When you finish your chosen courses and become a fully qualified trades-person, your white van and your tools will become your biggest asset! These items do not come cheap and can prove to be quite disruptive to your business if they breakdown, or worse – get stolen.

According to a recent study conducted by ironmongery Direct, 23% tradespeople surveyed have had the unfortunate experience of a van theft, 230 of the 1000 people have experienced theft in the last five years.

Even though it has been reported by the Office for National Statistics that vehicle crime is decreasing, it is not surprising that vans get broken into more than cars, because of the potential of stealing some expensive tools.

Ironmongery Direct also uncovered in their study the regions which received the most break-ins, with the West Midlands coming out on top with a shocking 1,854 van thefts and a total of £6,381,239 stolen in the past 3 years. The region which received the second highest amount of theft is West Yorkshire, with a value of £3,000,925 stolen and 993 vans broken into over the same period.

Meanwhile, tradespeople in Merseyside experienced 653 thefts, 210 in Nottingham and 218 in Northumbria. Surprisingly, the city of London had the lowest amount of van thefts with 2 thefts reported over the last three year period.

As a trades person, your tools and your van are your most valuable assets, so keeping them safe should be your top priority.  Keeping your tools safe could be the difference of you going out to your jobs and earning money, you have to turn jobs down while you spend money getting your tools replaced.

To keep your tools safe, you should;

  • take any tools out of your van at the end of your working day,
  • park your van in a garage, so that thieves cannot access it,
  • install anti-theft boxes in your van with anti-drill locks
  • make your van harder to break into – install slam locks, dead locks
  • Don’t leave your van unlocked – ever! Opportunistic thieves are always on the lookout!
  • Make sure you have tagged all your tools, and
  • Place a “No tools are lift in this van” deterrent sticker on the back of your van

Despite all this talk of break-ins, learning a trade can be a very rewarding career. No longer are you confined to the office walls between the hours of 9 and 5:30, doing a job that doesn't motivate you, and the only time you get to go outside is on your half an hour lunch!

Once you have become fully qualified in your chosen area, you can pick up the jobs which you want to do. Fancy a long lunch break, or even the afternoon off? Why not?! As a skilled trades-person, you have the ability to choose when hours you want to work.

Maybe your struggling to get by on £23,000 salary, as a qualified you could be earning up to £30K+ a year! Especially now, as there is currently huge demand for skilled workers, and not enough people to fill the gap! Essentially, if you are willing to put in the long hours, you will be rewarded with a very healthy salary.  Just remember to keep your tools safe!!

If all this talk about theft hasn't deterred you from wanting to learn a trade, click on the links below for more information about the courses that we offer.

Having fully completed his professional electrician course, ex-rugby player and Access Academies student Xavier Rush has now turned his attention towards retraining in a second trade and begun a plumbing training course with us. We caught up with him during the fourth week of his six week course to find out how he's getting on and how the plumbing training has differed from his previous experience with the electrical training course. One thing's for sure, it's a very different experience to playing rugby for both the All Blacks and Cardiff Blues...

How are you finding the change from electrical work to a plumbing course?

It’s definitely the most practical I’ve done so far! There was a lot of theory with the electric but theory there is here is probably a lot easier to grasp. But then it’s also far more hands on too. It’s very busy – we’ve been working with low carbon steel and a lot of copper as well. I fitted a bathroom last week which was enjoyable – it’s nice to step back and see the results sometimes.

But a lot like the electric these are intense course and you pick up a lot of information and skills quickly. It helps that you’re learning from people who’ve been in the industry a long time.

Had you done any plumbing before starting the course?

No, before this I didn’t have a thing – I couldn’t even stop a leak. You’ve got to pick it up quite quickly as there’s no one there holding your hand. Once you’ve got an understanding of it all it gets a lot easier. It’s just knowing what fittings do what and what products you’re working with, that sort of thing.

Have you found anything especially difficult over the last four weeks?

I suppose it just takes you a while before you get competent with everything really. Nothing is truly mind boggling. There were a few issues fitting a bath, but it’s the kind of stuff you can get your head around.

How have the tutors been?

They’ve been great and a really big help this week especially. They don’t baby you at all, but make sure to tell you exactly where you’ve gone wrong – which is exactly what they need to do. If you were working in someone’s house and you spring a leak and their lounge ceiling falls in you’re going to be in trouble. So you’ve just got to know. It’s just like anything – the more you practice you have, the better you get. Its good being here because if you’re going to make mistakes make them here, that way I can waste your copper rather than mine!

How have you found the studying at home element of the course?

Like I said, you are picking up a lot of information in a short time so while you’re here you’ve really got to apply yourself for the six weeks. There’s a lot of going home, revising, getting ready for exams because if you don’t do the homework you don’t get the passes. You have got to read the book and retain that information. I’ve had many a late night drinking coffees at Starbucks looking like a bit of a geek.

And finally, how much time do you have left here before you’re all done?

I’ve got two more weeks after Christmas. It’s been an intense four weeks so it’ll be nice to have a bit of a break and then come back and hit it again. Because we’ve done so much over the last few weeks and put so many fittings together you should be able to retain a lot of the information. And then after that that’ll be it for me…for now! I might come back and do the one week electrical testing course just to freshen up on that. But it’s just brilliant to come here and reskill so quickly as an older person. I did carpentry when I left school but to think now I’ve got plumbing and electric qualifications backing that up. And to feel confident with that within ten weeks is berserk really – they’re skills you’ve obviously got for life.

I can look at stuff in houses now and understand it. Obviously it doesn’t give you all the experience – you’re still going to go out there and make mistakes but it’s given me a really good grasp of both industries, both the electric and the plumbing.

As Xavier approaches the end of his Access Academies training, we'll be talking to him again in the new year to discuss his overall experiences and his plans for the future. In the meantime if you have any questions you'd like to ask him about changing careers and retraining in a new trade, please let us know over on Twitter or Facebook. If you yourself would like more information on Access' extensive range of trades training courses (also including gas engineering, carpentry, bricklaying, plastering, tiling and painting/decorating), please get in contact with one of our course advisers on 0800 345 7492.

An ex All-Black and Cardiff Blues captain, former rugby player Xavier Rush is currently training here at Access Training after retiring from sports and deciding to earn the qualifications to start a new career in property development. After completing an intenstive kitchen fitting course, he has decided to continue his training and earn additional qualifications in electrics and plumbing. We caught up with him again as he progressed through the professional electrician's course to see how he's getting on with starting his new life...

Xavier Rush hard at workSo how has your electrical training been going so far?

Busy, very busy! But good – I’ve been doing my Part P and 17th Edition, had an exam yesterday which I passed so I’m very happy about that. I wasn’t looking forward to doing a resit on Friday so I’m glad I’ve managed to avoid that. But it’s an intense course this one, and you don’t have much time to muck around. It’s intense, but its short and you get a lot of information which is great.

How have you found the balance between theory and practical learning?

You’re getting a good mix of both here. I think Martin [One of the electrical tutors] teaches it very well. I’ve enjoyed his style and the environment of working with all the other students as well. We come from all walks of life and backgrounds, but we’ve all got that one common goal of getting our qualifications. And we’re all here to learn, it’s very different to school – everyone’s here because they want to be here.

How has the electrical course compared to the kitchen fitting you were doing previously?

Kitchen fitting and carpentry is a lot more hands-on, which I’m more used to. The electrics is where you have to get the old brain working in gear. It’s been a while since I’ve had to sit in a classroom but again as I said Martin makes it interesting and mixes it up. And that’s helped us all.

Did you find you were fully prepared for the exams?

Well it’s a two and a half/three week course, so you’ve just got to make sure that you keep yourself pretty quiet over these weeks so at the end of it you get the pass mark. The first exam wasn’t bad at all but this one...it was an open book exam with the regs but it can be tricky. Its multiple choice (or multiple guess in some situations!) but I feel we covered it well in our teachings and you’ve just got to know your way around the book really.

We all passed in our class so we must have been fairly well prepared, especially when you never know what they’re going to chuck out at you. Every exam is different from everyone else’s.

So what will you be moving onto next?

I’m doing my PAT testing now, then have a nice week’s break and come back and nail my plumbing. I’m over the moon that I’m now a qualified domestic installer than can self-certify my own work. If you look at apprenticeships when I was finishing school that would have been a seven year course and even at the end you might not know as much as you’re given here. You’d have a fair bit of experience on the job but you’re in a good position to move on now and either do your own work if you feel confident enough or work for someone for a while before that.

Finally, what advice would you give to someone thinking of doing an electrical course or even completely changing careers like you have?

They need to remember that the courses are intense – you learn a lot of information so you want to make sure you go home, you get your sleep, your rest and your revision. Because you are slamming a lot of information into a small amount of time so you want to make sure you take in as much of it as possible. It’s a fun, enjoyable environment to learn in and the tutors. You’re learning from top guys so it’s been well worth the experience.

If you’ve wanted a career and want more of a hands-on trade and a change from what you’ve been doing I definitely recommend it. I certainly wouldn’t be here if I thought it was a waste of time. This is a great environment to come in and start.

We'll be catching up with Xavier Rush again after his week off, so if you have any questions you'd like to ask him please let us know via Twitter or Facebook. If you would like more information on taking the steps to change your career and become a professional tradesperson, please get in contact with one of our course advisers. Access Training offer courses in plumbing, electric, gas and construction (plastering, tiling, carpentry and painting & decoration) and they'd be happy to answer any questions. You can contact them on 088 345 7492.

As a former All Black and Cardiff Blues rugby team captain, 36-year old Xavier Rush is someone sports fans have probably heard of. But after a successful sporting career at both domestic and international levels he’s finally hanging his boots up and moving on to the next stage of his life. Choosing to retrain to become a fully-fledged property developer, he approached Access Training Academies and recently completed our kitchen fitting course. Now he’s moving on toward even more qualifications to expand his trade resume and take on even more work.

We sat down with his to discuss his plans for the future and how he’s finding the change from a ball to a toolkit...

Now that you’ve retired, what’s next for Xavier Rush?

Now that I’ve finished my rugby career I knew I obviously needed to retrain in something. I’ve always enjoyed properties and doing them up so I’ve come here to get as many strings to my bow as possible. The more I can do the less people I’d need to get in for jobs and the less I’d need to pay out.

I first did carpentry when I was 18 and had just left school, but it’s great to have a facility so close to me and the speed at which you can build your skills up. I originally came to do kitchen fitting which I’ve completed, but there’s the Part P electrical component to it too which I’m doing now for the next two and a half weeks. After that I plan to crack on and do six weeks of plumbing as well!

How has the course been so far?

I’ve been really enjoying it and the tutors have been excellent. There’s always some things that you’re better at than others – some of the bends in the plumbing took some time to get my head around. But the more practice you have the better you get at it. You aren’t going to sail through every day – some days are worse than others but you often find once you’ve slept on it, you come back the next day and get it. It’s great to be learning new skills and really refreshing to have a change of career. A lot of people get a bit scared but I’m really looking forward to it – it’s life after rugby for me.

Will you miss the rugby life?

Of course there’s always aspects you will miss – the getting up for a big game like a Heineken Cup match, playing in front of a big crowd. I’ll miss those moments but there’s enough of them in the memory bank to call on every now and then. It’s nice to be on the other side of it now and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my career. I feel quite fortunate – it was a fairly long career and now I’m more excited about getting things started with my own business. It’s just time to move forward with life.

Look forward to more updates from Xavier Rush, who will be sharing his training experiences with us each week as he works towards his new qualifications. In the meantime if you have any questions you'd like to ask him about turning towards a brand new career, let us know on Twitter or Facebook and we'll pass the best ones onto him.

According to new research the British public have spend an alarming £2.6 million on fixing plumbing disasters, and now new online plumber search facility WaterSafe is warning homeowners about the cost of using a dodgy plumber.

The survery, which featured a sample of 2000 consumers, found that 69% admitted that they choose their tradesperson based solely on price, without worrying about their qualifications or if they're part of a registered scheme. As you can imagine though, this naievety comes at a price - 23% admitted to have fallen victim to a rogue plumber while a further 23% know someone it's happened to. The price of the average repair job? Try a whopping £426.

It seems the biggest problem is that sourcing a legitimate plumber just simply isn't a priority for people. 68% of respondants said they would trust the opinion of a friend or family member, and 27% would add a neighbour's referral on top of that. In comparison, only 21% (a mere fifth) said that they actually go on to check whether said plumber in properly qualified.

Interestingly, this blasé attitude clearly doesn't extend to the cost factor, with 69% stating they wouldn't trust a plumber to quote the right amount and always get a second opinion. Not surprising, given 33% claim they have been overcharged before. It seems all it really comes down to is who offers the cheapest price, regardless of the quality.

This is exactly what WaterSafe has been put together to end. It is a nation register, accreditation body and online directory that customers can use to locate credible plumbers and trademen in their area and hopefully pull the plug on rogue traders once and for all.

Kevin Wellman from WaterSafe said: "Our survey results are truly shocking. Whilst it is fully understandable that, times as they are, UK homeowners may need to be extra frugal, the price of putting cost before credentials can be catastrophic.

"Not using a properly qualified plumber is not only dangerous; it’s a false economy and could end up costing the homeowner thousands of pounds and a lot of hassle to put right. Furthermore, there are the safety implications. Water safety in the home is of paramount importance and by using a dodgy tradesman; homeowners are not considering the risk that contaminated water poses. For us, the motto is "be safe, be Watersafe"."

Former Watchdog presenter and TV personality Alice Beer supports the campaign to get the UK clued up on legitimate plumbers, adding: "WaterSafe's website allows consumers to search for an approved plumber in their area, ensuring that they are getting a safe and competent tradesman to carry out work in their home. By using a properly qualified professional with this scheme, we can work together as a nation to drive out unethical plumbers and raise safety standards."

Visit WaterSafe's official website for more details.

Via InstallerOnline

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If you are planning on becoming a professional plumber, make sure you do it the right way and get the proper qualifications. Not only will you be able to pride yourself on having the proper skills to get the job done, but you won't run the risk of facing hefty fines and possibly prison time should you be exposed. Do it the right way and come study at Access Training Academies. We offer intensive plumbing courses that will get you fully qualified in a matter of weeks. To find out more give our sales team a call on 0800 345 7492.

In an interesting attempt to make the life of a tradesman easier, Installer Online have come up with an interesting new iPhone app that may just lighten your toolkit somewhat and make sure you're never without some important tools.

The free app is named InstallerTOOLBOX and has been developed "provide a range of functions that will make every day - and every installation - that little bit more straightforward." It incoporates a number of things that are essential to your job and keeps them all within your phone, meaning they'll be in your pocket at all times!

Altogether the app includes:

  • A TORCH for when you need that extra bit of light dealing with pipes under the sink or rummaging around in boiler cupboards. It features three brightness settings to give you maximum visibility.
  • A quick, easy and above all accurate SPIRIT LEVEL that "measures down to 0.1° to ensure that it is more than just a gimmicky add-on". It can also switch between horizontal and vertical settings.
  • A UNIT CONVERTER that covers everything from temperature to velocity so that you don't have to make any rough calculations in your head or require a pocket conversion guide. All you need to do is enter the amount and choose what units you want it in.
  • Finally, every tradesman loses a pen once in a while so here you can do away with pen and paper for good with the JOB SHEET. With this you can make notes, jot down job specs, prepare invoices and more! It also allows you to build you a record of every project you complete, including photo attachments. These are saved to the app and can be emailed out to colleagues, customers and whoever else may need them.
Sound like your ideal piece of kit? As mentioned earlier InstallerTOOLBOX is a completely free iPhone (sorry Android users) app and can be downloaded from the Apple App Store now!

This week the British Lung Foundation is launching a new campaign "Take 5 and Stay Alive" to promote awareness of the dangers of asbestos, particularly among tradespeople who may be dealing with it every day.

According to official statistics, on average six electricians, four plumbers and eight joiners in UK die from asbestos exposure every week - making it the single greatest cause of work-related deaths. Though the use of the material was banned in 2000, any building made before then may contain it as it was commonly used as insulation. While undisturbed asbestos is relatively harmless, when disturbed the fibres can become airborne. When inhaled, asbestos fibres can cause a range of illnesses - including the terminal chest cancer mesothelioma. The tiny invisible particles stick to clothes, meaning that as well as risking their own lives, workers can be unknowingly putting their family members, colleagues and friends at risk.

The "Take 5 and Stay Alive" campaign aims to ensure tradespeople have the knowledge to identify asbestos and what type it is, with them then being able to assess correctly whether they have the right training and equipment to deal with it safely.

British Lung Foundation chief executive Dr Penny Woods said:

"Twice as many people die from asbestos-related illnesses than on the roads each year in Britain. It's the biggest work-related killer, and the numbers of deaths associated with it are rising each year.  Sole traders and people working for small companies are often under particular pressure to take jobs and deliver quickly, and this can sometimes put them at particular risk of asbestos exposure.

"But it's not just tradespeople putting their own lives at risk. If asbestos is disturbed the particles can affect others too, and we know several women who have died after years of washing their husbands' contaminated overalls.

"Our Take 5 and Stay Alive campaign aims to give tradespeople the tools to act responsibly. We want to ensure they can identify asbestos wherever and in whatever form it might be present, and know how to deal with it safely. Our message is simple - taking just five minutes to assess the situation could save your life, and keep your family, friends, clients and business safe from exposure to potentially fatal asbestos dust."

More information on Take 5 and Stay Alive can be found on their website, which contains plenty of information about the different types of asbestos, where it can be found and the illnesses it can cause.

In addition to this campaign, former electrician Alan North has uploaded a video to YouTube describing his experiences after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma earlier this year. While this is unaffiliated with the BLF's work, it shares the same message about the dangers of mishandling asbestos. You can view the video HERE.

From: Professional Electrician & Installer

Findings from a recent survey into consumer attitudes to payments reveal that many self-employed tradespeople may be losing potential income by not being able to accept card payments.

However, there is competitive advantage to be gained as the survey shows that businesses adopting new card payment technology often attract more customers than those only accepting cash. In the last year, one-in-five UK consumers has abandoned a purchase due to the trades person not accepting card payments or because they did not have enough cash, over half of consumers (54%) finding this lack of flexibility inconvenient.

The implications are far reaching:

  • 72% of consumers are left with a negative impression of a business that fails to accept cards
  • 28% of customers may also see this lack of service as poor customer service
  • 19% see lack of card payment options as being unprofessional
  • 18% even perceiving the business as unsuccessful or struggling
  • 87% state that they spend more money when paying by card as they purchase additional services or products, demonstrating the potential benefits on offer for those mobile workers that adopt the new service

Tradespeople have the potential to gain new customers by accepting card payments on the move. 38% of people saying that would prefer a tradesman (38%, an electrician 35% and a plumber 33%) if they accept card payments over one that doesn’t, even if the job quote, materials and service quality are the same.

The survey of 5176 people was conducted via online interviews with UK consumers (18+ year olds) during April 2013 for WorldPay.

As a consequence WorldPay has launched ‘WorldPay Zinc’ which allows tradesmen to use a mobile chip & pin keypad, costing £59.99, to take card payments on-site. Offering quick transfer of funds (usually 4 working days), this service offers a pay-as-you-go system of 2.75% per transaction.

This amounts to the tradesman having to pay £2.75 on every £100 pounds that is put through the card reader, this may seem to be a lot, but bear in mind some retail outlets pay 5% or more.

- Mark Jenkins

 

Mark Jenkins is the Electrical Course Development Manager at Access Training. If you would like to learn more about electrical work and maintenance, you might want to consider one of the many electrical training courses we offer. These are available for both DIY enthusiasts AND people looking to gain the vital qualifications needed to make the career change to become an electrician. To find out more give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

It’s happened to us all at some time or other, the job we have been putting off because it’s a little bit too big or we’re not sure how to do it. We bite the bullet and decide to get a tradesman in to do the work for us. Which tradesman? Where do we go to find out if the voice at the end of the phone is in fact a ‘quality’ tradesman and not John Wayne with a screwdriver?

You could go to www.trustmark.org.uk

TrustMark is a government endorsed scheme that regularly checks that the registered tradesmen are providing their customers with the quality service and workmanship members of the public expect and deserve (quite rightly). Trustmark registered firms have to;

  1. A firm's technical skills have been independently checked through regular on-site inspections, as well as checks on their trading record and financial status;
  2. Firms have signed up to a code of practice that includes insurance, good health and safety practices and customer care;
  3. The approved scheme operator has checked and will continue to monitor the firm's quality of work, trading practices and customer satisfaction;
  4. Firms are able to offer an Insurance Backed Warranty;
  5. Deposit Protection Insurance is available for consumers in the event a firm should cease trading;
  6. Firms will be able to tell you about any building regulations you must comply with and may also be able to provide appropriate certificates;
  7. If you have a problem or disagreement with the firm, there will be a clear and user-friendly complaints procedure to help resolve the issue;
  8. The scheme is fully supported by Government, the building industry and consumer protection groups.
  9. All of these checks will give you - Peace of Mind.

When employing a tradesman TrustMark recommends you take the following advice;

  • Be specific and set out a detailed, clear brief when requesting at least three quotes.
  • Ask friends and family for a recommendation and check the TrustMark website to ensure that the tradesman is registered for the particular trades you require
  • Use a firm that advertises using a landline phone number and be very wary of those only willing to give you a mobile number
  • Seek references, speak to previous customers and if a reasonable sized job, visit previous jobs
  • Don't just go with the cheapest, consider your ability to communicate with the firm and the quality of their work
  • Only pay for work that has been done and not by advance payments
  • If materials need to be bought in advance by the tradesman, it is reasonable that the customer is asked to pay a fair percentage of these costs as the job progresses
  • Always use a written contract as it offers you protection if anything does go wrong
  • Agree in writing any changes to the agreed contract value and ensure these are agreed in writing before the work is done.

If you use a TrustMark tradesman your work should be carried out to a high quality and if things go wrong (God forbid) you, through the scheme, have a means of recourse. That has to give you Peace of mind.

- Mark Jenkins

 

Mark Jenkins is the Electrical Course Development Manager at Access Training. If you would like to learn more about electrical work and maintenance, you might want to consider one of the many electrical training courses we offer. These are available for both DIY enthusiasts AND people looking to gain the vital qualifications needed to make the career change to become an electrician. To find out more give us a call on 0800 345 7492.