NVQ Level 3 Electrical Installation

The C&G 2357 NVQ Level 3 Award in Electrical Installation/Maintenance is the final, formal step towards becoming a fully-qualified electrician. This is a reflective course, which reviews the information discussed in the C&G 2365 series (Level 2 & 3).

This article specifically analyses the content, structure and format of the City and Guilds endorsed qualification. This body is a renowned skills and certification provider, operating across a range of industrial and commercial sectors. Although several other accredited organizations are empowered to deliver this NVQ, the City and Guilds regulated programme is largely regarded to be the most reputable. This is the case for all electrotechnical-related qualifications. Therefore, their courses are deployed by the vast majority of private and educational learning facilitators.

For reference, this course is often articulated as the C&G 2357 NVQ/AM2. This is because delegates are required to sit the AM2 assessment at the conclusion of this module. The AM2 exam, or, to give its full name, the Electrotechnical Assessment of Occupational Competence, is the final obstacle in the quest to achieving professional electrical status. This test forms part of the rigorous assessment schedule within the 2357 module. The course’s examination framework will be re-visited later on.

The C&G 2357 also acts as a career juncture for aspiring electricians. At this stage, candidates will be able to select an area of expertise to specialise in. This will either be the installation of electrical circuits and instalments, or honing skills aligned to their subsequent maintenance. Unsurprisingly, there is a high level of crossover between these two disciplines. Therefore, regardless of which pathway is taken, individuals will find that transitioning between both is extremely easy. In this way, there is no real pressure on this particular decision-making process.

Apprenticeships and front-loaded training plans

Those attending the NVQ Level 3 electrical qualification might be undertaking an apprenticeship scheme, or alternatively conducting a front-loaded training plan. Either learning route is valid, but their respective training journeys differ substantially.

Apprenticeships

Apprentices will usually have a fixed itinerary of modules, spread out over a 3–4-year timeframe. They will work through the necessary steps towards becoming an electrician in a methodical, chronological order. Whilst acquiring the relevant qualifications, these individuals will engage in electrotechnical sector employment. Therefore, this allows them to complement classroom-based learning, with live, workplace experiences.

Those tethered to apprenticeship programmes do not pay for their tuition, as their employers foot the training bill. However, despite working a significant number of hours, these individuals are only rewarded with an extremely modest salary. In most cases, payment rates dip below the national minimum wage.

Nevertheless, apprentices should view their current financial situation in context of projected future career earnings, and of course training cost savings. Given the timeframe of schemes, apprenticeship status will most likely only account for around 5-10% of an individual’s working life. Therefore, as electrician salaries are the highest amongst the traditional trades, apprentices should feel comfortable about their longer-term financial outlook.

Furthermore, as the government now offers grants to employers taking on apprentices, further opportunities may present themselves. Employers may use this additional resource to supplement pay packets, or invest in additional skills training. Either way, this is an attractive route to follow.

Most apprentices are of school leaver age, eager to continue a formal line of study before stepping into full-time employment. This is a highly recommended pathway for individuals in this position. The ability to maintain interaction with like-minded piers, engage with experts in ‘real-world’ environments, and still receive support from educational sector tutors, will massively help these individuals in their onwards development.

Front-loaded approach

Those engaging in ‘front-loaded’ training plans may face several more challenges than their apprenticeship counterparts. The term front-loaded derives from the approach taken by those eager to engage in at least some training before entering electrotechnical employment.

It is necessary for these individuals to self-fund their qualifications, as there are generally no other supporting mechanisms in place. This can be an extremely costly endeavour. By the time the C&G 2357 NVQ rolls around, front-loaded candidates will have already invested thousands into their training. As we know, completing the Level 2 and Level 3 diplomas are compulsory before attending this NVQ Level 3 electrical course. Therefore, prospective delegates will have already splashed around £8000-£8500 on their learning to date. As per usual, there is substantial bandwidth in 2357 course charges between varying learning providers. However, individuals should expect to pay in the region of £1500-2000.

Unfortunately, many private companies do not offer the AM2 assessment within their fees. Therefore, candidates can expect to shell out a further £700-900 to fully navigate this module. As you can see, the pursuit of becoming a fully-qualified electrician is not exactly cheap! Before embracing any electrical training, ensure that you’re fully committed to the journey, as dropping out halfway through will incur substantial, avoidable costs!

Front-loaded considerations

Most individuals who entertain this style of approach will be career-changers, either moving from one of the ‘traditional trades’ or an entirely different sector altogether. Given its lucrative salaries, job satisfaction levels, and hands-on nature, an occupation in the electrical industry is an attractive proposition for many. Therefore, every year, a significant number of workers look to re-train as electricians.

This dynamic, coupled with the vast level of expenditure required, means many who engage in front-loaded training paths still operate in their respective job roles in the interim. Ultimately, this funds their learning, and allows them to meet any ongoing personal commitments. As these candidates tend to be a little older, many have families, reliant on them for income and childcare support.

Therefore, and particularly in recent times, learning providers have aimed to accommodate these students in various ways. Indeed, the key advantage of engaging in the front-loaded method is the level of flexibility on offer. Training plans can be manipulated dependent on personal circumstances. Students not currently working, who therefore have ample free time, may want to intensively progress through each module with pace and efficiency. Others may want to meander through by taking small, incremental steps, leveraging their studies with personal and workplace obligations. Costs are also clearly a central factor, as some may not have the initial financial resource to participate on multiple courses in a short space of time. Ultimately, this decision is extremely unique to the individual.

Furthermore, the coronavirus pandemic has served, as it has in so many industries, to highlight the opportunity for increased remote learning. This presents another level of flexibility to those with challenging individual circumstances. Having the capability to study virtually, enables candidates to maintain momentum with their studies, unlocking the ability to work anywhere, at any time.

It all balances out in the end

However, again, regardless of approach, each path converges at the AM2 assessment, and rewards individuals with exactly the same level of electrical status. There is therefore no right or wrong pathway, and students should select their route after careful analysis and review. Although the profiles of those engaging in these different routes tend to be fairly established, there is no reason why ‘typical’ apprentices cannot take a front-loaded path, and vice-versa. Either may be more conducive to the individual’s respective learning style, financial situation, or personal life.

Getting into employment

Due to the reasons articulated above, course duration will be highly dependent on the individual in question. However, most delegates will aim to complete the qualification within 6-12 months.

Up to this stage, the front-loaded training path has no requirements for its participants to be engaged in any form of workplace employment. However, the C&G 2357 NVQ entry criteria demand that attendees are contracted to an electrotechnical firm before conducting the course. This is because it’s associated assessment tasks rely on the presentation of practical, ‘real-world’ evidence. This must be collated whilst in an on-site environment, enabling invigilators to assess a candidate’s competencies under realistic, often pressurised conditions.

Therefore, relevant individuals should plan early for this development, and ensure they’ve submitted numerous job applications during, at the very least, a month prior to the course. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to disrupt your training for an avoidable reason! As apprentices will have already secured employment for the length of their learning programmes, no further action is required for these individuals at this stage. Another major benefit for those on apprenticeship schemes!

The C&G 2346 Experienced Worker NVQ Level 3 course

For those who have been working in the electrotechnical industry for five years or longer, the City and Guilds do offer an alternate path. This is the only way in which individuals can secure full qualification status without addressing the 2365 Level 2 & 3 diplomas.

The C&G 2346 Experienced Worker NVQ Level 3 is a qualification built specifically for those with considerable sector experience. On completion of this course, delegates will complete the Experienced Worker Assessment. This will determine whether the competencies learned over their industry employment (enhanced by undertaking the course itself) are refined enough to warrant full, electrician status. Some learning providers may refer to this examination process as the ‘Mature Candidate Assessment’. The qualification grading is identical to the C&G 2357 NVQ Level 3, and therefore simply acts as an equivalent course for more mature students.

Course benefits and watch-outs

The key advantage of the 2346 module is that attendees are only required to ‘fill in’ knowledge gaps, not re-learn old material. Individuals will just need to demonstrate their acquired skill-sets to the course facilitator. Candidates who have already successfully passed the compulsory exams integrated into the C&G 2365 series (Levels 2 & 3), will need to present their tutors with the corresponding certification. These are the requirement for electrical instalments (wiring regulations, 18th edition), and inspection and testing (Guidance Note 3) related qualifications.

Nevertheless, there is some detail relating to these disciplines which the City and Guilds suspect may not have had adequate coverage during typical electrotechnical employment. These areas are sufficiently addressed in the Level 2 & 3 2365 courses. As this additional information is likely to have been missed, C&G 2346 delegates are required to absorb this knowledge in two, short, supplementary sessions. These are known as ‘Recognised Prior Learning’ (RPL) modules. They offer advanced coaching on both the wiring regulations, and inspection and testing. As it’s assumed delegates already have reasonable knowledge in this field, training will start from a suitably high-base.  

Ultimately however, this course is set up to fast-track delegates through the NVQ qualification, and summarily reduce training lengths. Mature students will look to work through this course in approximately six months, although time will vary dependent on competency and experience level.

On-site availability

Another key benefit for participants is that there is no requirement to attend a training centre or educational establishment to participate in this course. All components can be delivered through either virtual learning, or by undertaking practical tasks on-site. This element is clearly also favourable for employers, as working hours are largely protected. Furthermore, if there is provision to support computer-based, online learning, employees can conduct remote training directly from the workplace. This approach also applies when addressing the course’s respective assessments. As per 2357 NVQ Level 3 electrical candidates, delegates will also need to sit the AM2 assessment.

Ironically, the Experienced Worker qualification used to include the content of the Level 2 and Level 3 diplomas. This was packaged as the C&G 236/2360 Part B/2. This is now a defunct course, and no longer offered as part of the City and Guild’s suite of qualifications. This is worth noting down, as some older colleagues may still refer to this module by its legacy title.

Course content

As the 2357 NVQ Level 3 electrical course contains no ‘new’ material, it will reflect, or perhaps more accurately test and assess, on the concepts studied in the 2356 Level 2 & 3 qualifications. Therefore, assignments will focus on the following subjects:

  • Health and safety considerations whilst working on-site
  • Fault diagnosis and subsequent rectification in electrical circuits, instalments and equipment.
  • Assessment of general characteristics before approaching works on electrical installations, accounting for wiring systems, enclosures, conditions, and equipment.
  • Safe and compliant installation of electrical circuits and instalments.
  • Delivering electrical tasks with adherence to bs7671 standards and latest wiring regulations guidance
  • Delivering verification, inspection, testing, commissioning and resultant certification of new and existent electrical installations. Ensure all work is carried out in correspondence to the required sequencing order.

The Portfolio

In order to prove mastery of the above disciplines, candidates are asked to collate a robust portfolio of evidence. This is compiled by showcasing imagery of completed practical work, and articulating theoretical knowledge in written assignments.

The pulling together of evidence is a skill within itself. Up to press, candidates will have had little experience of self-managing their assessment process. Previously, on the C&G 2365 Level 2 & 3 courses, individuals are given a fixed examination framework. Therefore, although these tests present significant challenges in terms of content and complexity, at least candidates are given order and organization.

Guidance on collation

The 2357 NVQ Level 3 demands that delegates take accountability in the timing, structure, and theme of their submissions. As this will most likely be a new concept for many attendees, it’s worth leaning on suitable individuals for support. This could be your course tutor, pier group, or an industry professional. Ultimately, the objective is to present sound, compelling evidence. This will demonstrate that you’ve acquired a comprehensive understanding of all required electrotechnical disciplines, and are therefore ready to enter the industry.

When collating portfolio evidence, you’ll need to effectively highlight your expertise in a number of diverse and specific tasks. Therefore, on arrival into employment, make sure you’re receptive to learning new techniques and embracing different challenges.

Here, apprentices, and indeed experienced worker candidates, have an obvious advantage. Before commencing the 2357 qualification, those on apprenticeship schemes will have worked in the sector for several years. Mature delegates attending the C&G 2346 equivalent course will have had an even longer period of service. Therefore, these individuals will be able to summon examples of work conducted from their respective employment tenures. ‘Front-loaded’ candidates, who may only have just secured a contract within an electrical firm, will most likely have to build their portfolio from scratch.

Testing disciplines

Evidence presented will materialise through four different filters. This allows assessors to grasp a thorough understanding of an individual’s capability, as it draws material from a range of different vantage points. Furthermore, it also provides input from a range of stakeholders. Employers, assessment graders, and the individuals themselves, all contribute towards the content of the portfolio.

The various testing methods used are as follows:

Witness testimony

This involves your employer, or an individual of appropriate professional standing, to confirm that you’ve undertaken a specific task, or demonstrated a particular discipline. This must have occurred in a formal, workplace setting.

Reflective accounts

These are self-written articles which provide commentary on acquired skills and knowledge. The key here is to remember to explain how you’ve approached an electric task, or why you’ve arrived at a certain conclusion. This will convince an assessor that you’ve understood the theoretical principles behind the activity, rather than just regurgitating information or practical behaviour.

Photographic evidence

This is a relatively straightforward task. Delegates are required to capture occasions where they’ve demonstrated relevant electrotechnical skills. Ensure that you never miss an opportunity to take a picture, as evidence of completing a specific task may prove extremely useful in the final arrangement of your portfolio.

Direct observation

This is perhaps the most nerve-wracking element! An assessor will observe you delivering a number of electrical tasks. This will be either conducted via a site visit, or be co-ordinated through a virtual platform.

Although candidates may feel a little anxious about this testing component, individuals should remember a couple of key points. Firstly, no educator or learning provider would progress a candidate for an assessment that they didn’t feel was ready. It would potentially hamper their pass rate! Therefore, delegates should take confidence from the fact that they’re in this situation because others believe their competent enough to succeed.

Furthermore, the invigilator will not ask you to perform any activities that you don’t already have substantial experience of carrying out. Therefore, even if you’re extremely nervous on the day, you’ll be able to partially rely on muscle memory.

It’s worth taking every opportunity to rehearse these skills in the lead up to your exam day; practice makes perfect! Engage your employer on the importance of this test, and ensure you’re offered ample time and space to prepare. Try and stay as relaxed as possible, and aim to execute controlled and methodical demonstrations of your skill-set.

It is now possible to conduct all of these assessments entirely online, which may ease some nerves around examination conditions. If on a front-loaded training path, just like the course itself, you can control the intensity of your assessment schedule. Therefore, if you require an extended period to develop certain techniques, you can feel rest assured that you’ll have the time to do so.

The AM2 Assessment

Once this testing programme has been suitably completed, delegates can then progress onto the AM2 assessment. This test consists of five separate sections (with one part consisting of two sub-categories), and will examine competencies largely through a series of practical activities. It concludes with one, short multiple-choice test.

The specific sections, with commentary on content and testing format, are as follows:

Section A1: Safe Isolation and Risk Assessment

This 45-minute length test will request delegates to carry out a self-isolation of an electrical instalment. In the trade, this process should always be delivered before commencing any kind of corrective electrical work. Furthermore, you’ll be asked to deliver a relevant risk assessment of the circuit, and its surrounding working conditions. Here, you’ll document any perceived hazards, and offer any feasible solutions to mitigate against these risks.

Section A2-5: Composite Installation

This is the most involved section within the AM2 assessment structure. This test is a full-day event, and usually lasts for around 8.5 hours. Candidates will be presented with numerous electrical drawings and information. Based on the materials provided, individuals will need to suitably prepare, install, connect and terminate conductors on a TP & N distribution board in compliance with industry standards. This means adhering to both statutory and non-statutory electrotechnical regulations.

Section B: Inspection, Testing and Certification

Here, candidates will need to conduct relevant initial verification, testing, inspection, commissioning processes on an electrical instalment, and subsequently produce the correct certification to verify their work. For a new installation, this will involve administering a suitable Electrical Installation Report on the back of a successful test. Existent instalments will require an Electrical Installation Condition Report to be produced, documenting any faults or remedial action to be taken. Each testing and inspection element will need to be delivered in correct sequencing order.

Section C: Safe Isolation of circuits

This tests an individual’s ability to competently perform safe isolation on a single and three-phase circuit. There is also a requirement to compliantly isolate a TP & N distribution board.

Section D: Fault diagnosis and rectification

Candidates will need to successfully find any faults present in an electrical circuit. After diagnosing the fault, individuals will be expected to offer solutions to remedy the identified issues.

Section E: Assessment of Applied Knowledge

The only non-practical element of the AM2 testing process is Section E. Candidates will be given sixty minutes to answer thirty multiple-choice questions on various electrotechnical topics. Delegates will be challenged on detail relating to the 18th edition wiring regulations (bs7671:2018), workplace health & safety considerations, and the governmental Part P building regulations. These are all items that will have been covered in rigorous detail throughout the C&G 2365 Level 2 & 3 diplomas.

All C&G multiple-choice tests are equipped with integrated flagging software. This allows candidates to ‘mark’ questions throughout their exam, and re-visit them at the conclusion of their test. This means that individuals can maintain their answering momentum, and not become bogged down in questions they find particularly challenging.

Delegates should ensure they’re don’t approach this test with complacency, and allocate sufficient preparation time prior. Multiple-choice exams will often require individuals to apply relevant electrical formulas, working through each potential option before landing on the correct answer through a process of elimination.

In truth, the five-part AM2 assessment duplicates a lot of the testing experienced in earlier training modules. However, this is positioned as a final, all-encompassing examination schedule to comprehensively assess an individual’s electrotechnical capability.

Again, in the lead up to your exams, ensure that you’ve taken the opportunity to practice skills, refine knowledge, and liaise with any tutors accordingly.

Summary

The C&G 2357 Level 3 NVQ/AM2 in Electrical Installation/Maintenance is the key, defining phase of the training journey. Individuals should take ample time to reflect on the learnings achieved to date, ensuring that they’ve adequately grasped both the theoretical and practical elements of the 2365 course series.

By this point, the vast majority of participants will feel comfortable with all of the main disciplines associated with the electrotechnical craft. This will include inspection and testing, wiring regulation compliance, Part P regulatory practices, and, of course, relevant health and safety aspects.

However, this module is likely to stretch and challenge most students. Being able to conduct the required electrical skills and disciplines is difficult enough, but collating evidence of this, before presenting it in a robust and well-organised portfolio, makes the course even more tricky. The assessment style will feel new to most delegates, so ensure that you’ve acquired a solid understanding of the examination process prior to attending the course.

As soon as you enter employment, regardless of whether this is at the beginning of your apprenticeship journey, or indeed a matter of weeks prior to the commencement of your 2357 qualification, you should be constantly capturing evidence of work completed. This will enable you to more efficiently gather material when composing your portfolio. Remember, you’ll also be most likely reliant on the testimony of your employer. Therefore, make sure you strike up good relationships with your line manager from day one!

Don’t forget, if you’ve been engaged in electrical employment for longer than five years, you should attend the 2346 Experienced Worker module instead.

The last leg!

The AM2 assessment acts as the final piece of the jigsaw. As these exams are almost exclusively practical, squeeze in as much practice as possible prior to your testing schedule. You’ll have already competently demonstrated all of the required skills, so, try not to overthink your approach.

Lastly, don’t underestimate the complexity of the multiple-choice test, and be sure to utilise its flagging tool accordingly.

We hope this article has provided appropriate guidance and support for prospective delegates of the C&G 2357 NVQ Level 3 electrical qualification. Digesting this information should equip individuals to tackle this course, and its numerous assessments, with confidence and assurance.

We wish you the best of luck on this training module, and hope that you pass all nine of its examination modules. If you do successfully navigate each assignment, then you’ll finally be able to say that you’ve become a fully-qualified electrician- high reward indeed!

If you require any further information on this qualification, it may be worth consulting an approved course tutor, your employer, or a trusted industry professional. Alternatively, you can visit the relevant City & Guilds webpage, located here. Information on the C&G 2346 Level 3 Experienced Worker course can also be found here.

All the best!