Written by Jamie Parry, Director at Assured Electricians

Like many electricians, my career began with college and an apprenticeship. My training served me well, I have had a good career and am now the Director of a company with multiple offices and we deliver electrical services across Newport, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.

There are trades where you can go straight from college to being qualified – but being an electrician is not one of them.  While the formal qualifications are studied at college (usually an NVQ), the only route to completing any formal training as a fully qualified electrician is undertaking practical training with people who do the job, with experience and skills being handed directly from a skilled professional to a trainee.

I still remember my training and still use the skills I learned every single day.  So do my colleagues. I feel like Liam Neeson in saying “I have a specific set of skills!”  Sadly, however, there aren’t enough people with my skills.   Demand for the electrician’s skill set is on the increase, not falling, yet many construction and industrial trade professionals are approaching retirement, which, combined with a lack of an apprenticeship pipeline could render the UK unable to build, unable to manufacture and unable to grow.

In terms of demand for skilled electrical professionals, it’s never been higher – but data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and industry associations consistently reveals a huge gap between the demand for electrical services and the availability of qualified professionals.  If that’s not worrying enough, many of the existing electricians in the UK are approaching retirement and most EU workers have now left the UK – leaving a narrowing talent pool.

For this reason, it concerns me that data from a report commissioned jointly by ECA and JIB and published by The Electrotechnical Skills Partnership (TESP) found nearly half of electrotechnical employers in Wales (44%) consider that a lack of suitable training is causing recruitment problems and contributing to Wales’s long-running electrical skills shortage.

In National Apprenticeship Week we’ve heard almost every public sector organisation paying lip service to the value of apprenticeships – and rightly so, but we need more than lip service if we are to fix these massive skills shortages and grow our economy.  I dread the day where someone searches for ‘electrician in Cardiff’ and can’t find one closer than Bristol!

Wales need apprenticeships and needs them fast – yet we saw £17.5m cuts to apprenticeships announced in November and a further 24.2% funding cuts for 2024-25 are set to halve apprenticeship places in Wales.

With massive skills gaps across all trades and a desperate shortage of construction sector professionals, if we don’t invest in apprenticeships, how are these gaps going to be filled?

The growth of solar energy is huge – we are seeing more and more organisations installing solar panels. While in theory anyone can climb on a roof and fit a solar panel (although it may not be advised!) one thing that people may not realise is that when connecting them up to the grid, it’s a specialist and potentially risky job – and therefore one that can only be undertaken by a qualified electrician.  The same applies with wind power.  We will always need energy and demand for electrical skills is only set to rise in a future green economy.

Reducing funding for apprenticeships at this critical point in time is foolhardy and short sighted.

The apprenticeship route is the ideal way, in fact the only real way for trainees to learn the skills I have been fortunate to earn my living from.  It is my hope that the Welsh Government will reconsider their decision and recognise the importance of funding as many future apprenticeships as possible.

Without these essential skills, Wales faces an uncertain future.