So you've completed your trades training course and are now out in the world as a self-employed tradesperson. You've got your vehicle, all your tools and are ready for long and prosperous career ahead of you. You might feel relaxed, but even then there's is still the need to be vigilant about certain things.

Statistics from Commercial Vehicle Direct Insurance Services have revealed that tradespeople have lost over £75 million due to tool thefts from their vehicles since 2008. Tradespeople are a popular target for thieves, with the average value of their tool box being over £1900 according to claims made between the 1st May 2011 and 30th November 2013.

The survey found the areas hit by the most costly thefts in the last five years are:

  • London Metropolitan - £30.6 million
  • Yorkshire - £10 million
  • Essex - £5.3 million
  • West Midlands - £4.2 million
  • Great Manchester - £2.9 million

Meanwhile certain places have also seen a significant rise in vehicle-related crime. Essex had it worse at a 68% rise, followed closely by Avon & Somerset (57%) and Greater Manchester (45%). At the bottom of the table was Suffolk (22%) and London Metropolitan, which only saw a 12% increase. The figures were obtained through a freedom of information request to UK police forces.

CVDIS director Andrew Jackson commented: "A tradesperson's toolkit is their livelihood and being without it for any period of time can be crippling. Of course, tradespeople must take precautions themselves, as leaving hundreds or sometimes thousands of pounds worth of tools in their vehicles can make them a target for thieves. But other actions are also needed."

So just remember to lock your vehicles up at night and whenever you're not around. While its not our intention to scaremonger, you never know when thieves are about! Not only that, but making sure you have the right insurance that covers everything could be the thing that saves your business should the worst happens. Even if you never use it, the security of having it there is not worth passing up.

While obviously the main part of gaining a great reputation as a plumber, electrician or any kind of tradesperson is to be fully qualified from an accredited training course, there are still other aspects you have to look at in order to make your business become a success. In the past we've looked at issues such as how your van looks, using social media and even how to handle missed calls. But now we come to another big part of today's modern age and how consumers will search for a competent tradespeople - the internet, or more specifically, websites.

According to new research from digital marketing/website provider hibu, less than a third of construction firm websites are mobile-friendly. With 62% of adults in the UK now using smart phones and 83% having browsed the internet on their phone, this is proving to be a missed opportunity to reach a wider audience. Smart phones are quickly becoming the most common method of accessing the internet thanks to their portability and ability to be used on the go - and so in some ways its even more crucial to have your website mobile ready than it is laptop accessible.

Hibu UK Chief Executive Officer Richard Hanscott said: "Anyone who has visited a website that isn’t mobile-friendly knows how frustrating – or even impossible – it is to browse and navigate it on their mobile device. With consumers increasingly searching local businesses on their smartphones and tablets, it’s crucial that firms have websites that are mobile-friendly so that they continue to attract customers and do not fall behind their competitors. Business owners may feel daunted by mobile technology but in reality they do not need any technical skills to ensure that their site works well and looks great on any device, or even optimised specifically for smartphone or tablet."

So once you've earned your qualifications and are heading out to become a self-employed tradesperson, a mobile friendly website is definitely something worth considering. If you find yourself struggling to do this, hibu have launched a business store specifically catering to those in need of one. The best part is that you can also take advantage of a 30-day free trial before signing up to the full service.

You don't to have done a plumbing training course to know that there's more to being a plumber/gas engineer than just working - they also play a pretty big part in promoting awareness. Back in September we had Gas Safety Week, and this week also happens to be Carbon Monoxide Awareness week. This isn't the only thing going on this week though, as WaterAid have also proclaimed the 19th November as World Toilet Day and are asking everyone to take a second to say "thank you toilet".

It might not sound like a big deal to many people and something that only takes up a fraction of a plumbing course, but toilets are a big part of modern plumbing and having one makes a huge impact on our lives. Toilets are considered to be one of the most basic human rights, yet alarmingly one in three of the world's population (around 2.5 BILLION people) still don't have one.

Here's a few more facts that will undoubtedly make you appreciate your porcelein throne a little bit more:

  • Around 700,000 children die every year caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. That's almost 2,000 children a day.
  • Every year around 60 million children are born into homes without access to proper sanitation.
  • More people in the world have a mobile phone than a toilet. Scary isn't it?

For the first time World Toilet Day has been recognised as an official day by the UN, and WaterAid is doing what it can to help build thousands of toilets across the world. Using local materials and low-cost solutions, they're always looking for new ways to deal with human waste. The money they spend had also shown to have significant economic benefits - for every £1 invested there's around a £4 return. 

WaterAid has also contributed toward a new report into sanitation and woman's health. So just take a minute to do what Louie the Loo asks and celebrate your toilet. It does a lot for you so it's only right to say thank you once in a while.

Is your electricity bill made up of “hidden” charges? Well an energy expert seems to think so.

Energy suppliers and brokers have been challenged by energy expert, David Hunter, from global energy management company, Schneider Electric, to be open about these hidden costs. Unknown levels of commissions to energy brokers and price comparison websites are contributing to higher energy bill costs for householders and industry.

Speaking on BBC1’s Breakfast programme, Hunter said, that we are facing increasing energy bill announcements but weren’t being given full visibility of how the costs are made up. Asked to explain whether bill increases were justified, and what the reasons were behind the increases, Hunter said there was not enough competition in the market, and although we shouldn’t let the suppliers off the hook, increasing costs of green subsidies, energy efficiency schemes and rewiring Britain were adding more to bills at the moment than wholesale costs.

However, he further explained that an unknown portion of the "suppliers’ costs" on the bill is paid in the form of commission to energy brokers and price comparison websites. While these companies provide a valuable service, Hunter said, "One thing we don’t see broken down in the figures is how much money goes in hidden commission from the suppliers to those websites, and I think that would be interesting to see."

He added, "At a time when rising bills are placing real pressure on the cost of living, and also increasing the costs of British industry doing business, it has never been more important that all aspects of the bill are made transparent. From supplier/producer profits to green policy costs and broker commissions, all charges should be open and scrutinised so that homes and businesses don’t pay a penny more than they need to, just to keep the lights on.

"As a start, I call today on both suppliers and brokers to clearly state the amount of hidden commission included on energy bills, and would ask customers whether they are prepared to put up with secret third party costs at a time when bills are shooting up."

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Mark Jenkins is the Electrical Course Development Manager here 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.

The accessories we buy may not be what they seem. Counterfeiting is big business, it is estimated that 10% of all world trade is counterfeit! In the UK that amounts to £30m of counterfeit electrical goods enter the supply chain.

Since 2000 15 million counterfeit products have been seized, mainly circuit breakers and wiring accessories. The vast majority of these counterfeit goods come from China, but some have been found to originate in Dubai and East Africa.

Counterfeit items are hard to spot, they may carry a well-known brand name and all the certification markings, the biggest difference may be the price! The items will not have under gone any form of testing, and they will not meet the required BS standards.

See the full article in Electrical Contracting News.

- Mark Jenkins

 

Mark Jenkins is the Electrical Course Development Manager here 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.

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