Electricity Generation Worker

The Job and What's Involved

Electricity generation workers install, repair, operate and maintain the machinery and equipment needed to generate electricity. They work in gas, coal, oil and nuclear power stations, and also work with renewable energy equipment such as wind turbines and hydroelectric machinery.

They might work with:

  • Machinery and plant, such as boilers, turbines, pumps and valves.
  • Electrical plant, such as generators, transformers and switchgear.
  • Controls and instrumentation, where they maintain and operate electronic equipment that controls and monitors the power station.

The work covers a wide range of tasks, including installing, repairing, maintaining and operating equipment. The equipment they work on includes gas turbines, internal combustion engines, heat recovery steam generators, steam turbines, auxiliary plant systems, water treatment systems, and control and instrumentation systems.

Much of this work is carried out in the generating room, but some workers may operate plant remotely from a control room where they monitor changes on screen and ensure that everything runs smoothly. Safety is paramount.

Electricity generation workers use practical engineering skills such as welding or soldering. They also use a variety of hand and power tools such as screwdrivers, spanners, wrenches and drills, as well as complex electrical measuring instruments.

They may need to be able to read and understand engineering plans, drawings or wiring diagrams. At more senior levels, they have to be familiar with the manuals for the equipment they look after.

Power stations are run by teams of engineers, technicians and operators, and generation workers work alongside a variety of tradespeople.

Electricity generation workers work a basic 37 to 40 hours a week. They usually work shifts, including weekends and public holidays. They may need to be on call for emergencies.

They work in power stations, and could be in clean, well-lit control rooms or workshops, or working directly with the plant. Some of the work is carried out in cramped conditions and some may be in difficult environments such as the North Sea wind farms or on remote hydroelectric projects.

Workers normally wear protective clothing.

The starting salary for Apprentices is likely to be from around £8,500 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Most electricity generation workers work for generating companies. Each company is responsible for its own recruitment, so it is best to contact them directly for details of vacancies. Their offices are listed in local telephone directories and on the internet. Jobs may also be advertised at Connexions centres and Jobcentre Plus offices.

There are several websites that specialise in electricity, gas and water jobs, including www.utilityjobsearch.com and www.justutilities.net.

This is a growing area of employment across the whole of the UK and there is a shortage of skilled people.

Education and Training

It is possible to start work as an Apprentice straight from school and train on the job as a craftsperson. Some companies do ask for some GCSE's/S grades or equivalent qualifications, though, to show that new starters will be able to cope with Apprenticeship training.

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

Craft training is modular, covering a wide range of engineering skills. These include machining, welding, electrical wiring and fitting, as well as specific skills geared towards particular branches of engineering, for example, mechanical, electrical, electronic and instrumentation.

Apprentices work and receive training at the same time, spending some time working alongside an experienced colleague, and doing off-the-job training such as a day or block release course at college. Apprentices work towards NVQ/SVQ Engineering Technology Operations at Level 1, 2 or 3, or NVQ/SVQ Engineering Technology Maintenance at Level 2 or 3.

Training for electricity generation workers can lead to a range of City & Guilds, BTEC/SQA and NVQ/SVQ qualifications in engineering subjects.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) could lead to the qualification of EngTech. To achieve this, electricity distribution workers must register formally with The Engineering Council as an engineering technician. They will need:

  • An appropriate qualification such as a relevant NVQ/SVQ at Level 3, BTEC national certificate or diploma, or an SQA national certificate group award.
  • At least three years' work experience with responsibility, including suitable further training and development.
  • To be a member of the relevant professional institution, such as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) or Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).
  • To take a final test called a professional review.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An electricity generation worker should:

  • Have good practical skills and be able to use a range of tools.
  • Be good at solving problems.
  • Be extremely safety-conscious.
  • Be able to understand technical drawings and manuals.
  • Pay attention to detail.
  • Be computer literate.
  • Have good concentration.
  • Be able to use their initiative and work alone or in a team.
  • Have normal colour vision (for electrical/electronic work).

Your Long Term Prospects

After successfully completing an Apprenticeship, and with an NVQ/SVQ Level 3, electricity generation workers achieve craftsperson status.

With further training and study, it is possible to become an engineering technician in a supervisory post.

Get Further Information

ECIS (The Engineering Careers Information Service),
14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT
Tel: 0808 100 3682
Website: www.tomorrowsengineers.org.uk

Energy & Utility Skills, Friars Gate Two,
1011 Stratford Road, Shirley, Solihull B90 4BN
Tel: 0845 077 9922
Website: www.euskills.co.uk

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

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET),
Savoy Place, London WC2R 0BL
Tel: 020 7240 1871
Website: www.theiet.org

Joint Industry Board (JIB) for the Electrical Contracting Industry,
Kingswood House, 47/51 Sidcup Hill, Sidcup, Kent DA14 6HP
Tel: 020 8302 0031
Website: www.jib.org.uk

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