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Industry Training Charity Announces AM2 Hints and Tips

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 29th January 2013

The well known electrical industry training charity National Electrotechnical Training (NET) has published a series of hints and tips designed to help candidates pass the essential AM2 examination. The AM2 assessment is the final practical assessment undertaken by electrical trainees. Typically the assessment is taken to obtain a C&G 2357, 2365, 2330, EAL Electricians Diploma, or NVQ qualification.

The focus is on ensuring candidates are familiar with the BS7671 Wiring Regulations and how the AM2 examination ensures that candidates show the correct understanding of interpreting the Regulations correctly and demonstrating their practical competence.

Although the specifics of each exam are a closely guarded secret, there are several options available to candidates which they can use to give themselves the best possible chance of passing first time. Naturally, the exam exists to ensure that those who pass it are capable of working as a fully qualified electrician unsupervised.

It goes without saying that the quality of training and preparation is key to success at the AM2 examination. Candidates who are confident of the subject material will have nothing to worry about. A quality training course to prepare candidates to take and pass the AM2 examination will ensure that key requirements are taken care of. Such key requirements are the ability to understand building regulations (not just Part P) as well as the ability to use the BS7671 Wiring Regulations, The On-Site Guide and the IET Guidance Note 3. A whole theoretical section of the AM2 examination is dedicated to this literature so it is essential to understand and be confident in the use of regulation books and materials.

Last year, 40% of AM2 candidates passed first time. Those results showed strong passes of over 90%. The candidates that didn’t pass were not confident in key tasks such as the theory section we have discussed above as well as safe isolation which is a basic fundamental electrical installation requirement. One of the NETS tips and one which the team here at Trade Skills 4U would certainly recommend is to use the AM2 self assessment check list and AM2 common errors guide as revision tools. The common errors guide describe how many essential marks are often lost in the AM2 examination so do ensure you are familiar with all the literature and use the self assessment check list to decide if YOU feel you are ready. There is no point trying to sit an AM2 examination without the correct preparation. It is a terrible feeling not to pass and it is far better to sit at a later date with confidence. The chances of having to re-sit the AM2 is far less if you act of your areas of weakness beforehand.

The long and short of it is there is no quick or easy way out of this examination. It is there to ensure that electricians working out in the industry are fully competent and confident in the work they carry out. The exam is there to assess competence and reasoning. Being able to use a regulations book is not enough. You have to be able to demonstrate why you are arriving at a particular outcome by using the Regulations book to find the correct solution. There are different ways of doing this to achieve the correct outcome. What we are saying is, there is no definitive way to use a Regulations book, however there are many correct ways and many incorrect ways!

To take a closer look at the hints and tips the NET have to offer as well as information on common candidate error, take a look at their website at http://www.netservices.org.uk/am2.html


Categories: am2

Are You Ready For Changes To Qualified Supervisor And New Part P Requirements?

Posted by Carl Bennett on 24th January 2013

For some time the industry has been looking at the qualifications and skills required to operate as a Registered Competent person, (now known as a Qualified Supervisor) to formalise with regulation those who might work with electrics in any capacity. After two years or more of deliberation they are set to change the qualification route and coincide with the changes to Building regulations on 6th April 2013.

Why The Change?

Well safety for one and raising standards for those involved in the installation of electrics is another, something that has been championed many times in this magazine.

Let’s face it, at the moment, anyone completely untrained or un qualified can go into an electrical supplier and grab anything off the shelf and install it with virtually no regulation check or legal consequence. Surely that situation can’t be right, not only is it potentially unsafe but it also undermines the electrical and related trade industries and makes it difficult for small contractor companies to compete with unregistered installers.

So the powers that be have got to grips with this issue and are bringing in a few important changes.

What are the most significant changes?

Well they’ve changed the status of some currently notifiable work to become non notifiable.

They’ve brought in ability for a Third party certifier to certificate another’s work.

They’ve raised the bar for the Qualified Supervisor requiring them to have a laid down set of qualifications and experience.

They’ve stated that anyone involved in the installation, inspection and testing of notifiable electrical work that would use the Building Control certification system, to be competent and qualified.

It enables long serving but unqualified ‘Sparkies’ a route to proper recognition of their experience to become Qualified Supervisors.

There are of course a number of other changes to building regulations in addition to the ones above but we think these are the most significant.

These changes represent a clear legal requirement for people to be qualified and competent, no matter how tenuous their involvement in electrical installation and gives realistic options for experienced operators and that must be a positive.

Couple that with the initiative of the Electrical Safety register and we are heading towards a voluntary upgrading of standards with an ambition of a fully perhaps mandatory licenced system in the future? Who knows .

The new changes reflect the diverse and developing nature of the many industries and trades that are involved in electrical installation work, whether you’re happy with the changes or not, they’ve been made, so we all must work within them, including training providers like Tradeskills4U. Smart businesses adapt, we will certainly have to.


The entrepreneurs amongst you will have noticed a few opportunities, like becoming a Third Party certifier or a Qualified Supervisor of other trades, certainly the electrical contractors that can offer the most services will prosper. Maybe a register of third party certifiers is a good idea?

So the clear message from the Electrical establishment is get properly qualified, register on a Competent persons scheme and an Electrical Safety Register. Only by encouraging those involved in electrical installations in whatever capacity, to do the right thing, can the electrical industry progress for the benefit of all.


Categories: qualified supervisor, part p

Solar Companies set to Sue Government Over FIT Tariff Reduction

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 23rd January 2013

The well publicised Feed In Tariff (FIT) reduction that was announced in 2011 is set to hit the headlines once again as 17 solar companies prepare to sue the government over terrible management of the cuts.

Essentially the government acted unlawfully by introducing the cuts before the consultation period had actually ended. They tried at the time to introduce cuts much sooner than expected, December 2011 rather than in April 2012 which they had previously agreed. As a result many in the industry were faced with a mad dash to finish installations before the new deadlines and suddenly there was lots of uncertainty about which rates homeowners installing between December and April would receive. At the time the cuts were challenged successfully in the high courts, however in a bid to create more uncertainty and prevent more installations the government appealed the high court’s ruling simply as a time wasting measure.

The initial announcement was totally unexpected and out of the blue as up until this point the government had pledged support, and optimism for renewable energies and saw solar panels as a must have essential to save valuable energy, preserve fossil fuel usage and promote renewable energy. It is little wonder then that the government’s actions hugely dented to confidence of consumers and investors looking to get on board with the Solar PV boom. Many people who had invested in new renewable energy businesses set up to cope with the increasing demand suddenly found they had over invested as the cuts saw an immediate and sharp drop in demand.

2012 was a difficult year for the solar industry  however the solar companies that survived are now looking to sue the government and use the proceeds to cover any losses and trade properly in 2013 to fulfil the returning consumer demand. The claim being led by Prospect Law has seen an initial claim from 3 companies in July 2012 for £2.2M to 17 companies all filing a claim against the FIT tariff changes that caused a disastrous year of trading for their business.

The companies bringing the legal claim are Solar Power PV; Solarlec; Crystal Windows and Doors; Breyer Group; Freetricity; E-tricity; Foz Electrical; Green Home; CI Installations; Viscount Solar; Vsolar; House Choice; Evo Energy; Solar Panels Direct; Monitor My Solar; Apollo Energy; and Cleaner Air Solutions.

So what has been happening to the solar industry in 2012?

Well aside from the on-going legal battle, the Solar Industry is showing signs of improving and the Government promises that the FIT amendment will remain stable, that is the good news.

The sun is set to shine once again on Solar this year with the workforce growing to in excess of 25,000 people, consumer confidence is growing and in turn demand is set to continue. Certainly demand is growing for Solar Renewable energy courses, this is sure sign that the industry is showing a healthy recovery. In addition to solar PV installation courses, there is growing interest and demand for solar PV Sales and Renewable Energy Awareness courses. This is surely a sign that the solar industry is determined to power on ahead and let nothing get in their way.


Categories: fit, solar pv

How the Government Plans to Reduce UK Energy Consumption

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 18th January 2013

At the end of November 2012, the government unveiled radical plans which will change the way energy is consumed in the UK.As part of its commitment to lower carbon emissions, the government’s proposals are to reduce the UK electricity consumption by 2030. A 10% reduction in electricity usage in the UK would produce savings of £4 billion and save 4.5 megatonnes of carbon. This saves the equivalent of 5 power stations worth of electricity. By making the changes now, the government hopes to save money by not having to spend on expensive new energy generation.

The government is targeting all consumers of electricity in the UK whether they are householders, business owners or industrial users. In a nutshell, practically everyone will fall into at least 1 bracket.

Some financial incentives a targeted at specific sectors. Homeowners are set to receive a financial 'reward' for running their home more efficiently .

There are a number of plans in the pipeline. One proposal is to have a financial incentive for all energy efficient items in the home. This includes items such as energy saving light bulbs. A payment would be made for each Kwh of energy saved by using energy efficient produced.

Further financial incentives are planned for all sectors who replace older, less efficient equipment for newer, more energy efficient items such as lighting, pumps and motors which will greatly assist the government in meeting their proposal of permanently reducing electricity consumption by 2030.

Other proposals include customers obtaining a cheaper tariff in return for low carbon electricity usage. With energy prices are rising at an alarming rate, customers would have the choice of exchanging low carbon usage with a cheaper tariff.

There are also suggestions of finding ways to store energy in the home or within a locality and reduce demand by controlling the use of household central heating remotely.

By putting these plans into action now, the UK will be at the forefront of energy saving and the production of energy efficient products in a growing global market. This will also drive growth in green jobs.

If nothing is done to address the need to reduce our electricity consumption, there is a high likelihood that electricity will be extremely limited in its use and that the lights will go out completely across towns and cities in a bid to save precious fossil fuels.

Currently the UK relies too highly fossil fuels and now it the time for a radical 'once in a generation' reform of electricity consumption.

At Trade Skills 4U we consider these proposals as an excellent move. We have been raising awareness of renewable energies for many years now and our students come to us from all over the UK to train in our renewable energy training centre which is the most advanced of its kind in the UK.

We fully support the governments proposals to reduce electricity usage across all sectors in the UK. We are no longer as a country, able to continue to rely on fossil fuels as our only source of energy consumption.

There are huge advantages of using renewable technologies which include solar, wind, biomass, water harvesting, source heat pumps and combined heat and power. There is huge interest, potential and opportunity available in renewable energies currently and we predict this is just the tip of the ice berg.


Categories: energy saving

Paul Wood Presents Trade Skills 4U With His Shirt

Posted by Carl Bennett on 14th January 2013

Last year we were chuffed to get the opportunity to sponsor Rugby League hard man Paul Wood. As mad fans of the sport were had been waiting some time for the opportunity to sponsor Paul and finally got our chance at the end of last season. I have met Paul a number of times since then and it was great to catch up with him on Wednesday evening when he presented me with his shirt.

Paul who shot to fame for losing a testicle in the Rugby League Grand Final last October recently gave an interview about life after the incident and the impact it has had on his career.

Paul said that the physical injury itself was not too bad. What he really struggled with (like anyone who loves their sport) was the mental side of dealing with the injury. He found it particularly hard to miss out on training and sit on the side-lines while his team mates carried on as usual. Despite the fact he has been at the receiving end of more puns and jokes than ever before Paul also missed the banter with his team mates.

As a result of his unique injury and amazing ability to play on for 25 minutes with a ruptured testicle Paul has shot to national and international fame. He has even been asked to appear on TV and radio shows in America. This is all very positive and helps promote the sport amongst a much wider audience.

We hope to continue to support Paul for many years to come and he has confirmed that he intends to carry on playing for Wolves for the next 2 years at least until he reaches 33 years old. This is great news for us and for Wolves as he has been in excellent form over the last year.

You can view the full video interview with Paul Wood below:




Categories: paul wood, warrington wolves

Where To Fit A Consumer Unit

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 10th January 2013

An often overlooked element of fitting a consumer unit is the location where it is placed. Consumer units are famously located in some of the most awkward places imaginable often behind piles of storage boxes, in the darkest corner at floor level! Many of these may well have been fitted before the days of regulations and on replacement will need to be situated in the correct location.


When choosing where to place the consumer unit, thought needs to be given to how the consumer unit will be accessed. Consumer unit locations are notorious for being in the most awkward of places. It is important that it is easy to reach the consumer unit and there is sufficient space around the consumer unit to operate switches and protective devices such as RCDs. It must also be easily accessible for an electrician to access the consumer unit to enable them to carry out inspections and maintenance which may require the electrician to access all connections to the consumer unit. Space is therefore essential! Unsuitable consumer unit locations include enclosures, compartments or other confined spaces.

Consumer unit switches and protective devices within a consumer unit need to be easily accessible to the householder. Access which would require the use of a ladder or similar reaching platform would not be suitable. Thought needs to be given to the needs of the householder particularly if they are disabled, elderly or infirm. In these cases, access to switches and protective devices should comply with BS 8300 – Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people.

Environmental Conditions

Particularly attention needs to be given to consumer units located outdoors or where environmental factors need to be taken into account. Such locations should always be avoided but if such a location should be necessary, a consumer unit should be of a design appropriate to the situation in which it is to be used. Outdoor locations require weatherproof equipment and weather protection should also be provided to the user.

Preferred Mounting Height

The Part M of the building regulations for England and Wales requires reasonable provision to be made for people to gain access and to use the building and its facilities. Guidance on meeting the requirements is given in Approved Document M. Particular attention needs to be given to Section 8 of approved document M as this includes the objective of assisting people whose reach is limited to use their home more easily by locating wall mounted switches and socket outlets no higher than 1200mm and not lower than 450mm above finished floor level.

Whilst Approved Document M does not recommend a height for new consumer units, the 2013 version of Approved Document P points out that one way of complying with Part M in new dwellings is to mount consumer units so that the switches are between 1350mm and 1450mm above floor level. At this height, the consumer unit is out of reach of young children yet accessible to other people when standing or sitting.

Although this would only apply to new buildings, it is worth giving thought to the mounting height on the consumer unit to so that the consumer unit is out of reach of young children yet accessible to other people when standing or sitting.

When taking all these principles and building regulations into account it comes as no surprise that relocating a consumer unit is work that must be carried out by a Part P Registered electrician who are there to ensure your safety and well being.


Source: NICEIC Domestic Electrical Installation Guide 17th Edition and Approved Document P, 2013 Version.





Categories: consumer unit

What You May Not Know About The Poppy Factory

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 4th January 2013

We were recently contacted by The Poppy Factory to ask if we would be interested in taking on ex-Service men and women as employees at Trade Skills 4U. At the time we were aware of The Poppy Factory but weren’t really aware of what they now do and how they currently work to help find jobs for wounded, injured and sick ex-Sservices personnel.

The Poppy Factory was set up in 1922 by Major George Howson, an engineer who had served on the Western Front. He had received a grant from the Unity Relief Fund of £2000 which he used to establish the factory and employ 5 severely injured WW1 veterans. By 1925 the factory had outgrown its premises and had to move to Richmond in Surrey where they are still based today and employs 47 injured, wounded or sick personnel.

This year marks the 90th anniversary of The Poppy Factory, however since 2007 they have broadened their remit and now seek to find employment for wounded, injured and sick service leavers beyond the factory itself and in the wider employment market.

This is the thing we want to raise awareness about. From our perspective it is a no brainer. A free bespoke service which supports heroes that have served our country and who make for excellent employees.

But The Poppy Factory even go further than that. Their key goal is to support the service leaver to ensure they make a smooth transition into their new role. They are supported by Employability Consultants through the employment process and The Poppy Factory will consider making a contribution towards supporting the needs of their “clients” into work.

We found common ground with the Poppy Factory, not only in terms of being happy to employ suitable candidates but also in that we are willing to offer free training to the same people with our Forgotten Hero’s Bursary Scheme. In fact it is the exactly the same people we support with the scheme that are likely to be supported by the Poppy Factory back into employment. As such we will be working together in the future to help re-train some of these guys wherever possible.

The key message right now is if you are recruiting or know someone else that is and they would like to advertise their jobs to injured service leavers please get in contact with the Poppy Factory. They are a non-profit organisation who may be able to place quality people within in your organisation at no cost whatsoever. We all know how hard it is to find good staff these days and at Trade Skills 4U we know from training and employing service leavers how motivated, organised and hard wormking they can be.

They aim to help 500 wounded, injured or sick ex-service men and women back into meaningful employment by 2015. Please help raise awareness and share this post. For more information please visit www.poppyfactory.org .

Find out more information about our Forgotten Heroes Bursary Scheme or Resettlement Courses


2012 in Review – A good year for the electrical industry?

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 3rd January 2013

Happy New Year from all of us here at Trade Skills 4U.  As we enter into yet another millennium year (doesn't time fly?) we take a look back at the past year and recap on the main highlights of 2012 in the electrical industry.

In January 2012, almost a whole year ago, a public consultation was held on the future of Part P of the building regulations.  Deregulatory changes will come into force this April 2013 with regulatory changes taking effect in October of this year (2013.


In February 2012, The Eden project in Cornwall became the first employee owned solar plant in the UK.  200 roof panels were placed on some of the Eden projects storage buildings as part of a unique deal where employees own a 'share' of the solar installation.


In March 2012, two nuclear power plants planned for England were ditched due to the high costs and poor economic conditions.  This is a victory for renewable energy advocates but is nuclear doomed in the UK?


In April 2012, the government released a new biomass strategy designed to ignite the biomass industry.  If successful, the biomass industry could be producing 11 per cent of UK energy and supporting 50,000 jobs by the end of the decade.


May 2012 was the coldest May in the UK in the last 100 years and with this came the news that the government was planning its biggest energy reforms in the last 20 years.  The draft energy bill raised concerns that consumers could face increased energy bills and was neglecting renewable energies,


In June 2012, the UK saw very unseasonal weather conditions with floods causing widespread damage to homes and businesses.  Electricians were kept busy rectifying power outages, whilst the floods were also causing problems for transport of all types.


In July 2012 the government released its annual statistical publication - Energy Consumption in the United Kingdom.  The publication has been looking at trends and changes in energy use in the UK since the 1970's but its particular focus has been on the changes in energy use since the 1990's.


August 2012 saw the introduction of the infamous Feed In Tariff (FIT) Cuts for solar panels.  From now on, householders get less money for generating solar energy as the government cuts the subsidy.  Householders now receive 16p per KWh of electricity produced instead of 21p per KWh.


September 2012 was a month of turmoil for energy industries with power shortage risks by 2015 announced by Ofgem.  Wind turbines come under fire with the Daily Mail reporting that wind farms could be killing us rather than saving us.  Meanwhile an Arctic expert predicts the final collapse of sea ice will happen within 4 years.


October 2012 saw the energy row rage on with the Prime Minister vowing to ensure consumers were offered the lowest possible energy tariff ending the confusion over energy tariffs and ensuring consumers are not paying more than necessary for their energy usage.  The wind farm dispute shakes renewable power investors and in America, Superstorm Sandy wrecks havoc causing major disaster.


November 2012 finally saw the coalition government publish the long awaited energy bill.  Confusion and debate still reigns over the impact on domestic energy bills, however the bill has been largely welcomed by the energy industry.  However environmental groups are less enthusiastic particularly with the de-carbonisation target.


In December 2012, support for Biomass and Solar support packages were published.  Solar projects on buildings rather than ground level will carry higher rates and encourage solar projects at large factory and warehouse buildings.  Biomass projects that are both carbon and cost effective.  The support offered could unlock investment decisions up to £600m and create an additional 1000 construction jobs.

2012 is likely to be a year remembered for a record dry spring followed by floods and storms of biblical proportions.  Todays headlines talk of last years drought conditions with the constant rain spoiling many harvests which has lead to record wheat and oil seed rape prices.  Farmers have yet to sow this years seed in many areas as the ground is too water saturated, which will impact on the 2013 harvest.

What will 2013 bring to the electrical industry?  Watch this space.

Categories: reviews