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Voltimum UK managing director, Margaret Fitzsimons, shares her unique perspective on the electrical industry with Frankie Snobel and discusses the impact of new media – and how it is affecting the electrical industry

ack in 2001, before the internet was fully regarded as the mainstream and essential communication tool it is today, internet service Voltimum was formed. The idea was that it

was to be the leading internet portal for the European electrical industry. Backed initially by seven leading electrical manufacturers, the portal was launched with Margaret Fitzsimons leading the UK division – outlining to the British electrical industry the opportunities presented by the worldwide web and its ability to open the doors of communication. Ten years later, the shift towards using the internet has been immense and Voltimum UK has made its mark as the information hub for the industry. Along with more than 80,000 registered users – which include predominantly electrical contractors – Voltimum UK brings together manufacturers, trade associations, training providers and industry bodies onto one all- inclusive media platform, providing news, technical expertise, training courses, product catalogues and web TV at the click of a button.

About the author

Frankie Snobel Françoise (aka ‘Frankie’) Snobel is a freelance journalist who has been covering the electrical industry for more than four years online, in print and on camera.

ECA Today: You must have a unique perspective on the electrical industry. In your opinion, how can it work better together to become stronger and more profi table? Margaret Fitzsimons: My role in Voltimum has indeed given me a wonderful opportunity to build relationships with many sectors of the UK electrical industry including manufacturers, wholesalers, contractors, trade associations and media. What is particularly striking is how the key players, opinion leaders and infl uencers come together regularly to support each other at industry events such as sector conferences and charity fundraising events. This leads to general awareness at senior level of the key issues affecting the individual industry sectors. It also means

38 ECA Today September 2011

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that, because the key infl uencers are talking to each other, initiatives can be put in place and acted upon relatively quickly. The diffi culty, however, is ensuring that these important issues and initiatives are shared with a wider audience – the electrical industry at large. This is where Voltimum comes in, to bring the industry

closer together. Our relationships with the key companies and organisations in the industry means that we have access to much of the information on the latest issues, and over the years we have built up a readership of almost 80,000 people in the industry who fi nd that having access to the information online has made it easier for them to keep on top of their game. It is important that leading organisations work with us to spread the message. I also think it is time that the industry worked together

to develop a formal CPD (Continuing Professional Development) programme for qualifi ed electricians. The introduction of new technologies, products or working practices could be accompanied by short training courses – usually provided by the innovator and usually free of charge – that could be taken by qualifi ed electricians, ensuring that they learn about the latest innovations and feel comfortable specifying and installing them. The courses would have to be accredited, of course, to ensure that they were of an acceptable standard, and electricians could be obliged to take a certain number of them each year. The fact that this type of learning can be easily done online facilitates the implementation of such a programme. These short courses would also be of enormous value to wholesalers and others working in the industry. The need for more apprentices is obvious across the

industry and there are many initiatives, competitions and awards schemes already in place to meet this need. One way that the industry might work together to encourage more apprentices into the industry is through some sort of sponsorship programme – perhaps manufacturers might sponsor apprentice training in return for access to hands-on product testing and a growing number of future brand ambassadors. I also believe that the industry should work together

to secure its position as the experts in, and providers of, new renewable technologies. We all know that there are major opportunities here. But other industries and

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