Choosing to make a complete career change is difficult at any time of life. There are many factors to take into consideration – what opportunities are there? What training courses will I need to attend? How available is the work and how long will it last?

Take for instance many construction trades (bricklayer, carpenter, plasterer, tiler etc.). At this given time work is pretty slack in the construction industry, but I firmly believe that it won’t last much longer. So now is a good time to begin training for new skills. As soon as the construction industry opens its doors again, there will be a definite skills shortage. Having decided to take the challenge and change career what can you expect to be doing on a daily basis?

Take the plastering trade as an example, which provides plenty of opportunity to work both inside or outside. The weather in this country is not the best, so having the chance to work indoors is an added bonus; you will be working most days and won’t be losing money. Plastering covers more than just “plastering” a wall, it could be screeding a floor, plaster boarding a ceiling, dot & dab on walls, dry lining a wall, the list goes on. This is all internal work, whereas dashing, fine down, K render are all external.

Are there any transferable skills you could use, depending on your background? Plastering involves calculating quantities for mixes etc. so numeracy skills would be an advantage. A lot of questions are asked in the workplace so good communication skills would help, the ability to work unsupervised is a great asset to have, as a lot of the time you are given work and be expected to carry it out unsupervised to a high standard.

So having trained for your new career, what qualifications do you need for the construction industry? An NVQ in a relevant trade is essential; this will allow you to apply for a CSCS card – a must have to work on building sites.

Tomorrow in part 2 I will discuss what training courses are available to you, as well as their cost, duration and what you can expect to learn. Also included will be what prospects are open to you and potential wages upon completion.

- Richard James

Loft insulation is an excellent means of helping to save energy and prevent heat from escaping from our homes. With high cost of fossil fuels in today’s economic climate, and these fuels progressively running out, we shouldn’t be so frugal by putting things in the loft after the extra thickness has been added. After all, just because we might not have paid to have it installed doesn’t mean we should ignore the purpose for which it is intended for - TO SAVE US MONEY! Not only that, but to save on the resources which are only getting more expensive for energy companies to get at and transport to us. We are all guilty of storing things in the loft, and surely these items are not really needed if they’ve been put away from view?

The loft is not an ideal temperature-controlled space in our houses and we are endangering things that could be damaged by the cold and moisture that can form there. Sometimes we have to be brutal with what we are storing and just get rid of it. Let the lagging do the job it’s intended to for and financially you will benefit once your loft has been lagged to the new standards. DON’T put things up there again – your house will stay warmer for longer and you will be happier and wealthier. You also will be reducing your carbon footprint, which is vital to the planet and our descendants for the future. There are a considerable number of ways you can lower your carbon footprint, but many are still quite expensive and take a number of years to pay for themselves. Loft insulation is the cheapest form of energy conservation there is as it’s free to everyone – so why not take advantage of this?

- Mark Lewis

Not all electrical work requires a trained professional. Minor tasks such as replacing a light switch can be performed without having to notify your Local Authority Building Control Department, however they still must be done to current Building and Electrical regulation standard.

While there are a wide variety of different types of light switch you might find in the home (including pull-cord switches, narrow architrave switches and rotary dimmers), here is a guide to the most basic of them – the one-way and two-way switch. The difference between them is that two-way switches are used where there is more than one switch connected to the same light (e.g. at the top and bottom of the stairs).

Safety first

Before you start ANY sort of electrical work make sure the power is switched off at the main consumer unit OR switch off the relevant circuit breaker and lock it if you can. Then make sure that the circuit is indeed dead using a voltage tester/meter. Also take note that since 2006 the core colours inside electrical cables have changed. In the new two-core-and-earth cable, the live or phase core is insulated in a brown sheath rather than red. The neutral core is now blue as opposed to black.

What you will need:

  • Voltage tester/meter
  • Side cutters Screwdrivers
  • Green/yellow earth sleeving
  • Suitable replacement plateswitch (1 or 2-way)
  • Screws
  • Brown PVC electrical tape or sleeving

For one-way switches:

Step 1: Isolate the circuit and then confirm that the power is off using your voltage tester. Unscrew the switch faceplate and pull it forward, revealing the connections behind. These terminals will usually be marked something like L1, L2 and COM.

Step 2: Draw a diagram so that you remember which colour and number of wires were attached to each terminal. Then release the terminal screws and pull the cores from them. If the earth core is properly insulated in green/yellow sleeving and connected to the mounting box, leave this attached.

Step 3: Connect these cores to the correct terminals of the new switch, using your diagram as a reference. Tighten the screws and check they are clamping the cable cores firmly by gently tugging the wires.

Step 4: If there isn’t one already, fit a length of brown sleeving over the blue core to indicate that it is a switched live.

Step 5: If it’s not already fitted, put some green/yellow sleeving over the bare earth core of the incoming cable and connect it to the earthing terminal of the mounting box. If you’re using a metal switch, be sure to earth the switch faceplate as well.

Step 6: Double check that each connection is secure, then push the cable back into the mounting box and fit the faceplate.

 

For two-way switches:

While this is similar to a one-way switch there will normally be three cores to the cables – coloured brown (formally red), black (yellow) and grey (blue). Again these terminals will be labelled something like L1-3 and COM.

Step 1: Isolate the circuit and make sure the power is off with your voltage tester.

Step 2: Remove the faceplate from the existing switch and disconnect the cable cores.

Step 3: Note which colour goes to which terminal (write it down if you think you’ll forget!) and then transfer them to the corresponding terminals on the new switch.

 

While this is simply a brief guide to some of the electrical work you can do yourself around the home, more technical electrical work will require you to have a Part P qualification if you wish to carry it out yourself. If you are interested in learning about more work you can do or achieving Part P qualification then the best way is to learn from one of Access Training’s comprehensive electrical training courses. Offering professional qualifications to both aspiring and existing electricians as well as DIY courses, there truly is something for everyone regardless of age, gender, background or experience.

Contact Access Training on 0800 345 7492 for more information or to arrange a visit of our training facilities.

Not everyone needs an extensive plumbing course to know the rights and wrongs of the trade, but with all the DIY products that are for sale in various outlets, there is good information available to prevent water contamination by misconnection of sanitary and waste water from dishwashers, washing machines and such. However, the majority of people don't ask for this advice so not to seem ignorant or feel embarrassed about not know how or what is the right way to do things.

With the economic climate the way it is, the vast majority of people also cannot afford a tradesman with the correct knowledge to do the work properly. There are the unscrupulous people who pretend to be a qualified tradesman, undercut a price just to get the work and don't really care about the consequences of their actions.

Then the poor misguided home owner gets the backlash from the relevant authorities when the source of the contamination is traced back to a particular home. It's very hard to educate people that asking for advice is not showing ignorance. It would only show their concern for doing it the correct way and the people who would give that free information would be only too happy to give them without making them feel humiliated or stupid.

But that's human nature, and people only employ a tradesman when they have that spare amount of money to get the job done. I'm sure the vast majority of people would like to think that any work done to the correct standards without causing problems as rivers and streams being polluted to the degree that is being reported by the water authorities, but unfortunately it always comes down to money

- Mark Lewis

Although Part P Building regulations require a qualification to undertake extensive electrical work in your own home, minor tasks such as replacing damaged sockets or light switches can be done without having to notify your Local Building Authority Control Department. In this post we'll take you through a few simple steps to replace a plug socket or alternatively change a single one into a double.

Safety first

Before you start ANY sort of electrical work make sure the power is switched off at the main consumer unit or switch of the relevant circuit breaker and lock it if you can. Then make sure that the circuit is indeed dead using a socket tester. Make sure to also have protective gloves and safety goggles on you at all times.

Also take note that since 2006 the core colours inside electrical cables have changed. In new two-core-and-earth cables, the live/phase core is insulated in a brown sheath as opposed to a red one and the neatural core is now blue rather than black. If you are connecting old and new cables together, take extra care to make sure that the cores are attached by their corresponding colours.

What you will need:

  • Socket tester & socket template
  • Screwdriver
  • Pipe and cable detector
  • Drill
  • Socket faceplate or new double socket
  • Wall plugs and screws
  • Mounting box
  • Green/Yellow pvc sleeving
To change a damaged socket:
Step 1: Confirm you have switched off the main power using your socket tester. Once sure unscrew the socket faceplate and pull it away from the wall. Keep the screws just in case the new ones don't fit.
Step 2: Loosen the terminal screws and release the cable cores. Should the insulation be heat damaged, cut back the cores and strip the ends. If the earth core is bare, cover it with the green/yellow sleeving.
Step 3: Connect the brown (or red) core(s) to the live terminal of the faceplate, the blue (black) ones to the neutral terminal and the earth core to the earth terminal. Tighten the screws fully and fit the new faceplate. When you have turned the power back on, use the socket tester again to check it is wired correctly

To change a single flush socket to a double:
Increasing the number of sockets in a room isn't as difficult as it might sound if you follow these simple steps...
Step 1: Isolate the circuit and then use the socket tester to make sure that it is dead. Unscrew the faceplate and disconnect the cables from the single socket mounting box.
Step 2: Knock out the middle section in the double box and pass the cables through. Mark where the screw holes are on the wall using a pencil, remove the box and drill.
Step 3: Screw the new box in place and connect the cables to the terminals. Fit the new faceplate and then test using the socket tester again once power has been restored.

Hopefully after reading this you'll feel confident enough to do these tasks yourself without having to pay for a professional electrician! However if you're interested in learning more about what electrical tasks you can perform at home with the right training, or alternatively hoping to gain qualifications to become an electrician - look no further than Access Training's range of bespoke electrical courses. From Part P to PAT Testing and wiring regulations to DIY, we offer something for everyone regardless of age, background or experience.

Contact Access Training on 0800 345 7492 for more information or arrange a visit of our training facilities.

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