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Changing minds over regulation

Among the recent signatories to the Wall of Support is Ryan Dempsey, CEO of Associate Member TCW. As a one-time vocal sceptic of regulation, what changed his mind? And why is he now willing to join hundreds of others in backing the industry crusade for protection of title?

Ryan Dempsey discusses regulation with SELECT Managing Director Alan Wilson at the Toolbox Talk

What IS an electrician? Is it someone who wears work gear with a circuit protective conductor length strapped around their belt loop and insulated screwdrivers in their pocket?

For a facilities management firm or organisation procuring electricians, it’s easier to know, manage and audit what an electrician is because the requirements should be defined at the beginning of the tender process. But what about the general consumer, i.e. the public? How can they ensure that the person walking through their door to carry out work is qualified as an electrician?

Donald W Orr and Ryan Dempsey at SELECT Toolbox Talk at The Walled Garden on 3 May

The above questions float around the electrical industry a lot these days. It’s a hot topic because in real life the term electrician doesn’t really mean anything without more context or at least some additional paperwork or card as back-up.

A few years back when I was approached and told that SELECT was looking to protect the title of electrician, I laughed. Not because I thought it was funny per se but because I thought it was ridiculous to try to protect a title that I believed would put a bigger barrier between first-rate sparks and those who’ve not quite made it to the end of their required training. Not to mention those who have decided they don’t need further training because the money is coming in anyway.

“It’s a hot topic because in real life the term electrician doesn’t really mean anything without more context or at least some additional paperwork or card as back-up”

As I scratched the surface and researched the situation, I gradually built a picture that made me feel like this was just an attempt to monopolise Scotland and ensure that one brand managed and controlled the sector.

So what changed my mind?

During COVID-19 we were all confined to our homes and it was hard. We leaned on the likes of social media to see what was happening in the outside world.

Ryan has thrown his weight behind the campaign for protection of title after initially having reservations about the idea

During this time, I was scrolling through Twitter and noticed a personal post from the Managing Director of SELECT, Alan Wilson. It was at that point that I remember thinking: Hold on a minute, these so-called corporate monsters DO have personalities and compassion.

I slowly started to realise that I had been wrong; the ongoing communication and messaging from SELECT was so inspiring and engaging that I felt obliged to revisit and dig a little deeper into the reasons for regulation of the electrical industry.

During this time I’d been experiencing feelings and issues that men don’t usually talk about and had actually managed to rebuild some form of logic around the things I care about and the things that I don’t.

“as a consumer, how do I confirm that this person at my door IS an electrician and what they do to my home won’t result in more money or damage?”

Using that logic, I revisited the purpose of the regulation that SELECT was trying to achieve, only this time I took my sparky hat off and focused solely on the very first part of this article – namely, as a consumer, how do I confirm that this person at my door IS an electrician and what they do to my home won’t result in more money or damage?

OK, we do have a competent person scheme, but it’s been about since 2005 and whether we like it or not, we are still having this conversation some 17 years later. So it’s clear we need to do SOMETHING.

I also realised that we can replace the word “monopolise” with the phrase “one true voice”, which again provides so much clarity and vision for the sector that one brand controlling everything really wouldn’t be an issue (although after first-hand and ongoing contact with the association, I’m now convinced that is certainly NOT SELECT’s intent.)

I believe what SELECT is trying to do is hard. Not only because there’s the massive task of educating the general public, but there’s also the corporate world who dine off training and development.

Not to mention the issue of so-called ‘electricians’ who work hand-to-mouth and would be forced to spend time building their qualification portfolio.

That said, I fully support the need to improve public perception as I feel it will slowly lead toward a safer industry with more accountability. And that’s got to be a good thing, right?


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