TESP - the industry's voice on skills
The only constant in life is change – and when it comes to skills, the electrotechnical industry is continually having to adapt to a changing technical education landscape. On the horizon are several policy developments in England that will impact our sector:
- Widespread T Level adoption.
- Qualifications reform at Level 3 and below.
- Potential funding for additional specialist Level 3 qualifications.
- Employer Representative Bodies working on Local Skills Improvement Plans.
- Further Education colleges now have a statutory obligation to review how well their training provision meets local needs.
Effectively delivering the future skills needed in a fast-changing world needs a simplified and integrated skills system that is understood and trusted. Clear routes to industry recognition, effective careers and training guidance and ensuring a strong core of occupational competence are all vital, and support both the Building Safety and Net Zero agendas.
But who is coordinating these developments from a sector perspective, keeping abreast of how developments are likely to impact our sector’s skills needs and ensuring electrotechnical employers can input and influence at Government level? The Electrotechnical Skills Partnership (TESP) represents the industry to policymakers and works alongside partners and stakeholders to promote sector-wide occupational competence.
Originally formed in 2015, TESP was incorporated as a not-for-profit Community Interest Company in 2019. The five founding members are the JIB, ECA, Select, National Electrotechnical Training and Unite the Union. It’s important to understand TESP’s activity is focussed on supporting all employers and individuals working in or wishing to join the sector, regardless of membership, and it works closely with other industry organizations including the IET, awarding organizations, training providers, and enterprise certification bodies.
TESP exists to support electrotechnical employers access the skills needed and to improve our sector’s skills landscape. We provide a unified voice on skills matters to all four UK Governments, working closely with relevant departments and the Construction Leadership Council to ensure the specific needs of our sector are listened to and represented.
Our sector has a long, successful track record in technical education. Industry recognizes the importance of sufficient work-based training to ensure safety, quality and performance in a high-risk occupation. The Installation Electrician apprenticeship is consistently the most popular technical apprenticeship, well before the introduction of employer-led standards in England. Starts in 2022 are well above pre-pandemic levels. We had an apprenticeship end point assessment decades before it was mandated across all English apprenticeships. We have a large training provider network across the UK. And there’s a huge range of employers working hard behind the scenes to train apprentices and make our sector successful; four of this year’s Top 50 SME apprenticeship employers are electrical contractors. All this has been achieved without a mandatory training levy. So we have a well-established foundation, but there’s still lots to do.
In terms of TESP’s work, the activity we undertake is all around developing and promoting the right training routes to competence, building a workforce that’s fit for the future:
We regularly commission high quality Labour Market Intelligence (LMI) research so we can be certain our industry positions are objective and well-informed to meet employers’ future challenges. New LMI will be commissioned next year.
Employers tell us the future skills needed are not just focused on technical competence. Management and commercial skills, creativity, problem solving, design, integration, using data and digital capabilities all feature prominently.
In September, TESP published Pye Tait research which confirms that the projected demand for the installation of electric vehicle charging points can be readily accommodated by the UK’s workforce of fully qualified electricians. This is a great opportunity for our industry and the findings further strengthen the case against the proposed use of non-qualified and under-qualified personnel to undertake this safety-critical work.
The concept of the Electrician-plus model is increasingly important, meaning the core foundation of occupational competence is developed via an apprenticeship or equivalent work-based training, with CPD and upskilling qualifications on top for specialist technologies, including low carbon technologies.
Working with awarding organizations (AOs), TESP supports various technical strands of work related to qualification design, development, mapping, strengthening prerequisites and promoting the correct industry messaging.
When further government guidance is published around the qualifications reform at Level 3 and below, we will be digesting the information, supporting AOs and engaging industry employers to shape the future.
We also support employer groups developing and reviewing apprenticeships in the sector, including the Fire Emergency and Security Systems (FESS) employer group, as well as the electrotechnical apprenticeships (Installation Electrician and Domestic Electrician)
Experienced Worker Assessment
In 2020 we developed and launched the Experienced Worker Assessment (EWA) process to recognise the significant population of part-qualified industrial electricians. Those who complete the EWA gain a Level 3 qualification aligned to the apprenticeship standard and take the industry’s assessment of competence, the AM2.
Following the launch of the Domestic Electrician apprenticeship, the related EWA process is currently in the late stages of development with industry stakeholders, to allow equivalent recognition to the standard for electricians working in the domestic market. Eligibility, technical entry qualifications and centre requirements will be strengthened, recognizing this is a sector that historically has had shorter entry routes without robust assessment of competence.
We have recently launched a Training & Qualifications Forum for interested employers and training providers to receive skills updates. It is held twice a year to provide updates on the latest industry developments in areas such as T-Levels, EAS, guidance for recognition of prior learning, ECS, qualifications reforms and more.
We represent the industry from a skills and training perspective on several forums, including the Electrotechnical Assessment Specification Management Committee and the OZEV EVCP Installation Safety Working Group.
The Electrotechnical Assessment Specification, EAS, sets out the conditions for certification or registration bodies – the most prevalent being Certsure and NAPIT – to assess enterprises. IET publishes EAS and acts as secretariat for the Management Committee. Fairly recently, EAS tightened up its approach to recognising qualifications for applicants wishing to become a Qualified Supervisor. EAS now publishes a Qualifications Guide listing the acceptable qualifications for each work category. Subjective auditable evidence routes are gone, and, bar the work category for work in dwellings, all qualification routes are aligned to the apprenticeship standard. With the recent launch of the new domestic electrician apprenticeship, it is hoped the Management Committee will soon be persuaded to adopt this as the benchmark for robust occupational competence.
It is likely that additional work categories will come into EAS, including solar PV, electric vehicle charging points, micro wind and electric energy storage systems. All crucial to achieving a net zero future, and all are technologies that require core electrotechnical competence as a starting point to ensure quality, safety and performance. The Electrician-plus model is crucial here for ensuring industry standards are upheld.
The new domestic electrician standard and changes to the core electrotechnical apprenticeship will encompass EVCP installation as a fundamental skill for an electrician, no matter which context they operate in.
TESP is working with industry to ensure additional qualifications required are developed in time, and that these qualifications have robust entry prerequisites.
In addition to our technical activity around qualifications, apprenticeships and qualifying existing workers, we also have initiatives aimed at promoting the industry, encouraging industry experts to share their experience with students and helping to improve the quality and relevance of training delivery:
- The Electrical Careers website gives advice and guidance on careers and training routes for all entry points to become an industry-recognised electrician, from school leavers to career changers.
- TESP’s industry-recognised Training Routes show the paths to becoming a qualified electrician across all four nations of the UK.
- To tackle undesirable behaviour and mis-selling from certain training providers, TESP has launched the ‘Rogue Trainers’ campaign to help people understand which qualifications they should be looking for, tips on choosing a reputable training provider and red flags to avoid being misled.
- The Industry into Education campaign encourages employers to engage more closely with Further Education providers to inspire people into our industry and to provide a learning experience that is closely linked to reality. There are many different ways to get involved, from supporting T-Level placements to becoming a STEM Ambassador.
- TESP’s Data Dashboard is an interactive online tool providing instant facts and figures about the industry profile across the UK, highlighting the significant and growing contribution to the economy.
Looking to the future…
Ensuring there is sufficient equity and diversity across the industry remains a persistent challenge. We are exploring initiatives with partners to help shift the balance and improve inclusion of underrepresented groups. Diversity and employer engagement benefit businesses, as well as increasing competitive advantage, it enhances attractiveness to the younger generation. Tacking systemic structural issues in such a large workforce will take years to resolve so we need to accelerate our combined efforts.
Although we may be facing some difficult economic times ahead, this is a tremendously resilient sector with clear opportunity ahead. TESP looks forward to working with the industry and its employers to ensure we have the skills infrastructure needed to support this.