By Matthew Robinson
The pandemic taught the world to do more with less. As companies and organizations embrace lean concepts and look to their employees to wear many proverbial hats in their day-to-day, the number of skills we need to have some level of confidence in continues to grow. The old refrain of “not my job” has given way to “if not me, then who?” and while the jury is still out as to whether this is a good thing or not, we have to acknowledge that it is increasingly the modern way of doing business.
Maybe you’re like me and you love the challenge of adding a new skill to your retinue or learning to do something that differentiates you from other job seekers in the market; or maybe you were told that your work duties expanded yet again. In either case, you need knowledge and experience, and you need it fast. This is the first serious error trap that some employers lay for their employees. Seasoned professionals and experienced tradespersons can certainly make some work look easy, but behind that competence is years of hard-earned experience and enough learning to last a lifetime. So, you watch the videos, you read the books, you try and try again, but your results maybe fall a little short of the pros. More importantly, do you understand the hazards, risks, and dangers associated with the work you’re doing and the countermeasures you can deploy to mitigate them?
This is the second error trap that we see laid in front of us when we are asked to do more with less. Sure, the polish of our work may fall short of a professional job, but at least we got it done, right? What if we got hurt while doing it? What if we exposed ourselves to a hazard that we weren’t even aware of? What if the way in which we do this work is hazardous in and of itself? The error trap here is qualification! Industry professionals consume tremendous amounts of safety training because they are regularly exposed to the hazards that are endemic to their jobs. This training not only raises awareness of the hazard but also qualifies people to do the work because they not only possess the skills to execute the project but can effectively mitigate hazards that can arise.
Qualification comes from a full awareness of the work to be done, and a thorough understanding of what could go wrong when doing it. The more complex, or more taken for granted, the work is, the easier it is for us to dismiss what could go wrong and blindly barrel forward with the task at hand. Consider the way in which we interact with electrical equipment and apparatus, for example. Most of us assume that when we flip the light switch, the lights will turn on, or maybe when we plug in our charger our laptop will come to life. Electrical power is designed to be easily consumed and worked with; it is a lifeblood of our society after all. So, when we are suddenly responsible for electrical maintenance or troubleshooting, no problem, right? It can’t be that hard: Find the circuit breaker that tripped and reset it.
Now we are in real trouble. The electrical power that we use every moment of every day is deceptively dangerous. A missed step, a slip of the hand, a dropped tool and we may cause irrecoverable damage. To be qualified means understanding the work you are capable of safely doing, and what work you should not even attempt. Qualification is also a spectrum; it never has been nor ever will be an all-or-nothing endeavor. Qualification starts with structured learning on fundamental topics and foundational tasks. As you master the basics you add knowledge of more advanced tasks as well as the ever-present hazards. In this, qualification is a never-ending journey where there is always something more to learn and a new lens to view work through. A wiser person than myself once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and if you are new to the electrical industry, I invite you to take that first step with me.
For lifelong learners that want to build a solid electrical industry bedrock of knowledge, join me for Power Systems: Industrial Fundamentals as we break down the concepts and topics that underpin the electrical industry. Through four days of lecture, practical exercises, and hands-on experience, we’ll cover the basics of modern power systems, the authorities that dictate their form and function, and the art and science that goes into applying electrical apparatus and equipment. If you are ready to take that first step toward qualification, join me in Las Vegas this August.
Matthew Robinson, P.E. is senior manager in training and development at Qualus with a history of working in the electrical power industry. Matthew is a registered Professional Engineer and holds a master’s degree in power engineering from Northeastern University. To discuss Matthew’s professional courses for your team, contact us at email@example.com. For a full list of available QualU courses, see our course catalog