Former self-employed electrician Nick Wilson took the plunge and started a new career in the rapidly expanding renewable energy sector after embarking on an EAL qualification to develop his skills and expertise.

With the Government’s push to meet the UK’s legally binding target of 15 per cent of total energy generated through renewable sources by 2020, more households, businesses, schools, care homes and other organisations are looking at alternative options.

“Alternative and renewable energy is the way forward,” said Nick, a former self-employed electrician. “Energy prices are just going up and up, so more people are looking towards renewable energy, like solar. So, when the opportunity of a course to train in photovoltaic installation came up, I took it – and it has definitely improved my income and my quality of life.”

Nick, aged 49, was one of the first electricians nationwide to take EAL’s Level 3 Award in Installation and Maintenance of Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Systems, enrolling at Weston College, in Western-super-Mare, North Somerset. 

Having completed the qualification earlier this year, he took up the position of Quality Supervisor for Solar Energy Installations at Tru-solar, based in Clyst St George, near Exeter.

He said: “It would be fair to say the course changed my life. Around a month before I applied for it, I had been subcontracted by Tru-clad Ltd – the parent company of Tru-solar – who were looking to move into the solar electricity market. Once I’d completed the course, they approached me to work for them full-time – now I look after all their solar installations.

“It’s a different environment to working as a self-employed electrician; it’s a more specialised sector that we’re dealing with and we’re travelling around a lot more – I’ve been all over the UK in the past few months – whereas before I was mostly working in the north.

“The skills we need are also different. I’d never been up on a roof before this and then you have to make sure that the panels are correctly installed, which is quite an art. We’re also now dealing with DC power instead of AC and we can be dealing with much higher voltages – up to 400 volts.”

The EAL qualification gave Nick the skills he needed to work in the renewables sector, he said, and also counted towards Tru-solar’s accreditation with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme.

He added: “I’d recommend that anyone who wants to get a job in renewable energy should do a course like mine – it was definitely helpful. As well as learning about solar installation, we also gained an understanding of other green technologies, including thermal systems, heat pumps and ground energy source. ”

Significant funding support is now available to help employers access renewable energy EAL qualifications. Until July 2012, installation training for the four main technologies – solar thermal, solar photovoltaics, heat pumps and rainwater harvesting and recycling – is available through the National Skills Academy at a greatly reduced rate.  Funding available from SummitSkills and the Joint Investment Programme (JIP) allows installers to pay just £171.50.

Visit the National Skills Academy for Environmental Technologies website for more information about the available funding.

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