Are you a lighting engineer? Have you been doing this job for more than five years? Well the chances are that you probably don't even recognise the work you do now if you compare it to when you first started.
The electrical lighting industry has witnessed a huge amount of change and with it so have the type of jobs generated by the demands of our industry, probably none more so than the role of the lighting engineer.
In a previous life the lighting engineer was a champion of lighting standards within the local authority by whom he was employed. There was more than likely just one way of doing things and that had been the same for a lengthy period of time. He was a man who knew what he was doing day in and day out and able to plan out workload well into the future.
Jump forward to 2013. In this age of austerity measures and necessary cost cutting, the lighting engineer has to manage resources. He must understand the implications of budget cuts and act accordingly. He must ration services and use systems that make the most of part-night lighting to make sure that he stays within the prescribed budgets. In short, instead of being consulted as to what the best solution to an issue or problem may be, the engineers are being given a budget and being told what needs to be done.
All this comes at a time of massive technology changes and technical complexity. The one set method of doing things has evolved and there are many different solutions that can be applied to each problem.
Getting to grips with new technology such as Central Management Systems (CMS) and new light sources "from low pressure sodium to high pressure sodium and onto white light discharge and LEDS" means that work has to be managed in a new way and it can be difficult to keep up with the implications of this change. It requires a new way of thinking and a new way of working.
Combine all of this with the fact that very often the management team will be structured in a different way to that previously. Whole tiers of management have been removed which often means that the Executive is making ill informed decisions. There is no malice in this process, simply that the people that were once consulted with regards to street lighting issues are no longer there, leaving decisions to be made by managers unfamiliar with the issues.
Street lighting itself now often comes within the jurisdiction of the Highways team. Understandably the majority of their focus is on maintaining the infrastructure of our roads from managing potholes, accidents and incidents through to winter gritting schedules. Street lighting forms a very small cog within this process and the lighting engineer will need to battle to make his voice heard.
Indeed it is this change that may prompt a new way of training our future lighting engineers. Instead of holding a qualification in street lighting, the next generation of engineers may hold a combined role, no longer solely lighting but instead highways engineers.
So all change for our street lighting engineers? Well yes, and more of the same to come. Technology continues to move forward I do believe it will plateau at some time in the future. Until this time education providers need to review the qualifications and training courses being offered for those who want to enter our industry. Councils and employers also have a responsibility to review the support and training given to existing staff far better for your business to nurture and develop your current team than to give up on them and start again.