Next year’s introduction of the 18th Edition of BS7671 (the IET Wiring Regulations) provides an opportunity for all electricians to get fully up to date with the industry standard, which is expected to include, for the first time, energy efficiency. The 18th Edition will be published on 28 June 2018 and comes into full effect on 01 January 2019.
Whilst some might voice their dissatisfaction with the notion of further training and study to keep abreast of the update, few can argue that a skilled, qualified electrician can remain at the very top of their game without working to the current British Standard.
This is why the JIB, which administers the Electrotechnical Certification Scheme (ECS) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, has made the important decision to incorporate BS7671, in its 18th Edition, into the scheme, to demonstrate that our gold card holders really do represent the ‘gold standard’ in the industry.
There are currently around 61,000 gold card holders, primarily Electricians, Approved Electricians and Technicians, within the current cardholding population of 114,000.
However whilst each gold card holder has been proven to meet the industry standard at the time of their entry to the scheme, the extent of documented continuous professional development over the years can vary considerably. Around 54 per cent of the gold card holders have the 17th Edition of BS7671, but conversely 46 per cent do not and we will need to take a sensible and pragmatic approach to long-standing cardholders who have not to date been expected to hold the latest edition of BS7671.
The industry at large – including the ECA and Unite the Union, whose representatives comprise the JIB National Board – agrees that we need to do more to encourage continuous professional development. This not only benefits the individual, but also improves the quality of work delivered by our electricians.
Looking at the wider picture, the issue of improving standards and professionalism is the driving force behind the idea of an individual electricians’ licence. The National Board has tasked the JIB to take forward the development of an industry licence, using the ECS card as the platform.
Developing a voluntary licence for electricians in the industry will require the JIB to undertake wide ranging and comprehensive discussions with the relevant industry institutions. We hope they will support the objective of raising professional standards within the industry and taking the industry forward. The aim of the licence is to complement all the existing certification schemes which assess the competence of businesses.
Thoughts need to be developed on not just the criteria set for a licence, but also how the licence programme would be operated, governed and policed.
Nothing will change overnight – any decisions being made will only take place after a robust and considered planning and consultation process. Between now and the end of the year we will be developing proposals and speaking to our various partners. But as enter 2018, the move towards licence to practice will herald an exciting new chapter for the electrical contracting industry and will provide a much called-for platform to highlight the professionalism of all qualified electricians.