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#141702 10/12/04 08:32 AM
Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 20
Calling for advice from all you UK Sparkies!

I’ve just graduated with a 2:1 BSc in computing, it’s taken me four years to get and after it all, I have come to the conclusion that I really don’t want a career in IT. My first and main passion was always electrics and physics. Ever since I was about four years old, and we had an extension built on our house, I would play in the back yard with bricks, pipes and cast off wiring and sockets from the house. Most kids got duplo or Lego for their 5th birthday, I used to get OSMA piping, Hager breaker panels and boxes full of old MK wiring accessories, no word of a lie! My dad, who is in the building trade, would bring home all the odds that the sparkies had thrown out for me. I had a shed at the end of our garden, which everyone called the mad lab, where I would take VCRs, washing machines etc to pieces. By the age of 13 I had installed a coin meter, a huge Wylex fuse box, ring main, lights and loads of gadgets on big old MEM switch fuse disconnectors. It was brilliant, but sadly all gone now.

But back to my point, I had spent years doing electrical work, either at home or at my uncle’s factory, and always wanted to be an electrician. It was a career that my dad always dissuaded me from, as he thought I should do “better”. The careers advisors said I should go into computing with my skills and a-levels, so I did. But my heart really isn’t in it. Now I’m 23 and need to really think about what I want to do. I did try to enrol at my local college to sit the C&G part 1, to start the ladder to getting “qualified”, but the course was full and its going to take me four or more years to get “qualified” to an equivalent level to which I feel I already understand. Competent, informed and experienced, but not qualified, as I would call it. The 16th Ed of BS7671 sits by my bed [Linked Image]

Ideally, I really want to become an electrical engineer, or inspector/commissioner but have no real idea of how to get there now. People have said I should go do masters degree in electrical engineering, but that’s going to just be more theory, academia and no hands on work, plus the fact I now have a £15k uni debt and so can’t afford it! Things are a little more complicated in that I am visually impaired and so I cannot drive and have some limitations in what I can do.

Is a career in electrical engineering truly just going to be a pipe dream for me? If not, how can I realistically get my hands into it? ANY advice is greatly appreciated!

Ash (LiveWireUK)

Sorry for long post, it’s a subject I am quite passionate about and on my mind a lot at the mo!

Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8,443
Likes: 3
Hi there Ash!,
Wow, what a story you have there.
If I were you, I'd look at your future as an Electrical worker in a more positive light.
At the young age of 23, you still have time in which to persue a career in Electrical work.
I know of a few Electricians here that have bad eyesight and even a few that are colour-blind, but on the other side of the coin, they have addressed the problem and take it into account while they are working.
I'm not sure what Paul and the other guys in the Non-US Forum here will say, but I would say, if this is really what you want to do, I'd personally say go for it!. [Linked Image]
I came into the Electrical Trade from being a Career Fire-fighter, so therefore, the skills aren't that difficult to learn, most of the work that an Electrician actually does is more practical stuff.
I'm sure you'd fly through the theory side no worries.
I'd have a word with a few local Electrician's (Reputable ones) and see what they think, you might even get a start with one of them, you never know, a guy that is proficient with computers would be a God-send to an Electrician that does a lot of Process Control, PLC, SLC and other Computer based controls, which are becoming increasingly prevalent these days. [Linked Image]


Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,520
and boxes full of old MK wiring accessories,
Ah... I used to get presented with boxes full of stuff like that as well! When I think back, I used to scavenge anything and everything I could find. Defunct TVs got stripped for parts and the wiring looms, and if I saw a telephone engineer working at the cabinet on the street corner I'd hang around in the hope that I could scrounge some left-over multiple-pair cable. It usually worked! My bedroom generally looked more like a mad professor's lab than that of a typical 10-year-old boy, so I know exactly where you're coming from! [Linked Image]

I'm afraid I can't offer much in the way of practical help in suggesting a route to go. As many ECN regulars will know, other than when I worked for BT I arrived at all my other fields of technical work via rather less than conventional means.

The one thing I would say, though, is that I think you may well be right in not wanting to go through a masters if you want to get into real, practical work as quickly as possible.

Wasn't there some spokesman for various trades on TV the other day saying that Britain was now in the position of having too many people leaving college with degrees these days and not enough willing to just get into an apprenticeship and start "getting dirty", so to speak?

There's also the problem that in some cases an employer will refuse a job to somebody who they feel is over-qualified.

Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 20
Mike, thanks for the positive feedback there! I really hope its something that I could achieve. I think it's something i have a natural skill for, and I sure as heck enjoy it with a burning passion.

I do know mnay people who studied in a particular field and now do things utterly unrelated. I just feel the vision thing maybe the only thing holding me back. Also, I would have to start at the bottom and crawl my way up.

Pauluk, I totally agree. There is too great an expectation, by all, that we should all go to uni now and get degrees. I enjoyed uni, and am pleased i managed a 2:1, but the £15K debt and a qualification in a subject i feel little for now, seems to take the edge off. As i recall we have a national shortage of sparkies, plumbers, gas fitters etc. There should be a greater push and incentive for young people to take up these trades.

Does anybody know of any electrical contractors or firms in and near to the Norwich area that may be interested in taking on an apprentice? Maybe one with computing and IT skill with experience and knowledge of structured data cabling and POTS wiring also?

Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8,443
Likes: 3
It's a sad indictment on society when people like yourself have to run up debts like that to effect decent training.
What I think needs to happen over the next few years not only in the UK, but also over here in New Zealand, is that the stigma of "having a Trade" needs to be broken down.
They don't train Apprentices (at least Electrical ones) like they did 15 or 20 years ago anymore, as in kids aren't put on a broom for a couple of years and then at the end of their time have all the theory crammed into their heads.
Other side of the coin, a lot more is expected of an apprentice these days, as the skills required to be an Electrician, is assessed at regular intervals of the Apprenticeship.
However, at the end of the day, it all comes down to the schools and the parents in guiding kids toward a career and that should include actually asking the kid what it is they want to do.
Trades work isn't even considered by the majority of school-leavers these days here,
we've been trying to get 3 trainee Line- Mechanics at work, for the last 3 years, maybe next year. [Linked Image]
And also, I don't think that a lot of kids realise just what sort of money you can actually earn as a Tradesperson these days, a well clued up Electrician here makes just about the same amount as a Lawyer, sure the work is a bit harder physically, but the money is there to be made.
Ash, I'd call on you local sparkies, in person and find out if they are willing to take on an apprentice, ringing up never does any good, it shows that you lack motivation.
I scored 2 Apprenticeships at the local Power Company by showing up there one day looking for a job and I had no experience at all as an Electrical worker.
I wish you all the best!. [Linked Image]

Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 200
Hi Ash

Good post! [Linked Image]

To begin with, you have a good attitude; determination and a handle on what you now want to do. The trade is reasonably easy to approach if you have a positive outlook and the will to work. As the ol' saying goes; "Where there's a will, there's a way".

I would suggest that your visual issue has not grounded you thus far, and there is no reason why your determination to overcome that should ot continue. As Trumpy says, if you take that into consideration whilst you work then it won't pose a problem.

Plenty of people don't drive. Is this linked to the eyesight matter? Is it permanent - or you simply don't drive at the moment? Obviously, if you will never drive then you will have to approach things as a 'team player' with one or more who do.

That leads me onto the next step. The advice about approaching a reputable local electrician for advice is good. This is definitely the way to start I believe - there is no substitute for experience in the field however 'genned up' you are in the theory. Theory is obviously not a problem to you; you can pick this up doing day-release at a local college, or even coursework at home.

Troll through the yellow pages and ring around - sell yourself as the keen person you obviously are. Don't be afraid to try larger firms; such outfits often require people with your skills in addition to wire-tuggers!

The Institute of Electrical Engineers IEE is a useful place too; try a quick surf over to their site at and see what info you can find there.

Don't try to run before you can walk; if you keep a realistic set of goals in your sights you will succeed no doubt. There may be some disappointments, but then the lifeline will be thrown to you and away you go! I am not a routine supporter of going to college then expecting the world to fall at ones feet. I believe that this industry requires people to kick the world around a little whilst boning up - the practical experience makes the theory a damn sight easier to comprehend than vice-versa!!

Good luck my friend; and keep us posted. Oh - and don't be afraid to ask things here either!! [Linked Image] [Linked Image]

If hindsight were foresight, we'd all be millionaires!
Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 20
Guys, thanks ever so much for the positive and helpful feedback here. Since discovering ECN a few months ago I’ve found my self totally hooked. Not only have I found it fascinating reading and a great incite into wiring methods from all over, but a place of a true community spirit from a real diverse group. It’s fantastic!

Trying to bring all your points together into some kind of plan. As mentioned, I’ve just graduated, and money is very thin, so I am going to have to find “a job” regardless, most likely an IT support/technician role at the uni. I’ll give contacting local contractors and firms a go, see what feedback I get back from them. I wouldn’t mind unpaid work, so long as I get the experience!

Do any of you think it’s worth me enrolling for next year at Norwich College to sit the C&G 236 “Electrical Installations” part 1 course, Here ? They do an accelerated version, which basically covers the theory in a year, as opposed to two. At least with this I would have a foundation qualification as a start. Would it be of any use, or just a waste of time and money?

UKSparky – With regard to driving, I fall well below the minim requirement. I think I can read a number plate at about 5 meters, so you can see why they won’t let me drive [Linked Image] lol. Unfortunately I have three compound eye conditions that affect one another depending on many things. I have quite bad short sight, but also a rare condition called Nystagmus, which means my eyes “wobble” unless I look at objects from a certain angle. But I managed to get through uni, with some help, and have never found difficulty in crawling on duck boards hanging lamp battens, or crawling in machinery at my uncles factory fitting breakers and 3p motors etc.

I’ll be the first to admit I still have lots to learn, and wouldn’t suggest I know it all. But I think I am quite well clued and certainly have ability and the drive, passion and enthusiasm to make it. The geeky side of me probably shows all to much in this thread

Any advice any of you feel you can give would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks to all of you

Ash (LiveWireUK)

edited for my poor "spelin"

[This message has been edited by LiveWireUK (edited 10-15-2004).]

Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8,443
Likes: 3
Any news Ash?.
Feel free to post any questions you may have. [Linked Image]

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