From education to employment

Lifetime achievement

National Electrotechnical Training’s (NET) Stephen Plant has dedicated his working life to the electrical contracting industry and was instrumental in the revised AM2 assessment.

What is your industry background?

I left school at 16 and became an apprentice electrician for the East Midlands Electricity Board. After qualifying as an approved electrician I went on to join a company as an electrical draftsman working on nuclear power plant for the Royal Navy’s submarine fleet.

I then worked at what became Leicester College for 20 years, eventually as head of the electrical installation department. Having taught courses for the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA), I was invited in 2000 to apply for the role of Regional Education and Training Manager within its Education and Training department. I currently divide my time between this role and that of Business Development Manager for industry charity, NET.

What are your responsibilities at NET?

The AM2 has been the electrotechnical industry’s benchmark for an individual’s competence for the last 25 years and I’m the principal contact point for the AM2/FICA UK network of 43 NET licensed assessment centres, providing support and guidance.

How has the industry responded to the revised AM2?

The revised AM2 was introduced in April 2010 after a three-year process of identifying what needed changing. It was a root and branch exercise in which I played a major role in modifying the assessment and updating it to reflect the demands placed on today’s electricians.

As to the response, employers have been extremely positive about the changes as they recognise that what we have done has improved it and brought it up-to-date, especially in areas such as inspection and testing.

Due to the fact that we made the assessment more rigorous and because AM2 is now a formal part of the NVQ Level 3 and therefore linked to education funding, training providers found the initial rise in failures challenging. The rise was, in part, due to having a 100 per cent pass mark in areas such as safe isolation procedures which was not previously required, but was identified as a crucial change resulting from the consultation.

What are pass rates like now and will there be any further changes to AM2?

Pass rates are now on the up as training practices have adapted to the new assessment procedures, and learners/employers ensure they are completely ready to sit the assessment before applying.

We are making incremental administrative changes, refinements and enhancements to AM2. This includes identifying why people are failing so that we can feed this back to training providers.

You also work as an on-site chaplain. Where do you perform this role and why do you do it?

As a Christian I have been involved with lay ministry work for many years.

I felt that I could offer something to my industry and I undertook training to become an industrial chaplain. It allows me to combine my beliefs and experience in the construction industry.

I currently act as a chaplain on the old British Leyland site in Birmingham which is being turned into a new town – a long-term project. After negotiating with the main contractor I work on-site on a voluntary basis and the best way to describe what I do is a mix between human resources and personnel activities.

In what ways can you help people?

By engaging in ‘pub talk’ I can build a relationship with the workforce. I am always neutral and help people talk through their relationship, family and financial worries. I then provide help and guidance where I can, even if it just means allowing people to offload some emotional baggage.

I also act as a conduit between the contractor and the wider community. I have arranged for a number of projects to be undertaken whereby the employees give up their time to undertake refurbishment of community buildings.

If you could change one thing about the industry what would it be?

I would introduce a compulsory licence to practice as an electrician. I do a lot of work with Germany where they have this system in place and it instils a sense of pride in being an electrician, improves the perception of the industry amongst the general public and drives up standards. I’m very impressed with the advantages it brings and could see a similar system being of benefit here.

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