With further education (FE) colleges now delivering electrical training in classroom and workshop settings once again, a new generation of electricians and apprentices are taking their first steps towards a rewarding career.
However, it’s often not an easy journey; either for the electrical students who need to gain a real taste of what the profession will require of them in the workplace or for the FE providers who face limited budgets and often find it hard to engage with employers.
Meanwhile, electrical contractors and suppliers have a lot to gain from working with colleges and their students. For a long time, the electrical sector has been calling for trainees who are ‘site ready’ and highlighting the need to align education to the needs of employers. Working with further education providers offers an opportunity to communicate the skills required on-site and feed into curriculum development, based on a practical approach to both traditional and emerging tools and techniques.
As a global specialist in electrical tools and accessories, Ideal Industries has explored what they can do to feed into this reciprocal knowledge-sharing approach. One of the training providers they’ve partnered with is Warrington & Vale Royal College in Cheshire, creating a partnership that offers benefits for their expertise and new product development while offering the college useful resources.
Warrington & Vale Royal College offers a wide range of courses for school leavers, apprentices and adults, including training and re-training as electricians. Dave Love is the Curriculum & Apprenticeship Manager for Electrical Installation and, having worked on-site as an electrician himself, he was keen to work with electrical supply chain companies, explaining “When Ideal Industries first approached us there was no specific plan, they’re based locally to us and wanted to see how we could work together. We gave them a tour and talked through how we can help each other, and the relationship has snowballed from there.”
One of the challenges facing the further education sector is lack of funding, which sometimes means that students don’t have access to innovative new tools and equipment, making it harder for colleges to train them in the variety of installation methods they might be expected to use on-site.
As Dave explained: “It’s in the nature of training that things will get broken, that’s how we learn. But on limited college budgets it can mean that older, cheaper products are used, rather than broadening training to newer innovations.“In the electrical sector, where there are regular developments both in products and regulation, working with manufacturers is an important way of keeping up-to-date and giving our students the skills they will need on-site.”
Products in practice
Ideal Industries has assisted the college by providing In-Sure Push-In and Lever Wire Connectors for use by students, enabling them to learn a faster and easier method for terminations, alongside the use of terminal strips.“It’s important that we continue to teach students how to use termination strip,” said Dave, “but having Ideal’s In-Sure Connectors means that they have experience of newer techniques they may need on-site.“It means that they’re not just confident in using wire connectors but also confident about trying alternatives and using different tools and techniques, which makes them much more adaptable and workplace ready.”
The college also has Ideal Industries’ Safe Isolation kits to support safety training for testing, locking out and tagging isolations. Dave added, “Safety is another important aspect of our students’ training. Our aim is to ensure that they’re familiar with the equipment they will need to use to stay safe on-site so that safety becomes second nature.”
The benefits of the knowledge-sharing partnership are just as clear for the supply chain. Ideal Industries’ products have been developed to help make electrical installations faster, more cost-effective, and consistent, so they see working with the next generation of electricians as an important way of driving best practice in the sector. The company also gains significantly from the relationship. Engagement with the students feeds into Ideal Industries’ product development process and gives the business access to all the technical know-how and latest industry learning and standards from the college’s teaching team.
Moving forward, both Ideal Industries and the college want to build on these foundations. Talks to the students from the Ideal team are planned for this academic year, along with work placement opportunities. Dave concluded: “The value is not just in the electrical products and expertise that Ideal can offer, but also in the company’s commercial experience and workplace environment. Many of our students will be self-employed or work with small companies, so our partnership with Ideal Industries will help them understand about business as well as providing materials, knowledge, and adaptability for their role on-site.”