Kim, Interview with an ElectricianFeb 14, 2023
Hi Kim, thank you so much for offering to be interviewed by me at "Her Own Space" and it is great to connect with a female electrician based in London.
1. So tell us a bit about you, how did you begin your career and what type of projects do you work on?
I started off working as admin staff for an electrical firm on my gap year before heading off to university to study psychology. Sending off the electricians reports with the photos and invoices sparked an interest in on site work and made me see the potential for a wealthy future without all the student debt university would bring.
I started off as an apprentice in social housing, changing elements, fault finding and communal lighting repairs. Eventually I qualified and ventured out as a self-employed electrician. I worked on building sites wearing a hard hat, social housing, private homes, emergency late night call outs, rewires and testing. I had to try everything to see what I enjoyed the most.
At the moment I am on a few rewire projects and maintenance for estate agents/restaurants.
2. My next question is about the main challenges about being an electrician today but I am also aware you suffer from Aphantasia (The inability to visualise. Or create any pictures of familiar objects, people, or places in their mind's eye). and SDAM (refers to a lifelong inability to vividly recollect or re-experience personal past events from a first-person perspective). Do you mind telling us a bit about how this affects your working life and do you have other challenges in your job.
I would like to rephrase “suffering” as its something that I always lived with happily before I became aware that others perception of life was different. Now that it has been brought to my attention, it makes so much more sense on why other electricians seemed to work so flawlessly.
I often struggle with visualising the stock of materials that I have, so I take photos and a stock list on my phone. I draw out plans even if I am adding one socket as once I leave I may find it hard to visualise the layout and the amount of materials I need such as lengths of trunking. Remembering what jobs I did is also hard, even if I attended a property the same day, I have to rely on the pictures I took to remind myself.
I have to add I'm very impressed with the tools you've put in place, I am sure everyone could learn from these methods too.
3. What do you really enjoy about your job and what would you say to other women/mothers thinking about a career as an electrician.
I love the flexibility of my job, as an electrician you can work any hours, midnight or early morning, weekends or bank holidays. I can also choose to be office based, a Qualifying Supervisor role, looking over others work remotely and checking certification other electricians complete. This means that even if I choosing to focus on my family or need to work remotely or around my child, it is still possible.
4. What do you think are the main reasons jobs go wrong and equally go well?
Organisation is what makes a job go smoothly or turn out to be a complete shambles. A well organised diary and tool bag is essential. Being able to complete all your jobs and appointment times will keep the customers happy and prevent you from having to reschedule things. I had to return to a specific job twice, loosing me money and delaying the client because I couldn’t find a tool and didn’t have enough sockets for the replacement; the wholesalers were shut because I was behind schedule and attended late so couldn’t complete it the same day. I had to return just to replace one socket which then had a knock on effect on the rest of the week that had to be rescheduled.
5. What recent changes out there do you think tenants need to be aware of and what is the best way for them to stay on top of this?
More times it is the landlords responsibility to stay on top of changes, however it helps that the tenants know so they can point things out to their landlord. The latest one is the requirement for smoke alarms in properties. “Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (Amendment) Regulations 2022”
6. What projects do you enjoy working on the most?
This has changed throughout time for me, at the moment I’m really enjoying upgrading rental properties with a new CCU, Landlord Safety Certificate, Smoke alarms, removing dangerous DIY electrics from the previous tenant and ensuring all accessories such as sockets and switches are in good and working condition.
7. Would you ever consider working on private jobs and is this something you can do as extra work?
As a self-employed electrician, most of my jobs are “private” jobs. Sometimes I rely on sub-contracting for other electricians to fill the diary or take time away from having to run my own “sole-trader” business.
8. What would you like to see change in your job as an electrician in social housing?
I would love for the main contract holders to accept responsibility for the standard in social housing electrics. Unfortunately we don’t get a say in the private meetings and interviews that passes on the blame of poor electrical standards on electricians. But often in reality many corners are cut due to costs, essential works not approved for many months, overloading contractors with jobs that we have to rush to complete to get our daily wage which is the lowest you can receive for an electrician. Receiving a contract from the council involves a lot of money exchanged, but it often trickles down until the electrician is underpaid and overworked which reduces quality of work. We are restricted to the cheapest materials which are more time consuming and trickier to install, often go faulty resulting in recalls. I think a deep look into this would solve a lot of issues. Social housing electricians often don’t discuss these things due to fear of loosing the constant work that is guaranteed with council contracts, so it is an issue that is “swept under the rug”.
9. How do you stay on top of your qualifications and what future training aspirations do you have?
I often attend seminars, CEF “Tech-Talks”, listen to electrical podcasts and update myself on all the latest information via reliable social media accounts. This all counts towards my CPD (Continuing Professional Development) portfolio.
For the future I want to expand the safety certification I can provide my clients in one visit. I currently provide EPCs (Energy Performance Certificates), EET (Inspection & Testing of Electrical Equipment AKA Portable Appliance Testing), EICR’s ( Electrical Installation Condition Reports), Floor Plans, Inventory summary, Emergency Lighting Certificates. I want to expand so I can confidently provide Fire Safety Certificates and Fire Risk Assessments and many more relevant certifications a client may need for their portfolio. I wish to develop myself so that at my clients convenience, with one appointment with just one contractor they can receive most of the certification they need.
10. What do you envision for the future for electricians in London?
Wow! Interesting question. I would love to see the community growing, beautiful sign-printed vans, beautiful uniforms, beautiful work. Regular meet-ups would also be amazing! To see our trade be respected as an investment, something that shouldn’t be carried out by unqualified builders that will cause landlords problems and leave tenants in danger.
Please feel free to contact Kim if you would like to discuss any upcoming projects you have and you can follow her and her journey as an electrician.