeship taster event at the brand new Warrington training centre. The training week will take place between the 10th and 14th October. For more information visit this page.

We understand that choosing the right career path can be difficult and committing to a 3 year apprenticeship can be daunting if you’re not 100% sure. That’s why we are giving 16 – 19 year olds the opportunity to get a real feel for the electrical industry and the training to expect on an apprenticeship or electrical training course.

The course will run from Monday 10th – Friday 14th October. 

Throughout the week you will learn:

• Background to electrical contracting

• Different career paths

• The basics to electrical science

• Basic health and safety regulations

• Basic wiring regulations

• Hands on electrical installation skills on a domestic level

• Take part in a practical workshop

Our tutors will provide theory work as well as give individuals the chance to try their hand at some basic installation. You will also be given background information to electrical contracting, advised on the different ways into the industry and given a brief overview of electrical science. At the end of the week individuals should have a clearer idea of whether or not a career in electrics is for them.

For more information on the taster week contact a course advisor on 01293 529 777. Places are available to those aged between 16 – 21 years old. Spaces are limited so book early to avoid disappointment.  

Categories: apprentice, electricians, electrical training, apprenticeships

Why Soldiers Make Great Sparkies

Posted by Michaela Elcoat on 11th July 2016

At Trade Skills 4 U we believe those from the forces possess the best characteristics to work as an electrician. As the company is ELC registered, service men and women can use enhanced learning credits towards any of our resettlement courses. Providing them the help they need to start a new career.

Traits between an electrician and soldiers are very similar including; discipline, patience and the ability to problem solve. Combine this with the UK’s current need for qualified electricians, there’s no better time to consider a long and fruitful career in electrical field.

They’re disciplined

Electricians have to follow a logical structure when it comes to installation, inspection and testing. There’s also policies and regulations to adhere to as well as a pattern and sequence that need to be undertaken on each job particularly when inspecting and testing. Soldiers are also excellent listeners and have been trained to follow instructions to the hilt.

They don’t mind hard graft

Soldiers are keen and committed to taking on a challenge and completing a job so it’s finished on time. They are used to both physical and mental hard work, which sets them in good stead to get a job done- big or small.

They don’t mind physical labour

Being an electrician is a hands on job, and can be physically demanding at times in a domestic or commercial setting. Coming from an Army background can be hugely beneficial when entering the electrical trade. Soldiers are at the peak of their physical fitness where stamina is part and parcel of the job. Therefore, they are the perfect candidate to take on a hands-on job.

They like to use brains and brawn

Completing an electrical job requires a combination of strategy building, design work, problem solving and manual labour. Being part of the forces requires soldiers to use their brain to retain information and think quickly. Some electrical jobs can be complicated but with the skillset of a soldier a hard task can be finished competently.

They are honest and usually true to their word

Everyone has heard of the horror stories about tradesman not being completely honest. Soldiers possess a sense of integrity and loyalty. Not only that they are used to following a code of behaviour which sets them apart from the average tradesman and makes them standout as the right man for the job.

They often have a great network of contacts

Being part of a troop and creating a close bond with those you work with in the army has many benefits when a soldier is out of the forces. They will generally have a wide network of connections which can be useful when either calling for additional help or planning a project that requires different disciplines.

They are organised, clean and tidy

There’s nothing better than an electrician who tidies up after them self! Strict regimes and structure are embedded into those who enter the forces from day one. Meaning there should be no mess during or after a job.

There’s many different courses that those from the forces can consider. A C&G 2365 will enable you to work in commercial, domestic and industrial settings, whereas the Bronze and Silver packages will give you the skillset and qualifications necessary to undertake domestic wiring. The qualifications are flexible which means some courses can be split into 4 parts at 1 week intervals (Bronze) that can be adapted to suit your needs. Whilst the 2365 is 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off. This means if you are working whilst undertaking the qualification it gives you the option of working part time. You can also come back and complete elements of the qualification at a time that suits you.

Trade Skills 4 U is very supportive of those who have served in the forces. We want to help them succeed in any way we can which is why we offer a Forgotten Heroes bursary scheme. We offer free training in our centre every week for someone who has been recently injured in military conflicts or to one of our many Forgotten Heroes who are struggling to find their feet following their discharge from the armed forces. To find out how to access the courses speak to a member of the team today 01293 529 777 or click here for resettlement courses or the Forgotten Heroes Scheme.

Categories: electrical, training, qualifications, gatwick, help for heroes, warrington

Top Electrical Exam Techniques

Posted by Michaela Elcoat on 23rd June 2016

Exam Cloud

Love them or hate them, you will have to take an exam at some point throughout your electrical qualification.

At Trade Skills 4 U, we understand that some people find tests stressful and nerve racking. Using effective techniques can go a long way. Try to plan, prepare and take the right approaches on board to help limit the anxiety you feel before undertaking an exam to help you achieve top marks.

Take a look at the handy tips listed:

Theory Exams:

Read the question

Read the question more than once to understand what the examination requires of you.

Look out for negative and double negative questions. You will have a choice of four answers giving 25% chance of getting it right.

Two answers are probably completely wrong, with one answer nearly correct and one answer correct. This increases you chance of a correct answer to 50%.

A good calculated guess is better than no answer at all, and may gain you valuable points.

Flag the question

You also have the opportunity to flag a question and come back to it at a later time.

If you’re still unsure of the answer, make a guess, select your guess AND flag it. You may have answered it correctly and possible marks gained are better than no marks at all.

Don’t dwell on a possible answer, save time to answer the questions you know.

Double Check

On completion of the exam go back and check your flagged answers, a later question may have given clues to answer a previous question correctly.

Use your time wisely. If you have the time check all your answers.

Practical Assessments:

Know the correct procedure for single and three phase isolation and practice it to perfection, showing the assessor you can work safe

Look and research at what is required of you so you can plan ahead. Building an assessment will also require its Inspection and Test

Build the assessment neat and correct, to show professionalism

Before performing Inspection and Testing, check the condition of the leads and probes. Are they GS38 compliant?

(Don’t forget to null the leads!)

Before doing the first insulation resistance test, prove the meter is working OK. Sort out the test leads with crocodile clips, press the test button and confirm you are getting a 0.00 MΩ reading

Show the assessor you know your stuff

Check your readings and confirm to yourself, they are as expected. Don’t be frightened of querying test results, it may be a faulty circuit?

Complete any assessment including paperwork and testing paperwork neatly and as professionally as possible

One of the best tips we can probably give is- remember, keep cool, calm and collective and don’t let your nerves get the better of you!

When the exam is over, don’t obsess with what you could’ve done. Relax and praise yourself for doing the exam in the first place.

Or failing that, head to the pub for a pint!

Good luck everyone!


Categories: test, exams, electrical exams, qualification