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Year In Review -Top Posts & Stories From 2014

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 22nd December 2014

Wow we are at the end of another year. Time really does fly especially in an industry which seems constantly evolve. 2014 was a fairly non eventful year as it happens. But this is because the main change is due to happen next year with the new 17th edition regs book being published in January and a whole host of publications and courses set to change as a result. However we have listed some of our most hotly debated and interesting blog posts from the last 12 months below:


In January we saw a message from the NICEIC  following the meeting between DCLG and the main scheme providers. Shortly after we saw the new “Registered Competent Person Electrical” website launch, which combined installers from all scheme providers in one searchable database.



We polled our customers to find out which DIY disasters they most commonly get called out to fix. Light fittings and circuits were clear winners with well over 70% of the votes.



We were busy in March launching our new website. Our new site brought a host of new features such as mobile compatibility, online availability, course finder feature and much more to ensure our customers got the very best experience from the very second they initially interact with Trade Skills 4U.



We surveyed numerous customers and online groups to research day rates. To our surprise there was much more to consider than simply how much you charge. Our research showed that HOW you charge seemed to be more important.



May was a very busy month with lots on the go. We were officially accredited by Matrix for providing excellent information guidance and advice. We also polled our customers to see if they preferred domestic of commercial work and published and infographic. We also launched our EV charging installers course.





One of the biggest surprises came in June when the powers that be listened to the everyday electricians who were finding themselves unable to work due to changes in structure of the NVQ. Essentially many guys who were frozen out of industry found a door re-open. This was also the month that saw the world cup dominate all headlines and here we saw our resident football expert predict some winners too.




We were able to highlight a major issue faced by the electrical industry in counterfeit books. The issue is made more serious by the fact that many of the books contain errors meaning safety is often compromised. We also published a post featuring comments from NAPIT on the 3rd party register scheme.




Summer was quiet this year and we published a very popular review of the latest Megger MFT1735.



During September we clarified some of the confusion around which cards are required to access site and carry out electrical work.



So October was the biggie. We all knew it was coming but finally all was confirmed and the wheels were set in motion for the latest amendment of the 17th edition to be published and for the courses to be updated. We highlighted the key things you needed to know. October also saw some of our most popular posts of the year with our Halloween Hall of Horrors making an impact as did our electrical Darwin Awards post.





In November we saw an episode of watchdog which inspired one of the most popular posts we ever published. The show saw a so called “electrician” putting his and everyone else’s lives at risk numerous times. This is clearly one of the worst electricians in the UK! We also looked at some of the best electric cars for 2015.




So Christmas is nearly here and if you want to buy a gift for yourself or a colleague or even a loved on then look no further than our post looking at some of the must have gadgets for 2015.




Video: Christmas Lights Literally Brighten Up the Earth

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 19th December 2014

Some scientists from NASA have be measuring the changes in light emitted from the earth over the festive period and also other highly celebrated holiday festivals such as Ramadan. They have seen an increase in brightness up to 100% in some areas. What's interesting is that they are actually able to pinpoint down to town and city level how each communities lighting patterns differ. For instance for those celebrating Christmas in the USA they can see a shift from light in the cities to rural areas as people travel out of urban areas for the holidays. However in general they have found that those celebrating Ramadan tend to stay put and the brightness of towns and cities in the middle east tends to increase during the holiday period. Check out the full video below:


The images were taken by the Suomi NPP satellite which carries an instrument called the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) which can observe the dark side of the planet - and detect the glow of lights in cities and towns.


Case Study - Robert Stearn Forgotten Heroes Bursary

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 16th December 2014

Name: Robert Stearn

Age: Over 50

Goal: To Become a Domestic Electrician

Course Taken: Bronze Package

Outcome: Working In Industry

I just had the pleasure of seeing a message on LinkedIn to congratulate Robert Stearn on his new job. Robert recently completed a Bronze course with Trade Skills 4U but his circumstances were slightly different than most of the others on the course.

Robert Stearn was forced to retire from the military in February 2000. He served from RNAS Culdrose as a supervisor of electrical maintenance and repair for 27 years during which time he was deployed in the Falkland’s, Middle East & Far East. Robert is fighting fit now but had been suffering from Thyroid Cancer and also Type One Diabetes which had been brought on by some of the medication he had taken whilst on duty.

Rob is clearly a very smart and presentable chap who due to the hardships he had faced fell into a dead end job working in a warehouse. When Robert applied for the Trade Skills 4U forgotten heroes bursary he realised it would mean quitting his job in order to take the training. Robert decided to take the plunge and quit his job in order to train on the Bronze Domestic Installer Course. It would mean having to find work pretty quickly once he had finished the course but he knew in the long run it would be worth it.

Like many of the forgotten heroes who had taken the course before him Robert excelled in his training and passed all 4 elements of his course first time. His previous technical and DIY experience helped as did his dedication and professionalism. Whilst at the centre Rob had met another student who was also from an Ex-Military background, Jonathan Ballard who runs an electrical installation company very close to Robert in the West Midlands.

The two kept in contact and within 2 weeks of finishing his course Jon was let down by a contractor and needed an extra pair of hands on some domestic projects. He called on Robert and the two started working together. Robert has said:

“The Bronze Course has given me the fundamentals to gain a foothold in a sustainable career. The C&G's are impressive but only if you can match them with some quantifiable experience. My aim is to be registered with one of the approved Part P schemes, which is the natural culmination of the Trade Skills 4U Bronze Course.

Since training I've registered as self-employed and I have been contracting myself out to Ballard Electricals. Jon Ballard is also Ex Forces and a long time student of Trade Skills 4U. It was perfect timing as Jon has recently lost a contractor. Since working for Jon I have installed lights, new sockets, fused spurs, a garage conversion, assisted in a first and second fix house rewire, a complete house rewire, from the initial Electrical Installation Condition Report, design and agreement to the first and second fix, making good, inspection and testing and handover back to the customer. I've even fitted a new Distribution Board under strict supervision from Jon. This is definitely the best placement I could have hoped for to gain experience.

When I phoned Trade Skills 4U I had no idea where this would lead yet, here I am doing it. No plan just one step at a time. Although I had the bursary to pay for my course, I had to give up my job and spend what was left on my credit card to pay for travel, food and accommodation. This has been a big risk for me but one that has paid off. Trade Skills 4U has been brilliant at getting me through my exams to put me in a position where I can become registered in an approved Part P scheme.  Jon Ballard is brilliant at teaching me how to apply my classroom stuff into real life experiences. At this rate I doubt it will be long before I'm registered.  I have no idea where this is all going, Jon has big plans and wants his business to grow bigger, if we continue to work well together then I could grow with him. Not bad for a man without a plan.”

It is great to see the difference it can make but simply getting the right skills to help you change career. Robert has really done well for himeself and now works self employed on some projects whilst also subbing himself out to Jon Ballard. This enables him to work independently and also gain valuable experience from an experienced sparky.

For someone of Robert's age it is almost impossible to contemplate carrying out a full apprenticeship which is why the option of training as a domestic installer worked so well for him. He could get trained quickly, draw on his existing knowledge and skills, find work quickly and start earning within a short period of time. Robert took quite a big gamble when he quit his job but this was a calculated one which has quite clearly paid off already.

If you wish to find out more about the Bursary Scheme at Trade Skills 4U visit www.tradeskills4u.co.uk/bursary .


Categories: case study

New & Unusual Christmas Gift Ideas For Electricians

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 12th December 2014

Christmas is once again creeping up very quickly, and once again you will be faced with well meaning family members wanting to add to your toolbox this festive season.  Rather than be faced with the usual drill sets, hammers and those delightful spanner sets, we set about searching for more unusual tools and accessories for electricians – how many of these have you heard of?

Duckbills Utility Belt & Suspenders

The ideal present for an electrician with a bad back! Too many years of crawling around in lofts and trying to fit in spaces you're just designed to fit into, can leave your back feeling a bit worse for wear.  Carrying around heavy tool belts doesn't help and actually means 5-6 days per year off work.

Put an end to this misery by putting this ergonomic tool carrying system on your Christmas list. Featuring patented Maxcon docking technology, the system is basically a back friendly frame of Velcro on which several modules (where you put your tools) can be placed. Everything then sits movement free creating a stable back friendly method of carrying around essential tools. Has the added benefit of making the owner feel like Batman!


Milwaukee Tools Heated Jacket

For the electrician who has to work on a freezing cold building site! Electricians who work on site at this time of year will be familiar with layering! Long johns, hats and fingerless gloves are all essential work wear between November and February! Go one step further with a heated jacket from Milwaukee tools!

Powered by an M12 Red lithium battery, it provides up to 6 hours of continuous heat per battery charge.  The heat output can be adjusted to provide the right amount of heat in differing weather conditions.  The jacket itself is wind and water resistant with a fleece lining and is machine washable and dryable.  There is also handy additional storage pockets and even a USB charger!



Coast H27 Head Torch

A head torch that is actually useful. Head torches provide a useful hand free method of working in dark areas.  However they are also famed for not being hard wearing and can end up becoming a bit of a joke amongst work mates!  The H27 head torch from Coast puts standard head torches to shame.  To start with, this head torch can be worn underneath a hard hat thanks to a removable top strap.  The impressive light output of 309 lumens means the head torch is ideal for use in a variety if situations.  The light also has a grip twist focussing ring a change of light from beam to spot for example even whilst wearing gloves.

The pure beam focussing optic allows you to shed light on a large area whilst the Bulls-eye spot beam can pinpoint objects from 122 metres away whilst creating a halo of light around you.  Good for up to 3 hours 45 minutes and runs on AA batteries.  The head torch  is weatherproof and waterproof and adjustable so you can position the light exactly where needed.


Never have to wind up a power cord reel again! If winding up a power cord reel or several is just another unwanted chore at the end of the day then you need a power cord reel which does the job for you! The RoboReel does exactly this job at the push of a button.  Not only does this save you the sweat inducing job of winding reel back in several times a day, but it also makes life easier having a 360 degree rotation meaning you can move it around the workplace as you wish.

This is different to dangerous spring loaded versions that are on the market.  RoboReel slows down during retraction so you won't get a whipping reaction.  Retraction also stops if there is an obstruction or someone steps on the cable.  RoboReel retracts 50 feet of heavy duty 12 gauge power cord in less than 10 seconds at a controlled speed.


Hornet Time Clock

Pay staff accurately and reduce paperwork. Reduce the paperwork associated with payroll and pay staff accurately with a wireless time clock.  Which can be used anywhere.  Clock in and out in seconds and streamline payroll in seconds.  The Hornet time clock ensures you stay compliant by working many supporting accounting programmes including Sage.

Ensure staff are paid accurately for hours worked by managing staff in real-time as well as keeping tab of expenses such as overtime.  The Hornet time clock is rugged and weatherproof and will take care of staff movement and payroll leaving you to get on with more important aspects of running a business.



Zircon Multi Scanner

Find out quickly what lies behind the wall. Working tidily is essential especially when working in homes which won't lend themselves to making holes in walls un-necessarily.  This Multi scanner from Zircon will make a useful time saving tool for busy electricians who need to quickly assess what lies behind walls.  Whether providing a quotation for a customer or carrying out initial fault finding, this handy gadget will find and trace live wire up to 50mm deep within walls thanks to the WireWarning detection system.  It will also locate wood or metal joists up to 19mm deep.

A spotlite pointing system and and audio tone indicates the location of the target and features an easy to read display screen.  A four mode switch makes it easy to change functions.

Black and Decker Gyro Screwdriver 

Put an end to endless screwing! Screwing on endless sockets and switches can become a wrist aching job! The Black and Decker Gyro screwdriver is the worlds first motion activated screwdriver that controls variable speed and direction.

Simply grip the trigger and turn your wrist right for forward and left for reverse and rotating your wrist to adjust the speed.





Makita Multi Charger

Never be without a charged battery! Batteries going flat on drills whilst working can be a real headache.  Make sure spare batteries are always fully charged with this 4 port multi charger from Makita.  Charge 2 18V li-ion batteries at the same time.  It is able to charge 2 3.0Ah li-ion batteries in 60 minutes and up to 4 of these batteries in 120 minutes. The charger can be stored in the gang box neatly and is easy top carry under the arm or carry with the optional shoulder strap.  Comes with an easy to read charging display.



Dewalt DCV582 Cordless/Corded XR Wet & Dry Vacuum

Clean up cordlessly! Tidy up mess in both wet and dry environments without needing power! This wet and dry vacuum from Dewalt vacuums wet and dry without any need to change the filter.  Featuring a 2 metre long cord with a wide nozzle and crevice tool.

The vacuum is powered by 18V Dewalt battery packs or mains supply.  Made for tough environments, compact and easy to carry.

Other useful gadgets such as kneeling boards, video inspection cameras and even a cordless site fan ready for next Summer will make brilliant Christmas presents to an aspiring electrician!

Some of these gadgets you may have not come across before, but believe us, they will make working life a whole lot more pleasant and easier!