Ceiling Fixer

The Job and What's Involved

Suspended ceilings hide wiring, pipes and air-conditioning equipment, and are sometimes used for design reasons. Ceiling fixers install these ceilings in all sorts of buildings, such as office blocks, shopping centres, cinemas, nightclubs, leisure facilities, airports and hospitals.

They have to:

  • Plan the work, using drawings, written instructions and site measurements.
  • Cut and fix a framework of metal supports to the underside of the floor or to the existing ceiling.
  • Check that the framework is horizontal using spirit, laser or water levels.
  • Fit panels to the framework, cutting and shaping the panels to fit round lights and fittings.
  • Sometimes ceiling fixers have to fit insulation materials in the ceiling space before installing the panels.

Ceilings range from basic to specialist - such as acoustic ones in theatres, and damp and chemical resistant ones for swimming pools.

Ceiling fixers work at heights, using platforms, scaffolding, and sometimes even stilts to gain access to ceilings. This means they have to do safety training before they can begin work. They may have to put up their own access towers to work from, and on larger projects may also work from scaffolding platforms that are erected by qualified scaffolders.

Ceiling fixers work 39 hours a week, Monday to Friday. They may work overtime, including weekends.

They spend most of their time indoors, usually at ceiling height. For some of the time they work in cramped spaces. The work also involves lifting, carrying, bending and climbing ladders. Ceiling fixers wear protective clothing such as helmets, overalls and boots.

They may work locally, travelling to different sites, or travel around the country to various construction sites. They may need a driving licence or their own transport for this, especially if they are self-employed.

Newly-qualified ceiling fixers may earn around £18,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There is a shortage of ceiling fixers and so there are good job opportunities at the moment. Ceiling fixers can work for specialist interior fit-out companies which specialise in complete fit-outs, covering all interior finishing trades in commercial and retail buildings.

Ceiling fixers may start by learning one 'interiors' trade, but later become multi-skilled. The interior system fit-out trades also include:

- Relocatable partitioning fixing
- Access flooring
- Drylining fixing and finishing
- Operable partitioning

An increasing number of ceiling fixers are sub-contractors. Sub-contractors are self-employed, and may work on their own or run their own labour supply company.

The National Interior Specialist Training Groups (NISTG) are independent national training bodies, administered by the Association of Interior Specialists (AIS) and supported by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB-ConstructionSkills), originally set up to establish sector-wide training.

Vacancies may be advertised in local papers, but it is best to approach local employers direct. If possible, try to arrange some work experience before leaving school. Young people can also contact their local CITB-ConstructionSkills area office as the CITB have approximately 1,700 interior fit-out companies registered with them.

Education and Training

There are no set entry requirements to train as a ceiling fixer, although GCSE's/S grades in maths, English and technology may be helpful for doing the calculations, measurements and theory. Employers look for applicants with practical abilities.

School leavers can apply for Apprenticeships in interior systems, specialising in ceiling fixing. It is also possible to apply to CITB-ConstructionSkills for a place on a Construction Craft Apprenticeship. Entry to an Apprenticeship scheme usually involves an aptitude test.

There are a number of relevant full-time, part-time, distance learning and short courses available at Leeds College of Building.

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

Apprenticeships provide an opportunity to specialise in ceiling fixing. Apprentices work on site with a construction company and spend blocks of time in college working up to NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Interior Systems. They may have to be prepared to stay away from home during their periods of block release.

Additional training is available from various manufacturers of suspended ceilings, partitioning and drylining systems, some of whom have formal training centres to deliver NVQ/SVQ units.

The CITB-ConstructionSkills Construction Craft Apprenticeship involves learning practical skills with an employer, while spending time at college or a training centre to gain qualifications.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Ceiling fixers should:

  • Have practical skills and good hand skills.
  • Be able to work accurately and neatly.
  • Have the ability to interpret technical plans and drawings.
  • Be able to use basic maths, to calculate areas and volumes.
  • Be co-operative, as they may be working in a team.
  • Be physically fit.
  • Be able to work at heights.
  • Have safety awareness.
  • Be willing to work on a variety of buildings in different locations.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience, ceiling fixers can progress to supervisory or managerial roles. Supervisors or gang leaders are responsible for running the jobs on site. Contract managers oversee the smooth running of the job.

Many managing directors, who are responsible for the profitability and running of the company, may have worked their way up from craft-based or technical jobs.

Some experienced ceiling fixers go on to set up their own companies.

Get Further Information

Association of Interior Specialists (AIS),
Olton Bridge, 245 Warwick Road, Solihull, West Midlands B92 7AH
Tel: 0121 707 0077
Website: www.ais-interiors.org.uk

CITB-ConstructionSkills, Bircham Newton Training Centre,
Bircham Newton, King's Lynn, Norfolk PE31 6RH
Tel: 01485 577577
Websites: www.bconstructive.co.uk and
www.citb-constructionskills.co.uk

Leeds College of Building, North Street, Leeds LS2 7QT
Tel: 0113 222 6000
Website: www.lcb.ac.uk

The National Interior Specialist Training Groups (NISTG) Suspended Ceilings - administered by the Association of Interior Specialists (AIS) (see above).

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