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Survey: Domestic or Commercial? What Type of Work Do Sparkies Prefer?

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 30th May 2014

If you read our previous blog post “Domestic or Commercial Which Way Should I Go?” you will know that for a long time trainees have had to decide before they train if they should invest more time and money to ensure they can work on both Commercial and Domestic Projects or take the quicker route on just focusing on Domestic Installation otherwise affectionately referred to as "house bashing".

If you are looking to re-train as a sparky it is important to understand the difference between the two areas as you will find the costs of training and time it takes vastly different. With Trade Skills 4U you can train to be a domestic installer in 18 Days and at a cost of £2245 whereas the commercial route will take 16 weeks at £6990 plus your NVQ on the job too. However there is also now a third route which covers both options with the EAL 7695 qualification. So you should ask yourself before you start out realistically which type of work do you prefer?

What type of work do existing electricians prefer?

Obviously if you go the “fully qualified route” you can in fact cover both commercial and domestic work meaning your scope of work is much greater, however we wanted to find out which of these two areas seems to be preferred by those currently out there working on the tools. You can find the results below:




































Our info-graphic shows commercial work as the winner – but only on this occasion! Whilst it would be great if you can pick and choose every job you take the reality is that you once you start out as either a domestic or commercial electrician you will be doing a wide range of jobs, some more preferable than others. One thing most respondents agree on is they are glad not to be plumbers as they really can end up with some crappy work (Boom Boom!)

We asked our respondents why they preferred certain types of work and the most common differences between each area:

ConditionsOccupied homes in general.  Homely environment, usually warm and more personal. The only down side is often having to shift furniture and the odd pet too!Usually working on first and second fix means no furniture to shift and it can be nice and easy to run your cables. However depending on the build you may be outside or in an unheated environment.
Types of JobsLocal work, variable and flexible. Shorter projects mainly with a wider variety of locations to attend.Longer projects which require team work and more advanced skills. Often commuting to the same place for long periods of time.
Employment TypeMuch more likely to be working self employed or as part of a small team from time to time.Much more likely to be employed full time or on a long terms contract working as part of a much larger team.
PayGreat earning potential especially if you are self employed or employ others. If employed full time average pay is usually less than that of a commercial sparky. Average earnings if you are employed are higher. Again great earning potential if you are self employed. Longer contracts pay less per day than domestic but its guaranteed income for a longer period of time.
Getting workMore customers and jobs are needed to sustain a steady income. This means you will need to be better at marketing and quoting yourself.Longer jobs means often once you have established yourself word of mouth could be enough to sustain you. Less quotes and less marketing will be required.


Domestic or commercial?

We had over 20 written comments to our survey this month, which contained some really interesting responses.

Commercial – no floorboards or lofts

16 electricians surveyed preferred commercial work due to the fact that commercial work contains more actual electrical work and less of the 'wall bashing' and lifting of floorboards that domestic work typically entails.  Commercial work however, can become repetitive and domestic work can present some rewarding challenges.

Domestic work – essential for business success

Electricians comment that commercial work is harder to obtain – in terms of getting a foot in the door and most of the electricians who responded to our survey said that domestic work was still very useful to fill in gaps or as one electrician stated “Domestic work although sometimes challenging is your bread and butter for a small company like mine.”

Commercial – bigger earning potential

The larger projects and therefore bigger earning potential exists in commercial work.  However, larger commercial companies can take longer to pay and there are other hazards to take into account for such as asbestos.  Self employed electricians often team up to take on larger commercial contracts which can offer longer term work.

Domestic Work – Chance to work on more unusual properties

Some electricians prefer to concentrate on the Part P domestic market and this gives scope to working on a wide variety of electrical projects from old properties to new builds and more specialist areas such as underground heat pumps, underfloor heating systems and swimming pools.

So generally speaking it pays to keep your options open. Electrical installation work is rewarding, varied and interesting whatever sector you happen to work in. With the introduction of the new EAL 7695 Domestic Electrician course you can keep your career options open and future proof your qualifications.



Categories: survey

Trade Skills 4U Recognised with Matrix National Quality Mark

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 23rd May 2014

Trade Skills 4U has been formally accredited with the nationally recognised quality mark for organisations which provide support to individuals to make learning and work more accessible – the matrix Standard.

We gained accreditation to the matrix Standard in May 2014, during which time we had to show how we are geared up to provide quality information, guidance and advice to potential and existing students. In particular the course advisors, tutors and brand new website were singled out as excellent at helping learners achieve their desired goals.

Many of Trade Skills 4U’s staff and students were interviewed as part of the audit which looked closely at almost every part of the business with the aim of ensuring that Trade Skills 4U students were receiving the best information, advice and guidance possible.

Trade Skills 4U Quality Assurance and Educational Manager Donna Latimer said:

“We are very happy to have achieved this standard as it demonstrates the high standard of teaching and learning we provide at Trade Skills 4U. It provides a benchmark to which we can now continue to measure, maintain and improve our standards even further. I was introduced to the matrix standards via our local SCTP meeting and knew immediately it was something we should work towards achieving. We always aim to put the learner first here at Trade Skills 4U and gaining this accreditation demonstrates how we excel in assisting the learner through their ‘learner journey’. Achieving the standards has demonstrated the commitment from all our staff, that we provide a high quality service with a huge emphasis on supporting each individual learner. It has been a team effort in achieving this accreditation and all staff should be commended for their work.’’


David Allan, Managing Director at emqc Ltd said of the organisation’s achievement:

“This matrix Accreditation is another example of how the matrix Standard is proving effective for all types of organisations, helping them to provide a more professional service offering and to strive to be the best in their sector.”

Trade Skills 4U were originally established in 2005 as a trade trainer covering everything from plastering to bricklaying. However back in 2009 they made the shift to focus purely on electrics and have remained a specialist in this area ever since. In the last year Trade Skills 4U have continued to strive to provide excellent training and the Matrix accreditation comes off the back of being the first electrical training company in the UK to achieve IET Centre of Excellence status in September 2013.

Every year Trade Skills 4U deliver more City & Guilds accredited electrical courses than any other specialist training provider whilst continuing to maintain very high standards. Trade Skills 4U offer the widest range of electrical courses in the UK under one roof. These include short courses in everything from burglar alarm installation right up to the City & Guilds 2365 designed to fully qualify candidates as commercial electricians.

About the matrix Standard:

The matrix Standard is the national quality mark for all organisations delivering information, advice and guidance services.

The matrix Standard is highly adaptable to a range of organisational settings, regardless of size or sector, including further/higher education establishments, training providers and voluntary/community organisations.

The matrix Standard is maintained and promoted by emqc Ltd on behalf of BIS.

Any other organisations that would like to know more about how the matrix Standard might be able to help, can find out more by contacting them on 0845 304 8600.


Electric Car Charging Skills Could Be A Game Changer

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 22nd May 2014

In 1903 the president of Michigan Savings Bank advised Henry Ford’s Lawyer not to invest in Ford Motor Co. According to him “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad”. Even the humble light bulb was labelled as a non-starter by an Oxford Professor. Yet today we are surrounded by Cars, Lights, TV’s, Computers, Phones and all manner of technology.

Electric vehicles have been around for some time. In fact the first electric car was developed in the 1820’s! There have been various revivals in their popularity over the past few decades particularly in the 1990’s however due to limitations on their range they have never fully taken off and many people remain convinced to this day that they are a non-starter (if you excuse the pun).

However recent figures show that the trend for electrical cars is that they will soon be a huge part of our motoring community and infrastructure. In fact in Norway where 20% of all cars sold are electric, it is getting harder to find unoccupied public charging facilities.  At a time where oil prices continue to rise the UK realises that we need to be investing in the infrastructure to ensure this technology can take off. At the start of May the government committed a further £500M to developing electric cars and other low carbon vehicles.

According to the Cambridge Service Alliance electric car sales are set to increase to 7 million world wide by 2020. One of the biggest reasons for this is the rise of the Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV for short) which combine an electric motor and back up petrol one. This new solution completely eliminates “range anxiety” which is possibly the only thing which until now has been the main thing holding back the growth of EV sales in the world. With PHEV and new advanced in battery technology we are now entering a stage where EV charging points will become more and more prevalent in people’s homes and on the streets of the UK.

Here at Trade Skills 4U we have been surprised by the demand from our students for Vehicle Charging Courses. We launched our first course starting on the 2nd June and it sold out within 3 Days. We have now scheduled more courses for the coming months and the feedback from electricians working in the industry is that these skills are in demand.

The skills required to install these points are not too complex and an electrician can train and qualify in as little as 2 days to install them. The course itself covers the installation, fault finding and inspection and testing of electric vehicle charging points. This will allow them to install both commercial on street and domestic car charging points.

As with any new technology it pays to get involved early and we believe that the recent developments with electric vehicles means that the whole market is set to boom. So don’t delay  find out more about EV charging at www.tradeskills4u.co.uk today!


How much should you charge for PAT testing?

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 16th May 2014

When it comes to PAT testing, it is not so much about the charge, it is about the level of service required to determine the safety of a portable appliance. Some types of defect can be found by a visual inspection of an appliance, however other faults can only be discovered by testing.  Both components are essential for effective PAT testing.

There are a number of methods available to carry out PAT testing, the most two effective and recommended methods are:

a qualified and registered electrician who offers a PAT testing service

a qualified PAT tester.

You can find out more on our PAT testing courses pages

Background to PAT Testing

PAT testing, known as Portable Appliance Testing is proper examination of electrical appliances and equipment to determine if they are safe to use.  The examination consists of both a formal visual inspection and testing by a competent person.

Although PAT testing itself is not compulsory under law, it satisfies the requirements of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 which states “all electrical systems (including electrical appliances) are maintained (so far as is reasonably practicable) to prevent danger.”  PAT testing is the most straightforward way to satisfy the regulations and as such, practically every business has PAT testing carried out on a regular basis.  The reasons for this are pure common sense.  Each appliance tested and which passes is labelled with a green label.  Employees have the peace of mind that the appliance they are using has been expertly tested and is certified as safe. Additionally, a certificate of PAT testing will be issued along with the serial numbers of every appliance that has been tested.

PAT testing as a system is not new, even prior to the 1970's workers were familiar with labelling on electrical appliances, particularly tools labelled with “passed” “tested for electrical safety” and “do not use”. Such tests were recorded in extensive log books – and were no doubt very time consuming to maintain.

PAT Testing Responsibilities

The person carrying out PAT testing work is issuing a label as confirmation that the appliance is safe to use.  Therefore they need to be a competent person who has the right equipment to carry out the testing, the ability to use the equipment properly and the correct knowledge to understand the test results.

As such, PAT testing charges do vary according to the service offered by the person carrying out the testing and the quantity of appliances that need to be tested.  A qualified PAT tester charges on average £1-£2 per item, however this is often discounted for larger quantities.  A minimum fee will often apply in order for the PAT tester to cover their costs. PAT testers will also offer different testing programmes for their clients.  For example landlords needs will be different to the needs of a large office block.

A qualified and registered electrician may charge a higher fee for PAT testing.  This is because extra benefits may apply and some rewiring and other repairs to the internal electrical installation can be carried out as well as the possible repair of any appliance that fails.

How much “should” be charged for PAT testing?

A quick search of the internet reveals many differing charges for PAT Testing – the lowest charge we saw was for 67p per item.  However it is worth considering what your customer is getting for their money.  It is essential that equipment is tested properly – untrained PAT testers have been found to:

Duplicate results

Not check fuses

Overlook dangerous faults on visual inspections

Issue labels for equipment not tested

Wrong equipment used or worse still no equipment

It is the responsibility of the business to ensure that their electrical equipment is safe for use.  If electrical shock or injury occurs as a result of faulty equipment, businesses can get sued or prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) so it is important to select a PAT tester with care.

A qualified and experienced PAT tester can test properly on average 150 items per day in an industrial setting and up to 300 items per day in an office setting.  Of course this is largely dependant on access to rooms and the equipment.  However PAT testers claiming to test in excess of this number may not be offering the service stated.

Whilst some PAT testing may be low per item, such PAT testers charge extra for additional services such as to replace a plug or change a fuse. Other PAT testers charge a higher fee which is all inclusive.

Staying competitive

A fair and competitive charge and proper testing of appliances is the way to go.  There is are no specific rules when it comes to PAT Testing charges and every PAT tester has their own reasons for their charge rate.  However when pricing, it is important to factor in other expenses such as fuel, VAT, labels and other material costs as well as the time needed to test the appliances correctly.  Remember to allow time to walk around the building to access the equipment as well as allowing staff time to log off work stations, tills, and other essential equipment.

As we said at the start of our post PAT testing is more than just price.  PAT testing plays a key role in the electrical safety of workplaces and protecting others from the dangers of electricity.


Categories: pat testing

Smart Meters - Why The Delay?

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 9th May 2014

Smart Meters are a networked device that allows a virtually live record of household energy consumption to be communicated to energy providers.  In turn this mass data provision allows the country as a whole to identify overall energy consumption which will enhance efficiency of utility providers and their adoption to client needs.

The Smart Meter solution seemed to be the perfect answer to addressing growing concerns about energy efficiency and carbon footprint.  As a result, in 2010 the Government announced an accelerated roll out of the smart meter which promised £18.7 billion worth of savings over 20 years. The Government target is that by 2020 all UK homes will have a smart meter.

Smart Meters trialled across London

In 2011, UK Power networks carried out a smart meter trial in conjunction with Low Carbon London partner EDF Energy by installing over 6000 smart meters in London properties.  The trial was carried out on an opt in basis across a demographically balanced group.

The resulting steps following the trial was to identify how smart metering would benefit the rest of the UK population as a whole taking into account the differing profiles creating during the London trial.

The final stage before roll out was to identify the network suitability and plan any changes necessary.  This is where major problems were found which were to cause the substantial delay currently being experienced.

Network suitability causing a delay

In May 2013, the Government announced there was a delay in smart meter roll out due to infrastructure issues until the Summer of 2014, however it quickly became apparent that the digital infrastructure would not be ready in this time-scale so the roll out has been delayed until the Autumn of 2015.

However this does not mean that smart metering will not be happening at all.  Some areas of the UK are still going ahead with smart metering, however this is very minuscule.  Just 2 million smart meters will be installed in the UK within the next 2 years.  This leaves 50 million households without the option of having a smart meter installed although it is possible to register interest with energy providers.

Delay dubbed as ill conceived and ill prepared

TechWeekEurope who assist businesses with the latest technological solutions dubbed the smart meter programme as ill conceived and ill prepared as the £11.7 billion project hits the rocks due to an infrastructure which is not capable of handling a mass influx of new technology.

It appears that there are issues between energy providers and technology companies over who has the contract to run the national Data and Communications Company (DCC.)  This company is key to the success of the smart metering programme as the DCC will be providing the infrastructure which allows Smart Meters to transmit data.  The future success of the DCC comprises of a major logistical and technological challenge involving 30 million visits to over 50 million homes and small businesses that the Government needs to get right in order for the project to be successful.

Government Roll out expected to be Autumn 2015

The Government fully expects the digital infrastructure to be ready for mass roll out by 2015 with an expected full completion by 2020.  The households who have Smart Meters installed ahead of the roll out are being assured that their Smart Meters will be compatible with the DCC network.

Majority of households in support of the smart meter

Despite the delay and industry criticism, there is still majority support of the smart meter with 73% of people surveyed by the Energy Saving Trust being in support of them.

Taking just one extra year to perfect the digital infrastructure in return for £7 billion worth of benefits to consumers and energy providers as well as an estimated £65 in savings per household according to an Oxford Economics Report is in our opinion a sensible move.

The smart meter roll out is just the start of an incredible journey into the future of energy consumption.


Categories: smart meters