Like many tradespeople, electricians often receive plenty of unfair criticism as a result of long-standing misconceptions about the training they receive or the work they carry out.
In a bid to put some of the most common myths about electricians to bed and to provide further insight into our industry, electrical wholesaler ERF has addressed five frequent assumptions people have about those working in the electrical trade.
Electricians are all men
As with many roles in the trade industry, being an electrician was historically viewed as a ‘man’s job’ but thankfully these kinds of stereotypes are being broken down. Although the majority of tradespeople are male there has been a significant rise in the number of women working across all trades in recent years.
According to the latest research from Direct Line, there were an estimated 33,000 female tradespeople in 2019 which is a 120 per cent increase on the 15,000 reported in 2009.
When it comes to the electrical trade specifically, it was estimated there were around 8,000 female electricians compared to 230,000 male electricians in 2019. That would mean women make up just more than 3 per cent of all electricians.
While this does highlight there is still a huge gender gap, the overall picture is improving.
The key to addressing this disparity further will be ensuring avenues into the industry – such as through apprenticeships or college courses – become more attractive and viable options for women across the UK, from all backgrounds.
Electricians don’t have university degrees
While training to become a qualified electrician doesn’t require you to go to university, there is plenty of theoretical and practical learning that has to be undertaken.
In order to gain a full qualification you have to complete an industry recognised level three diploma which takes around three years to achieve. Generally this is completed through an apprenticeship which will involve one day a week at college and four days within a related job role.
Following this, many electricians will also go on to undertake further job-specific training on topics including electrical vehicle (EV) charging points and solar power.
University degrees such as electrical engineering or computer science are also an option for those wanting to expand their skill set further.
Electricians have to be good at maths
This notion is contrary to the above. While reading about Ohm’s law and trigonometry is enough to put some people off studying to become an electrician – especially those who aren’t whizzes at maths – there really isn’t any need to feel daunted by these topics.
Electricians do use maths on a regular basis but a lot of it is simple calculations which are used to figure out sizes such as room dimensions or wiring lengths.
While there is a need to have a good working knowledge of Ohm’s law – an equation used to study electrical circuits – once you have completed plenty of practice, you soon become confident using it. The key to being able to effectively work with numbers in the job is to recognise the techniques which work best for you when it comes to problem solving.
Those who are more visual learners may find it beneficial to draw pictures when tackling calculations, for example.
You can’t be an electrician if you’re colour blind
There’s no doubting that in the past being colour blind would have been a major problem for electricians, but we’ve come a long way in the last 50 years. Up until the 1970s, single phase electrical wires were coloured red (live), black (neutral) and green (earth).
Due to the most common form of colour blindness being when red and green are perceived to be identical, it’s easy to understand the difficulties which many colour blind electricians would have been faced with. To try and avoid any confusion, since the late 1970s the earth wire has been multicoloured (yellow and green).
Further changes were also made in the early 2000s, meaning the live wire is now brown and the neutral wire is blue.
These alterations mean being colour blind is much less of an issue for electricians than it was previously. That being said, it is worth noting that when applying for an electrical apprenticeship you do have to undergo a colour blindness test.
This doesn’t apply to those who are training as a domestic installer or funding their own training though.
Electrical work is really dangerous
All work involving electricity has the potential to be dangerous and therefore being an electrician doesn’t come without risk. As with many jobs though, if the correct health and safety procedures are followed nearly all of these threats are either eliminated or considerably minimised.
To ensure electricians protect themselves as well as others, they are required to undergo thorough electrical safety training. The dangers associated with being an electrician aren’t exclusive to working with electricity though.
Some of the most common injuries people sustain come from falls or trips which is why it is important electricians put aside a bit of time to identify all of the potential threats they could face before starting a job.
In the last 12 months, all of those working in the trades have also had to adopt additional health and safety practices as a result of the spread of coronavirus. This has involved electricians wearing PPE and adhering to social distancing guidelines.