Electronics assemblers put together electrical components. They attach microchips and wires, or insert components into electronic circuit boards. They work on components for a wide range of products, including:
Assemblers may work on an assembly line, sitting or standing next to a conveyor belt. They often have to pick up a partly assembled item and fit a coloured component on to it before passing it to the next person. Each assembler needs to work at the same pace as their colleagues. Other electronics assemblers work more independently, sitting or standing at a bench, with batches of items to put together. Each new job is explained, either through drawings, job cards or verbal instructions and demonstrations.
Assemblers may use hand tools, such as screwdrivers, pliers, tweezers and soldering equipment. Intricate work may require the use of drills and microscopes. Some components can be inserted without any soldering. Others are more complex and require the assembler to work from a detailed diagram. As a result, there are many different skill levels in assembly work.
Assemblers may also oversee items being assembled by machine, checking that the machine settings are correct and that the components are loaded accurately. Finally they may examine and test the finished articles.
Electronics assemblers usually work 37 to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Part-time work is common. Work patterns vary depending on employers. Some operate a shift system, including nights and weekends. Working from home is also possible in some companies.
Electronics factories and workshops are usually well lit, dust free and very clean to avoid damaging the components. The job involves standing or sitting for long periods of time. Those working with small parts are often provided with regular breaks to avoid straining their eyes.
Employers provide overalls, safety gloves, head coverings, safety glasses and anti-static wrist or ankle bands. Using a soldering iron can be hot work.
Starting salaries for electronics assemblers may be around £11,000 a year. Experienced assemblers may earn up to £17,000 a year.
Most assemblers work for manufacturers of printed circuit boards or electronic components. These are then supplied to companies that make household white goods and electrical items, or produce electronic assemblies for telecommunications equipment, cars, aircraft and other devices.
Employers are based throughout the UK, especially in the West Midlands, the north of England, Cardiff and parts of Scotland, particularly around Strathclyde and Glasgow.
Vacancies may be advertised in local Connexions centres and Jobcentre Plus offices. They may also be found in local newspapers or manufacturing recruitment agencies.
There are no formal entry requirements, although GCSE's (A*-E) in English, maths and science, as well as subjects such as electronics and engineering, may be useful. Applicants might be asked to complete a practical test, particularly if the work involves assembling very small parts.
The Diploma in engineering and the Diploma in manufacturing and product design may be relevant for this area of work and 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.
Applicants of all ages, particularly with relevant experience, are welcomed by employers.
Training is usually on the job. Most employers offer an initial introduction to company policies, quality control and health and safety. This is often delivered in-house, in a classroom environment.
Entrants then work alongside experienced assemblers. Their work is usually monitored closely until they have shown they can work unsupervised. They may attend some additional training courses to learn how to read wiring diagrams or to identify different components. For some jobs they may have to learn how to solder to very precise standards.
Electronics assemblers on an Apprenticeship work towards vocational qualifications, such as NVQ Levels 1 and 2 in performing manufacturing operations.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
Electronics assemblers need:
Promotion may be possible to a supervisory post. There may also be opportunities in health and safety, training and management.
Highly skilled assemblers may move into machine minding and quality control. They may specialise in products that are too intricate to be handled by machines. Some assemblers may develop their technical skills to enable them to operate and set up new equipment.
Engineering Connections, St James's House,
Frederick Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 1JJ
Tel: 0800 917 1617 or 0121 456 2550
Enginuity careers (an ETB initiative),
2nd Floor, Weston House, 246 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EX
Tel: 0207 557 6432
The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET),
Michael Faraday House, Six Hills Way,
Stevenage, Herts SG1 2AY
Tel: 01438 313311
SEMTA (Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance),
14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT
Tel: 01923 238441
Women's Engineering Society, The IET,
Michael Faraday House, Six Hills Way,
Stevenage, Hertfordshire SG1 2AY
Tel: 01438 765506
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.