Have you ever considered a career change, even if it means starting from scratch? Well, I can relate because I, too, decided to become an electrician later in life. After spending my early years as a chef, I realized that a life in front of a hot stove wasn’t for me. So, I embarked on a journey to become an electrician, armed with determination and a willingness to learn. In this article, I’ll be sharing my personal experience, as well as insights from colleagues who also pursued a career in electrical work later in life. Additionally, I reached out to local electrical training colleges for their expert advice. Let’s shed some light on the path to becoming an electrician at 30 and above.
Is It Possible to Become an Electrician After 30?
Becoming an electrician in your thirties or beyond is absolutely achievable. Unlike other professions, there are no age restrictions when it comes to apprenticeships in the electrical field. In fact, some employers value the life experience that older candidates bring to the table. Moreover, there are alternative routes to becoming a fully qualified electrician, so don’t let age discourage you.
The Path to Becoming a Qualified Electrician
To be recognized as a fully qualified electrician, certain qualifications are required. These include:
1. Level 3 NVQ in Electrical Installation
A level 3 NVQ is granted to a student upon successful completion of all the required units. These units encompass practical on-site assessments and a portfolio of completed work. It’s important to note that an NVQ level 3 can only be obtained through real-world electrical installation experience.
2. Completion of the AM2 Exam
The AM2 exam is the final hurdle for apprentices at the end of their four-year training period. This three-day exam consists of practical skill tests, such as installation, fault finding, and testing of electrical circuits, as well as theory-based exams.
3. Completion of an Apprenticeship Program
While not absolutely mandatory, having a completed apprenticeship certificate is advantageous. Many employers prefer candidates who have undergone a full apprenticeship, as it demonstrates their commitment and dedication.
Gaining On-Site Experience
As we can see, practical on-site experience plays a vital role in becoming an electrician at any age. Building a portfolio of practical work, with accompanying photos, is a necessary requirement. Additionally, expect visits from an NVQ assessor to evaluate your skills and progress. Of course, you’ll need to invest in the necessary tools to carry out the job effectively.
The apprenticeship route provides an all-inclusive package, ticking all the boxes and allowing you to gather vital evidence and experience in a structured manner.
Apprenticeships for Those Over 30
It’s important to emphasize that there are no age limits when it comes to apprenticeships. I personally started my apprenticeship at the age of 26. Many employers value the maturity and dedication that comes with older apprentices. However, it’s essential to consider the additional costs employers may incur when hiring older individuals.
Since UK law mandates that apprentices must be paid minimum wage based on their age after their first year, employing an older apprentice can be costlier. The table below provides an overview of the hourly wage rates for apprentice electricians based on their age as of April 2022.
In addition to increased wages, employers may also have to cover apprentice training fees, which are often subsidized by the government for younger apprentices. The table below highlights the difference in fees that employers must pay for adult apprentices compared to their younger counterparts.
While the costs associated with hiring older apprentices may be higher, it’s not an impossible feat. Larger companies, with greater financial resources, are more likely to absorb these costs in exchange for the maturity and experience that older apprentices bring to the workforce. So, when seeking apprenticeships, it’s wise to focus your efforts on these larger companies rather than local electricians, who may struggle to accommodate the added expenses.
Advice for Securing an Electrical Apprenticeship Over 30
From my personal experience, I’ve found that applying for apprenticeships with larger companies tends to yield better results. Smaller local electricians may find it challenging to navigate the financial implications of hiring older apprentices. Therefore, targeting larger companies, such as water supply or energy supply companies, can increase your chances of success. If you secure an interview, be sure to check out this article on how to dress for the practical element of the apprentice interview.
Another piece of advice is to consider gaining relevant experience before pursuing an apprenticeship. Working as a general laborer on a construction site, for example, can provide valuable experience that can be beneficial during the apprentice interview stage. Although not directly related to electrical work, the skills and work ethic demonstrated in such roles can make a positive impression on potential employers.
The Experience of Being an Older Apprentice
As an older apprentice myself, I found the experience to be highly rewarding. Everyone involved recognizes your dedication and appreciates your commitment to learning a new skill. Ultimately, I would wholeheartedly recommend an electrical apprenticeship to anyone, regardless of age.
Of course, being an apprentice means taking on various tasks, some of which may be more challenging for older adults. Making tea, sweeping up, and carrying out menial jobs may be part of the daily routine. However, approaching these tasks with a positive attitude and a willingness to contribute demonstrates your dedication and helps create a conducive learning environment. Remember, the average day of a qualified electrician isn’t always filled with glamorous projects!
Alternatives to Apprenticeships
While apprenticeships are the most common route to becoming an electrician, they are not the only option. It is possible to obtain an NVQ level 3 without completing an apprenticeship, although practical site experience is still necessary. However, some job positions may specifically require proof of a completed apprenticeship, as employers recognize the comprehensive training it provides.
A friend of mine, for instance, was made redundant from the postal service at the age of 35. He enrolled in a part-time college course to gain a level 2 qualification in electrical installation. This qualification helped him secure a job as an electrician’s mate, where he furthered his studies and completed his level 3 NVQ.
The Role of an Electrician’s Mate or Electrical Improver
An electrician’s mate, also known as an electrical improver, is an unqualified individual who works alongside a qualified electrician. While they lack formal qualifications, they often possess some electrical experience and may be studying towards their own certification. This can be an excellent option for older individuals looking to become electricians. However, keep in mind that these job opportunities, especially on a full-time basis, might be challenging to find. Once employed in such a position, you can work towards obtaining the necessary practical evidence to complete an NVQ.
Studying Part-Time at College
While studying part-time at college can provide a solid understanding of electrical principles, it is important to note that it alone will not make you a fully qualified electrician. Practical experience is still required to complete a portfolio of work. The City of Bristol College, for instance, offers an entry-level 2 course in electrical installation, followed by a level 3 electrical installation course. This pathway can help you gain a strong foundation and potentially secure employment, allowing you to continue your journey towards achieving an NVQ.
Becoming an electrician later in life is an achievable goal. While practical experience is essential, there are various paths you can take to reach your objective. Whether through apprenticeships with larger companies or alternative routes like working as an electrician’s mate, age should not deter you from pursuing a fulfilling career in the electrical field. Remember, there is no substitute for hard work, dedication, and a willingness to learn. So, take the first step and explore the possibilities of rewiring your future as an electrician.
(Note: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered professional advice. It is important to consult with local electrical training colleges and industry experts for specific guidance on becoming an electrician.)