The electrical sector encompasses two main roles: electricians and electrical engineers.
What are electricians?
The role of electricians is a hugely important one. They are responsible for testing, installing and making the electrotechnical systems that cross our paths every day, and ensuring that they are safe to use by the general public. Electricians install power systems and wire up buildings, from houses to huge buildings and factories.
There are specialisms within the electrician profession. Maintenance electricians – who might work in commerce or industry – check and maintain electrical systems and equipment. Electrotechnical panel builders construct those equally fancy control panels that allow people to manage the electrical systems of an entire building at the touch of a button. These professionals are similar to production electricians, who deal with complicated systems, wiring up tricky electrical appliances from complex diagrams.
Electricians might also be responsible for installing electrical equipment and machinery in factories and other industrial settings. Their working environment can be as varied as the work they do, and their jobs can take them anywhere – they might be working in businesses, in homes, or even outdoors on construction sites.
What are electrical engineers?
Electrical engineers work with things on a much larger scale, such as finding a way to power a particular region via a particular power station, or figuring out how to distribute electricity to an area without causing any shortages. They are responsible for the design, development and production of technical solutions in the form of electrical equipment and infrastructure.
Further along in their careers, electrical engineers might also take on project management and financial management duties, and might be responsible for making sure all the technical solutions that are designed, developed and produced comply with national and international safety and quality standards.
Electrical engineering is less about appliances and buildings, and more about ‘access to power’. A significant number of electrical engineers are employed in the construction, energy, manufacturing, telecommunications and transport industries. Electrical engineers are also employed by government organisations, private sector enterprises and engineering consultancy firms. Some electrical engineers also work on a freelance basis.
School leavers wanting to work as electricians could do an Intermediate Apprenticeship (Level 2) in a relevant role after taking GCSEs, and then go onto an Advanced Apprenticeship (Level 3), learning the trade and earning a salary at the same time.
Those wanting to become electrical engineers could do a Higher Apprenticeship (Level 4) after A-levels, or after completing a relevant Advanced Apprenticeship.
School leavers interested in this industry could also look at the various courses on offer at further education colleges.