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Introducing the trades (contd.)

A continuation of a short article exploring construction trades and what they encompass.
Young male engineer on site using wrench

Let’s continue our look at the trades and what they encompass.


An electrician, sometimes called a ‘sparky’, an electrical fitter, an electrical installer or an electrical technician, is responsible for providing electrical energy to a building, structure or other infrastructure through the installation of electrical equipment and circuitry (including wiring).

Electricians install power (energy) systems, lighting and data and security networks. They install as well as inspect and maintain electrical systems to fix faults, replace parts and connect the necessary equipment such as sockets, switches, appliances, light fittings and data cable networks.

Electricians will work with different electrical power generation sources, including renewable energy such as solar panels. They will work with electrical motors, transformers and machinery found in industrial equipment as well as control panels for the electrical systems they fit. In some cases, this will include working with software for Smart Systems and intelligent buildings, for example, that control their own heating, ventilation and energy usage. Electrical work can be dangerous, so electricians have to abide by safety regulations. An electrician’s work place can vary dramatically, from indoor work in homes and commercial buildings, to outdoor work on power infrastructure, highways and even offshore, such as on wind farms.

Electricians need to pay very keen attention to detail, and have analytical skills to plan their systems, write and follow technical plans and often use sophisticated equipment. Electricians working in people’s homes will need good customer service skills, especially in cases of emergency call-outs.

To become an electrician, you must first undertake college training to start a trainee job or an apprenticeship.

Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Engineer or Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineer (RAC)

HVAC engineers, also called refrigeration and air conditioning engineers, heat pump installers, pipefitters or ‘air-con’ engineers, install and maintain (service) air quality and temperature systems.

The job involves surveying sites and planning the installation of systems, including the pipes, ducts and control panels for the system to use. The engineer will then need to install the system they have planned, including all the necessary components. This will include mechanical ventilation systems, ducting, pipes, ventilation and fans, as well as the control panels to operate the systems.

Once installed, engineers have to test the systems to ensure they work as expected and are safe. Most systems require regular maintenance and servicing, including fault-finding, replacing parts and upgrading systems. HVAC engineers have to explain to their customers how the system works and how to use it most efficiently. Typically, most HVAC systems are installed in commercial/industrial premises and homes. The majority of time, though not all, is spent working indoors. HVAC engineers need to think analytically to plan their systems and will need to use certain specialist tools and machines necessary for installation and servicing.

To become a HVAC engineer, you’ll need to undertake an apprenticeship of between 2-4 years or undertake a college course before finding a job as a trainee.


Plumbers are responsible for installing and maintaining water systems in buildings, heating systems and drainage systems including toilets, sinks, baths and showers, appliances and central heating systems. Some plumbers will also work with gas boilers, though this requires additional qualifications because of the need to work with gas. Plumbers will find that they spend time installing new systems in new buildings, repairing and maintaining pipework and heating systems in existing buildings (including responding to emergency call-outs) and will also replace entire systems where necessary.

Plumbers have to plan and install water, drainage and heating systems, problem solve, cut, shape and join pipework using cutting tools, and, if qualified, service gas fired heaters and oil fired radiators. Some electric work is also required in the installation and repair of showers and appliances like washing machines and dishwashers.

Plumbers are likely to work on construction sites and in people’s homes, because they often respond to domestic emergency call-outs to repair broken systems and blocked drains, so customer service skills are important.

Plumbers can start with a college course before undertaking a trainee position. They can also learn through an apprenticeship or may in some cases be able to work as a plumber’s helper or mate and study for their qualifications at the same time.

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