If you’re looking to work as an electrician, you’ll need to show you’re up to speed with the current Wiring Regulations. How can you get qualified, and what are the options afterwards?
So, what is the ‘17th Edition’? Technically, it’s the latest version of the ‘Regs’, the British Standard (BS7671) “Requirements for electrical installations”. Or, to put it another way, it is the technical legal standards applying to the design, erection and verification of electrical installations in the UK (as well as countries ranging from Mauritius to Sri Lanka); it covers domestic and commercial installations as well as everything from amusement parks and circuses to marinas and swimming pools.
So, as you can guess, it is pretty much essential reading for all electricians, electrical contractors and their managers, installation designers and students in further education and professional training; anyone, in fact, who wants to get the job done right, first time.
More prosaically, the 17th Edition is a large green book (though, of course, it’s also now available as an ebook—see box) consisting of nearly 500 pages full of rules and regulations which electricians are expected to follow. Latest editions will include a few changes (ranging from new fuse standards to new sections on issues such as electromagnetic disturbances) brought in by Amendment 1, which became effective from 1 January 2012. (Yes, there are Editions, and Amendments of Editions, as technology and practices continue to develop; you either get annoyed with the regular changes, or ‘go with the flow’!)
Now, it’s fair to say that the content of such a book could well be quite daunting and certainly not make much sense, at least initially. An effective training course, however, will show you how to fully understand and navigate your way through the book. Don’t worry, you’re not expected to commit the whole thing to memory before you sit an exam. You’re allowed to take the book in with you; the City & Guilds 2382 exam is as much about knowing where to find information from the Regs as how to apply it.
The most universally recognised 17th edition qualifications are the EAL Level 3 Award in the Requirements for Electrical Installations BS7671 or City & Guilds 2382, also a Level 3 qualification. Most training courses covering the 17th Edition have no formal entry requirements, although many will expect you to have at least a basic knowledge of electrical science and installation (perhaps by already possessing an appropriate NVQ/SVQ); you’ll also need to show a reasonable chance of successfully gaining the qualification. After all, it is aimed at practicing electricians with relevant experience, and other allied professionals looking to update and enhance their understanding of the wiring regulations.
However, as Service-leavers, your first option can be to take a course (focusing exclusively on the 17th Edition or incorporating it as part of training in the likes of Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Technology) through the Career Transition Partnership as part of your resettlement package. Alternatively, there is a wide range of courses available through commercial training companies and numerous further education colleges across the UK. The choice of courses means that, depending on your learning preferences, you can opt for either for an online course (which certainly offers convenience and flexibility, and these days are likely to include video tutorials and social media communications) or one that provides old-school teacher-led delivery within a classroom environment.
Courses will not generally cover every single regulation in BS7671, but they will cover broad topics and draw attention to the most important areas; as we’ve already said, you’re not expected to commit the whole 17th Edition to memory. Nevertheless, taking time to study the regulations will help your understanding of how BS7671 applies in particular circumstances. Depending on the format and nature of the course, the exam will either be completed online or at an agreed, invigilated examination centre.
It’s important to remember that having a 17th edition qualification doesn’t, in itself, make you a competent electrical installer—arguably, all it shows is that you’ve passed the test! So be extremely suspicious of any training providers that suggest you can become a ‘fully qualified’ electrician in a couple of weeks; chances are they’ll be more interested in your immediate cash than your long-term future. To be able to competently install, test and maintain electrical systems you should have at least some vocational training under your belt; if you haven’t already gained that through your Military career, it will be worth investing in a proper vocational course, perhaps even an apprenticeship if appropriate.
That said, both the ECA and City & Guilds qualifications are pretty much ‘benchmark’ qualifications in the trade; most employers will expect you to have them, and will be unlikely to take you on if you don’t. However, they’re also a necessary stepping-stone to more progressive qualifications, such as
City & Guilds 2377 (Certificate of Competence for the Inspection and Testing of Portable Electrical Equipment), 2394 (Certificate in the Fundamental
Inspection, Testing and Initial Verification of Electrical Installations) or
2395 (Certificate for Inspection, Testing and Certification of Electrical
Proving you are competent to inspect, test and verify electrical installations will increase the range of work open to you; not least because (after completing a short training scheme), you will be able to certify your own work in accordance to Part P of the Building Regulations. Being able to do so will potentially save your employer time and money waiting for local building control inspectors to check every installation.
020 7313 4800; www.eca.co.uk
The Institution of Engineering and Technology
01438 313311; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.theiet.org
City & Guilds (UK Learners)
0844 543 0033; email@example.com; www.cityandguilds.com
17th Edition e-book
It’s the 21st century, you know, so (of course!) the 17th Edition volume, along with other IET publications such as their Guidance Notes and On-Site Guide, are available as downloadable e-books. These editions can be accessed on any desktop, laptop, iOS (Apple) or Android device, making them easily portable to take on-site as well as all in one place at your desk.
Unlike the dead tree original, advantages of the ebook editions include being able to find any reference or regulation instantly using keyword searches, the ability to follow links within and between books, and being able to “cut and paste” information into other applications.
More information is available from the IET.