Assembler (Light Industry)

The Job and What's Involved

Assemblers work in factories, often on assembly lines, putting parts (known as components) together to form completed products or parts of other products.

Completed products may include small consumer items, such as toys, hair dryers, watches or lamps. Larger products may include furniture, refrigerators, dishwashers or cars, often requiring assemblers to work with a conveyor system. This involves adding components before the product moves on to another assembler to complete the next stage.

Some assemblers work with electronics, attaching microchips and wires or inserting components into electronic circuit boards. These are then used in a wide range of products, including:

  • Appliances, such as computers, televisions, DVD players, mobile phones, food blenders, washing machines and vehicle on-board electronic control units (ECU's).
  • Scientific, medical and aeronautical equipment used in aircraft, satellites and missiles.

Tasks vary according to the type of products being made, but may include:

  • Adding components in the right order.
  • Following diagrams and instructions.
  • Using tools, such as spanners, pliers, tweezers, drills and electric screwdrivers.
  • Soldering to precise standards.
  • Using components, such as bolts and screws.
  • Using adhesives, solder wire, staples and cable ties.
  • Using microscopes for detailed work.
  • Testing items and checking quality.
  • Packing products or putting them in the correct area for collection.

Assemblers often sit or stand next to a conveyer belt. They pick up an item on the belt, add the appropriate components and put the item back on the belt. This method requires assemblers to work at a similar speed to their colleagues. In other organisations, assemblers sit or stand at a bench and assemble items independently. The work can be repetitive and may involve handling tiny components.

In some factories, particularly those producing electrical and electronic goods, assemblers operate and monitor computer-controlled machinery that assembles products.

Assemblers usually work between 37 and 40 hours a week. Many employers operate a shift system to cover days, evenings, nights and weekends. Overtime and part-time work may be available.

Assemblers usually work in factories. Working conditions can vary according to the organisation and the type of products being made. Some factories are light, clean and airy, while others have conveyors and machinery that can be noisy. Electronic items are often made in sterile, dust-free conditions.

Assemblers spend most of their working day sitting or standing. They usually wear protective clothing such as overalls, and in certain environments may wear head coverings, protective glasses, boots and gloves. The work may involve some lifting and carrying.

Assemblers usually work between 37 and 40 hours a week. Many employers operate a shift system to cover days, evenings, nights and weekends. Overtime and part-time work may be available.

Salaries may start at around £12,000 a year. With experience, this may rise to £15,000 or more.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Around 400,000 assemblers are employed by manufacturing companies throughout the UK. In some places of work they may not be employed directly, but through an agency at an agreed daily rate.

In many modern factories, machines undertake assembly work that was previously performed by employees. As a result, there may be fewer opportunities for unskilled or semi-skilled assemblers.

Vacancies are advertised in local and national newspapers, at Jobcentre Plus offices, local Connexions centres and recruitment consultancies.

Education and Training

It is possible to become an assembler without formal educational qualifications, but employers may prefer some key skills qualifications or GCSE's. Useful subjects include English, maths and practical subjects, such as engineering and technology.

As well as attending an interview, candidates may be asked to sit a practical test to check they are good with their hands and have the ability to assemble parts quickly and accurately.

The Diplomas in engineering and manufacturing and product design may be relevant for this type of work. Apprenticeships may be available.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

New recruits usually receive induction training, where they learn about health and safety, staff welfare and conditions of employment.

Most training is on the job, under the supervision of a training officer, supervisor or experienced colleague. Workers are taught how to use tools and machinery and to read assembly diagrams. They may also learn how to check the quality of finished items.

Apprentices usually attend college on day or block release. They may work towards:

  • NVQ Level 1 and 2 in performing engineering operations (electrical/electronic/control maintenance).
  • NVQ Levels 1 and 2 in performing manufacturing operations.
  • NVQ Levels 2 and 3 in electrical assembly or installation.

Workers receive additional training if new tools, machinery or working methods are introduced.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Light industry assemblers should:

  • Be good with their hands.
  • Have practical skills.
  • Be able to understand and follow instructions and diagrams.
  • Work quickly, methodically and accurately.
  • Be able to work with a minimum of supervision and as part of a team.
  • Have good concentration for carrying our repetitive tasks.
  • Be comfortable using tools.
  • Have computer skills, if working with computerised equipment.
  • Have good eyesight and normal colour vision for some jobs (in electronic assembly work components may be colour coded).

Your Long Term Prospects

Experienced assemblers may be promoted to charge hand, team leader or supervisor posts.

There may also be opportunities to move into other areas of work, including distribution and quality control.

Get Further Information

Engineering Connections,
Reddings Lane, Tyseley, Birmingham, West Midlands B11 3ET
Tel: 0800 917 1617
Website: www.apprentices.co.uk

Engineering UK,
5th Floor, Woolgate Exchange,
25 Basinghall Street, London, EC2V 5HA
Tel: 020 3206 0400
Website: www.engineeringuk.com/

Enginuity, Engineering and Technology Careers. Website: www.tomorrowsengineers.org.uk

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET),
Michael Faraday House, Six Hills Way, Stevenage, Herts SG1 2AY
Tel: 01438 313311
Website: www.theiet.org

Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance (SEMTA),
14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT
Tel: 01923 238441
Website: www.semta.org.uk

Women's Engineering Society,The IET, Michael Faraday House,
Six Hills Way, Stevenage, Hertfordshire SG1 2AY
Tel: 01438 765506
Website: www.wes.org.uk

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