When things break, do you leave it alone hoping it’ll fix itself, or are you searching the house for the nearest screwdriver and hammer?
If you’ve got the engineering know-how, you might want to consider a career as a maintenance engineer.
But in engineering maintenance, you could work as either a fitter or a technician. Which will you pick?
So, what will I actually be doing?
As a technician, you'll be responsible for making sure machinery and equipment runs smoothly. You could work in manufacturing, production or transport. You could do any job from fixing machinery on a food production line to testing aircraft parts in a hangar. However, your work will be either preventative or emergency maintenance.
Your duties will involve:
- Organising routine servicing schedules
- Allocating work to a team of fitters
- Checking and calibrating instruments to make sure they are accurate
- Fitting new parts
- Carrying out quality inspections
- Responding immediately to equipment breakdowns
- Fixing faults or arranging for replacements to be installed
- Keeping production managers informed of progress
- Organising teams to make sure 24-hour cover is available
As a fitter, you'll service and repair the equipment. You could work on mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic or computerised systems.
Again, your job will involve either preventative or emergency maintenance. You're likely to be:
- Making scheduled checks on machinery and parts
- Finding and fixing faults and recalibrating instruments
- Oiling and cleaning machinery and parts
- Overhauling and replacing parts according to schedule
- Responding immediately to machinery breakdowns
In both jobs, you'll work as part of a team of engineering technicians, fitter and shift supervisors.
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The finer details...
You'll normally work 37 to 40 hours week, often including shifts and emergency call-out duties.
You could be indoors in a factory or production plant, or outdoors servicing equipment on a building site. You'll wear protective safety clothing for most jobs.
Your main opportunities will be with engineering, production and manufacturing companies. At the moment, there's a demand for qualified technicians all over the country, with most fitters' jobs being in the West Midlands.
You could also work abroad for multinational companies, particularly in EU countries, the USA, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Money, money, money
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
- Starting salaries for fitters are between £15,000 and £19,000
- Experienced fitters can earn between £20,000 and £27,000
- Senior fitters with additional responsibilities may earn up to £33,000.
- Salaries start between £18,500 and £21,500 for qualified technicians.
- Experienced technicians can earn between £22,000 and £30,000 a year.
- Senior technicians can earn between £30,000 and £35,000.
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The good points...
Plus, when you’ve got a few years experience behind you, you may be able to move into related areas, such as technical sales, maintenance team management and contract management, so there’s lots of room to grow within the role.
...and the bad
If you’re after a desk job where you stay inside 9-5, this isn’t the job for you. Prepare yourself for working outside in cold, rainy weather just so you can service equipment on building sites. Basically, don’t forgot your brolly.
Is there study involved?
You may be able to start on an apprenticeship scheme with an engineering, manufacturing or transport operating company. For more information, visit www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
To be eligible for an apprenticeship scheme, you'll need four or five GCSEs (A-C) in subjects such as maths, science, English, and design and technology.
Some employers may look for one or two A levels in maths and science or equivalent qualifications.
You could take alternative college qualifications, including:
- BTEC Certificate and Diploma in Operations and Maintenance Engineering
- City & Guilds Certificate in Engineering (2800)
Ask your local college for more information. You could also take higher-level qualifications, such as a foundation degree, BTEC HNC/HND or degree in engineering, to get into this career. The Institution of Engineering and Technology website has details of UK colleges offering courses. You can take a wide range of work-based NVQ qualifications, but the exact ones depend on the type of work you do. Examples include:
- Engineering Maintenance and Installation Level 2
- Process Engineering Maintenance levels 2 and 3
- Engineering Maintenance Level 3
- Maintaining Plant and Systems (Instrument and Control, Mechanical and Electrical) Level 3
As an experienced maintenance technician, you could register with the Engineering Council and gain EngTech status. This could help you develop your career.
If you take further training up to degree level, you could qualify as an engineer in your particular field, for example mechanical or electrical engineering.
OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?
For engineering maintenance, you'll need to have:
- Good practical and technical skills
Ability in maths, science and IT
- Communication skills
- An understanding of engineering drawings and principles
- The ability to work quickly and under pressure
- The ability to manage a varied workload
- Good problem-solving skills
- The initiative to work on your own or as part of a team
- An awareness of health and safety legislation
- Good eyesight and normal colour vision