By October 31, 2016 Read More →

Securing a brighter future for the industry

Some of the industry’s key influencers recently gathered to discuss one of the most pressing issues facing the electrical sector – how to attract new talent into the industry. The event was hosted by Super Rod Managing Director, Malcolm Duncan, who tells us why the time has come for the industry to pull together to engage young people and secure a brighter future for us all.

When I left school at 16, I was lucky enough to get myself a trade apprenticeship, which has set me up for life. Having experienced the apprenticeship system first-hand, I know that it works. However, at the moment, the system is failing to deliver the upskilled, talented youngsters that we need in the electrical industry.

It is going to take a concerted effort to attract good calibre candidates with the skills required to respond to the pace of technological advances and the increasing complexity of our business. It will require a momentous effort that we all need to be part of if it is to succeed.

The time to act has to be now. With Britain’s exit from the EU just around the corner, we are potentially facing a huge skills shortage in the UK. The free movement of labour across Europe bought many skilled tradespeople to the UK, and unfortunately they will be taking that knowledge and expertise with them when they go.

Our first speaker was Liam Sammon of leading training company JTL. JTL has more than 100 training centres across England and Wales and trains around 6,500 apprentices a year. Liam was there to walk us through the educational landscape and the opportunities/challenges the industry is facing.


Apprenticeships is actually one of the few areas which has been unscathed by the austerity cuts. From April next year, the Government is changing the way it funds apprenticeships in England and big employers (with a pay bill over £3m a year) will pay a levy to make an investment in apprenticeships.

The Government is making sure there is money to fund the system and get more young people into a skilled trade profession, but do electrical businesses actually want to take on apprentices?

According to Liam, for every apprenticeship position that comes up at JTL, there are at least three candidates going for it. The supply is there – perhaps the demand is not.

In recent years, young people have been increasingly pushed down the university route, with vocational apprenticeships deemed a lesser career option. How do we change hearts and mindsets about vocational careers? The electrical industry needs bright, talented and skilled people to be our stars of the future and increase the skills and aptitude of people coming into the industry. Perhaps then, the demand for apprentices will increase.

Diverse opportunities

Our second speaker was Adrian Rees, General Manager at CEFCO. Adrian talked about his career progression in the electrical industry, from his first day as a warehouse operative to the top job at the company. There are so many careers where electrical knowledge is essential, from the wholesalers, trade counters and trainers to jobs in product development, manufacturing, sales and marketing.

How do we showcase these opportunities to young people, letting them know there’s more to the industry than electricians?

There is no quick fix to get talent into the industry, so where do we start?

Firstly, we all have a part to play – wholesalers, distributors, manufacturers, educators, training providers, even parents – if we are going break down outdated perceptions of apprenticeships, both to young people and the businesses who would take them on.

Let’s start with electrical wholesalers. The EDA has already announced its commitment to apprenticeships and at its Annual Awards Dinner in March this year hailed its placed and employed apprenticeship schemes in association with the Apprenticeship Training Agency (ATA). The EDA is looking to upskill the electrical wholesale industry, which is fantastic, but how much further can wholesalers go?

With 2,000 wholesale locations across the UK, many have hundreds of contractors visit each week. What if these businesses also became information hubs, bringing employers, trainers, and potential employees together? A place for making connections and helping the industry to grow and develop, providing opportunities in equal measures to consumables.

The electrical industry is a fascinating and diverse industry. We need to attract the brightest minds to ensure our industry continues to flourish. We must all work together to support the future of the industry that supports us now.

Below: Super Rod MD, Malcolm Duncan, right, during one of the round table sessions exploring how to attract new, young talent into the electrical industry.