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Apprenticeships and proper electrical training are key on the journey to net zero, SELECT’s Fiona Harper tells radio listeners

The skills supremo at Scotland’s largest construction trade association says the electrical talent of tomorrow needs a thorough grounding in ALL aspects of installation – not just the green technology that will help on the journey to net zero.

Fiona Harper, Director of Employment and Skills at SELECT, insists it is essential for would-be electricians to follow the traditional apprenticeship route and undergo full training, not just try to specialise in low carbon areas. 

Ms Harper also said funding was essential to continue the pipeline of electrical talent and attract more people into the UK construction sector, which is predicted to face a shortfall of 250,000 workers by 2026.

Speaking on the Clive Holland Show on Fix Radio, Ms Harper said: “The country and the industry needs apprenticeships and full-blown electricians. But what we don’t need is people who come in and can only install solar PV or electric vehicle (EV) charging units – that doesn’t work in electrical installation.

“Electricians need the foundational knowledge to apply their holistic knowledge and skills to install ANY technology correctly and safely, whatever it may be.

“That’s not to say they might not need some upskilling in certain specialisms, but we don’t need the ‘six-week wonders’ and we’ve worked with the Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland to really try to get that message across.”

Ms Harper, who is also The Secretary of the Scottish Joint Industry Board (SJIB), said the industry was eager to support apprenticeships to help plug the skills gap – but financial backing was also needed at Scottish Government level to achieve the necessary numbers.

She said: “We are an employer-led industry, so if an employer says they would like an apprentice, we go out of our way to supply one through the Scottish Electrical Charitable Training Trust (SECTT)

“However, we need government funding to do this as we have no employer levy. Instead, we do a lot through time and talent to support what we know is a good system.”

Ms Harper’s comments came after SELECT Managing Director Alan Wilson also appeared on the national station for the building sector to stress the importance of proper training and SELECT’s ongoing campaign for the regulation of the electrical industry in Scotland.

Speaking on The Electrical Show with Thomas Nagy last week, he said: “We are committed to ensuring that people are properly trained and qualified in this industry because we have heard too many stories about the consequences of poor workmanship and poor installations.”

SELECT also warned earlier this month that “significant investment” is needed to ensure there is a sufficiently skilled workforce to install new domestic heating technology and meet net zero targets safely.  

Responding to a recent Scottish Government consultation into the New Build Heat Standard, the association sad investment in “proper” apprenticeships and upskilling the existing workforce is essential – and it’s also vital to upgrade the nation’s electrical supply to accommodate green domestic technology.

  • Listen to Ms Harper’s interview here.