Having been one of the first cohorts of new apprentices back in the early 1990s, Matt Price, Building Automation Support Engineer at Hager, understands first-hand the role apprentices play within the electrical industry.
Having recently been elected to the KNX UK Association Board, the building control standard in building automation, Matt is a leading expert and advocate of building automation and is keen to promote KNX across the UK to both current and future generations of electrical contractors.
In this Q&A, Matt explains why he feels so passionately about apprentices, and why he truly believes they are the industry’s secret weapon when it comes to capitalising on the benefits of home automation.
How has the role of an apprentice changed since you were an apprentice in the 90s?
“As part of my current role at Hager, I regularly visit colleges and further education facilities around the country. As a business, we are heavily invested in the Partners in Education programme, which sees us work alongside over 80 higher and further education facilities. It’s an important role and one I’m pleased to see has become more prominent over the years. The programme, delivers a valuable experience both for businesses and apprentices, enabling students to interact with, and learn from, manufacturers and suppliers within the industry before they enter the world of employment.
“This alignment between business and education continues to be strengthened, and stretches far beyond delivering stand-alone product knowledge and instead, THE focus has moved onto the ways we can further support upcoming and existing professionals within the industry, throughout the duration of their career.
“However, it’s also important that this doesn’t mean we should now become complacent. The fast pace at which the electrical industry is continuing to evolve means we need to further strengthen the links between manufacturers, education and even governing bodies to ensure that what’s being taught still holds its place within the industry, which also means that education and learning should reflect the latest advancements in the industry too.”
How important is the role of apprentices in industry today?
“The importance of apprentices should never be underestimated, looking at the wider construction sector, of which the electrical market forms a part, this sector has been a huge driver for economic growth, especially in the period immediately following the recession. It’s therefore vital we have support systems in place to continue to encourage fresh blood into the industry, whether that’s through career changes, graduate schemes or apprenticeships. All of them have a vital role to play in helping to ensure we have the infrastructure in place to support the continued growth of construction.”
What role will apprentices play in future proofing the electrical industry?
“Drilling down and looking at the electrical industry specifically, the role of apprentices has never been more important. In fact, not only are they helping fill the current skills gap, but they are also instrumental in helping further drive business growth.
“What we are seeing now is the rise of the digitally savvy apprentice, a generation which have been brought up with a host of technology at their fingertips, and while for many this technology is predominantly used in a personal capacity, it also holds benefits within a professional environment too.
“Today’s apprentices are a generation of analytical thinkers who inherently understand that technology is a function to make our lives easier, meaning they approach the specification process differently; looking for opportunities to suggest technology which may previously have not been considered – all with the overarching focus of making the lives of customers and end users easier.”
In what ways will the role of apprentices help the UK benefit from the opportunities presented by home automation?
“As a result of the digitally savvy apprentices we are also seeing the beginnings of the apprentice cycle taking place. For me, I think this evolution is how we will see the role of apprentices continue to change over time, in turn delivering increased commercial opportunities to electrical businesses.
“Of course it’s vital that apprentices are supported with education facilities and professionals working across the industry passing on fundamental skills such as electrical theory, compliance, health and safety and governance. Once these apprentices enter the professional sphere, it’s about learning from them, transferring their digital skills across to existing professionals for a collective gain.
“The rise of home automation can no longer be ignored, whichever side of the fence you are on, the technology is fast gaining traction and electricians should not bury their heads in the sand – it’s now all about exploring how electrical businesses can really take advantage of this technology to best leverage its commercial potential.
“At Hager, we recognise our role within this cycle, which is why we provide regular training to electrical contractors and electricians, covering topics such as building automation. These events are proving increasingly popular with younger professionals, including apprentices. Yet, more than this, what we are also seeing as a business is that attendees are going back to the office, and transferring their newly acquired knowledge, which has resulted in an uplift amongst more mature professionals at subsequent training courses. It’s quite often the case that we are now seeing attendance from more professionals who have previously discounted home automation as a viable business stream, however, after learning more from employees who have attended, they have come to recognise the ways in which it really can deliver numerous business benefits, which is fantastic.”