Civil Engineering Technician

The Job and What's Involved

Civil EngineersCivil engineering technicians provide technical support to civil engineers who design, build and manage construction projects. They use scientific principles to solve many of the problems they encounter.

Civil engineering can be grouped under the following headings:

Construction - buildings, sports stadiums, shopping malls, factories.

Transportation - railways, roads, bridges, tunnels.

Power - power stations, hydroelectric schemes, dams, oil rigs and pipelines.

Hydraulics - the movement of water or oil from one area to another.

Maritime - the construction and development of docks, dams and harbours.

Public health - waste disposal, water supply, sewage treatment and disposal.

A technician's work could involve the following:

  • Design - surveying or choosing the site, arranging for soil and rock samples to be analysed, and producing design drawings, by hand or computer.
  • Estimating - preparing detailed estimates and producing information on the quantity and type of materials to be used.
  • Planning - helping to set target dates and times for the delivery of materials, equipment and labour for completing each stage of the construction.
  • Buying - helping to cost and buy materials, equipment and labour.
  • Site engineering - technicians may be responsible for checking the progress of particular technical aspects of the construction work.
  • Land surveying.
  • Quantity surveying.

Working hours vary. Technicians working in design or for local government may work 37 hours a week, from Monday to Friday. On site, they may work shifts, nights and weekends. Some jobs can involve being on 24 hour call to deal with any problems that arise.

Most civil engineering technicians work in offices and on construction sites. Design technicians work in design studios and offices, but also make site visits.

They may work outside in all weathers, and some work at heights. Technicians working on site have to wear safety clothing including boots and safety helmets.

The starting salary for a civil engineering technician is around £14,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There is a wide range of opportunities throughout the UK for technicians in civil engineering.

Employers include:

Consulting firms - specialising in certain types of project, such as roads, power stations or docks and harbours.

Contractors - involved in all types of construction projects, or specialising in either building or civil engineering.

The public sector - local authorities and government departments.

Gas and electricity supply companies - involved in designing storage, generating and distribution systems.

Transport authorities - constructing railway lines and stations, and planning the services.

There are also opportunities to work overseas. Technicians are employed by foreign governments or international oil and mining companies.

Job vacancies are advertised in the Building Services Journal.

Education and Training

The recommended entry route is to train through an Apprenticeship with a company or employer.

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.

Most apprentices start at 16 to 18 years, but there is no age limit. Entry requirements are four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including maths, English and science or technology, or equivalent qualifications. Entrants should check which employers offer technician apprenticeships, as some apprenticeships lead to craft-level jobs.

It is also possible to start as a trainee technician after a full-time course at college, or directly from school with good GCSE's/S grades in English, maths and science.

Suitable full-time courses include BTEC national certificates or diplomas, or SQA national certificate group awards in engineering. Applicants need four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including maths and science or technology.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

During an Apprenticeship, the theoretical aspects of the work may be covered by day or block release study at a local college. In addition to workplace assessments, this leads to at least NVQ/SVQ Level 3. Apprentices may also study for a BTEC national certificate or diploma, an SQA national certificate group award, or a City & Guilds certificate.

Apprentices start with initial training in basic engineering skills at a training centre, and then go on to spend time helping in a number of departments involved in work such as estimating, production planning and quality control.

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You may use life saving skills as part of your day-to-day work.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Civil engineering technicians should:

  • Be good at maths and science.
  • Be creative and practical.
  • Be adaptable and persevering.
  • Be able to use computers for design work, calculating, and testing designs.
  • Produce neat and accurate technical drawings using CAD.
  • Have a methodical approach to organise projects.
  • Have strong communication skills and be able to give presentations.
  • Work well with other people.
  • Be able to organise the work of others.

Your Long Term Prospects

Technicians aim to gain the qualification EngTech. To achieve this they must register formally with Engineering Council UK (ECUK) as an engineering technician. This requires an appropriate qualification such as an NVQ/SVQ Level 3, BTEC national certificate or diploma, or an SQA national certificate group award.

There are good opportunities for progression in engineering. Entrants can work their way up from apprentice to chartered engineer.

Get Further Information

The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE),
222 Balham High Road, Balham, London SW12 9BS
Tel: 020 8675 5211
Website: www.cibse.org

ECIS (The Engineering Careers Information Service - a function of SEMTA),
14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT
Tel: 01923 238441
Website: www.tomorrowsengineers.org.uk and www.semta.org.uk

Engineering Council UK (ECUK), 246 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7EX
Tel: 020 3206 0500
Website: www.engc.org.uk

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE),
1 Great George Street, Westminster, London SW1P 3AA
Tel: 020 7222 7722
Website: www.ice.org.uk

The Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE),
11 Upper Belgrave Street, London SW1X 8BH
Tel: 020 7222 7722
Website: www.istructe.org.uk

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