Electricians work in the electrotechnical sector, installing, inspecting and testing wiring systems and equipment in domestic households, commercial buildings and industrial plant. The type of electrical work carried out depends on their training and experience. There are several specialisms within the sector, including:
Installation – electricians install, inspect and test wiring systems in all types of buildings. On renovations, this involves stripping out old wiring and replacing it; on new developments, it involves installing a completely new system. They follow architects’ or contractors' plans showing where the electrical equipment is to be installed. The initial installation, putting in cabling and wiring, is known as the 'first fix', then once the walls have been plastered, a 'second fix' is carried out connecting the wiring to sockets, switches and fittings.
Panel building - electricians work from wiring plans, putting together complex electrical and electronic control panels, using programmble logic controllers (PLCs). As an example, a control panel might be used to manage an office building's infrastructure - typically, the heating, air-conditioning and ventilation systems.
Repair and rewind - electricians test and repair electrical components in machinery, such as transformers, motors, compressors and pumps. In the case of motors, they dismantle the defective unit, replace or repair the damaged component, rewind the coils, clean up the part and test it before reassembly.
Instrumentation – electricians deal with the commissioning, installation and maintenance of electrical and electronic systems, used to record and monitor control procedures, for instance, in production manufacturing. Systems are built and calibrated to measure how efficiently or otherwise a process is running. Electricians carry out regular service tests and make adjustments to control instruments as necessary.
Maintenance - electricians test and maintain electromechanical equipment used in factories, for example, in large manufacturing or engineering companies. They use a range of instruments and tools to diagnose faults and carry out repairs.
Highway electrical systems - electricians work from mobile high access platforms, testing circuits and diagnosing and repairing faults on street lighting and traffic management equipment, such as traffic lights and motorway variable message signs.
Electricians often work closely with other professionals such as construction tradespeople and engineers.
Most electricians work a 37- to 40-hour week, Monday to Friday. Some work overtime, weekends and shifts to minimise disruption to customers.
With the exception of highways electricians, most work is indoors in domestic households, factories, offices or workshops. On new construction projects, electricians will be working in partially completed premises. The work can also involve working at heights or underground. Conditions may be cramped, cold, dirty and dusty.
A driving licence will be useful.
To be an electrician, you should:
Electricians are employed by a wide range of organisations including electrical and building firms, electrical manufacturers, general manufacturing and engineering companies, local government, media production companies, hospitals, and power generating and supply companies. Installation electricians may be self-employed or may work on a contract basis.
There is a shortage of trained electricians at present, so prospects are very good for qualified workers.
Promotion may be possible to supervisory and management positions in all areas of electrical work. With further training, opportunities may arise in electrical estimating and contract management .
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