Electrical engineering: More than just laying cables

Industry News Mar 7 2018
By Elliott Boyden

When most people think about the trades, they see it as all cable-laying and wiring, something of job, rather than a career. But as Mr Electric franchisee, Jeff Longley says you can create a career in electrical engineering.

Vocational snobbery. One of those key areas the Government regularly promises to tackle, by making vocational training as key to the education system as university degrees. And whilst there were reports of new laws designed to stop schools telling pupils only academic qualifications are worth applying for, we are still a long way from the trade industries being seen as anything other than a second-rate choice for those who fail with academia. Students should be supported to choose the route best suited to the future they want to craft for themselves.

But it appears there is still a misconception about exactly how much can be gained through a career in electrical engineering. Jeff Longley, Business Owner of Mr Electric Birmingham North, has come across many such instances, “I have done a number of talks in a couple of the local schools, to engage kids to consider an apprenticeship.” he says, “I have often found the teachers are dismissive, seeing this as something more suited to those kids who are not doing so well in school. But as a business owner, I want kids who are accomplished, and are doing well, who have something to add to my business. We need bright young adults to enter the trade industries too.”

New innovations in our industry need new ways of thinking

For businessman Jeff, who admits to being colour-blind, and knowing nothing about electrics, he has built a successful business over the last ten years, in an industry which is constantly developing. “Our industry isn’t just about the manual labour. There is a real chance of career progression, for those who want to rise up the ranks. Those wanting a job as a hands-on electrician can still earn a huge amount of money. But for people who have more drive about their future, there are various opportunities. We need supervisors, qualified legislative experts who can stay on top of the constantly updating trade regulations, lighting designers, circuit designers, designers who can work with each new technological development – even finding ways to improve them. We now have electric car chargers, home automation (e.g. smart phone connection), and energy saving technology, which wasn’t so prevalent when I first set up my business.”

Not just for those who struggle at school

University has always been seen as the route for success, attainable only by those with the finances, and grades, to find a place among the ranks. But academia doesn’t suit everyone, nor is it the only route for successful, fulfilling career. In fact, many graduates never end-up using the degree qualifications they spend three years achieving.

It has long been understood students relate differently to different styles of education. Some young people are more practical and hands-on, in how they learn. But it is a well-known fact most of us don’t really start learning anything until after we leave school. “People learn what they’re interested in and passionate about,” says Jeff. “These are subjects which may not be covered within the school curriculum. Like electrical engineering. There are a lot of options within the trades for people who have an aptitude for learning, and a desire to push themselves in order to progress their career.”

From humble beginnings a big business is built

For Jeff, who has built-up a hugely successful business in Birmingham, with a high annual turn-over allowing him to build a more comfortable lifestyle for him and his family, he had a humble start. “Although I did well at school, and was in the top grade, there was a major overhaul of the educational system at the time. So I ended up leaving school aged 15, without any qualifications. None of the teachers stopped me, or tried to talk to me, which was a shame – but it was a different time back then.”

There are a lot of adults, young and old, who can probably relate to Jeff in this way – and with such an emphasis on going to university, young people can be forgiven for thinking they can’t achieve much without a degree or two tucked under their belt. But with the support and training of franchising, the dream of owning your own company and doing well for yourself, isn’t as far-fetched as you might have thought. “There is a solid future to be had in the trades,” professes Jeff. “Sure, it might be manual at the entry level, but there is a vast amount of work for electricians at all levels. As you move up through the ranks, it becomes easier to earn top-level wages. Better than some ‘academic’ jobs! As a business owner, I have a choice about how I structure my day – and I purposely haven’t been a hands-on owner, like other Mr Electric franchisees are. I prefer to acquire the best people for the job, and invest in them, as a way of investing my business.”

As a result, Jeff has been free to think of how best to meet the needs of his customers, as well as how he can develop his business. Recently, this has included providing training for his team, on how to install and maintain car charging ports, in preparation for a city-wide contract. “Technological advancements have allowed me to expand my business, as well as helping employees to expand their skills.” He says. “Having the academically-minded kids, working alongside the practically-minded kids, creates a fuller, more rounded company perfectly positioned to deal with how electrical engineering is progressing. This is the kind of experience a university degree can’t offer.”

Your future is in your hands

Whether you attend university, or not – the ability of running your own business is in your hands, not in the grades you achieve. Franchising offers a support network from which you can start off on the ground level, and work your way up the ranks to owning your own company. Or you can come straight in at the top, and build your own business using their model for success. “One of the guys in the network started out as a Mr Electric employee, trained how to do the manual electrical engineering. He reached a point where he wanted more for himself, so took the step to invest in his own Mr Electric company. Another friend I made since joining the network, started off as a Mr Electric franchisee, but was so interested in the design-side of electrics, he simultaneously earned a lighting design Masters, and has gone on to set up his own business – who we can use if we have customers who want a new lighting set-up, or in a new-build project.” Jeff enthuses.

The trades are constantly evolving, and opportunity for business growth are around every new technological corner. “Each new electrical product spurs another new product. Each new idea spurs another new idea.” Jeff says. “The growth of our industry will continuously accelerate at a fast-pace. It takes someone who can stay ahead of it all, who will do well in the electrical industry. This is why the trades is not just for those who failed at school.”

To find out more about how a Mr Electric franchise could work for you, and make the most of your skills and interests, please contact Sarah Wood on 01527 549 593 or email [email protected]

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