Engineering Maintenance Technician

The Job and What's Involved

Engineering maintenance technicians maintain, install and, if necessary, repair machinery. They play an important role in many different sectors, as machinery becomes more complicated and expensive, and work schedules become tighter.

Depending on the type of business they could look after:

  • Machinery used on production lines in factories.
  • Laboratory equipment.
  • Equipment used in the transport industries.
  • Aircraft.
  • Office equipment, such as photocopiers, computers and telecommunications equipment.

Keeping equipment in good order is essential to make sure it is safe to use. If a piece of machinery is out of action for any reason, it can cause costly delays. For this reason, many engineering maintenance technicians carry out regular, planned maintenance of equipment, spotting and resolving potential problems at an early stage. This could involve:

  • Drawing up and following a schedule for regular maintenance checks (this will take into account manufacturers' recommendations and legal requirements).
  • Showing the people who operate the machinery how to carry out routine tasks, such as oiling, and making sure these tasks are done regularly.
  • Checking and calibrating instruments to make sure they are accurate.
  • Replacing parts either when they are worn or after a specified period of time.

If a piece of equipment does break down, it usually needs to be repaired as quickly as possible, so that production can continue. Engineering maintenance technicians providing emergency repair services must be able to respond immediately and diagnose and resolve problems quickly. If they cannot solve the problem on the spot, they may be able to make a temporary repair to keep production going until a full repair can be carried out.

Maintenance technicians usually specialise in one engineering discipline, but they often need a working knowledge of other disciplines, too. Servicing and repairing specific pieces of equipment may demand a working knowledge of mechanical, electrical and electronic engineering.

Some maintenance operations are extremely specialised. Aircraft maintenance technicians, for example, carry out checks according to a very strict schedule determined by the aircraft manufacturers, because lives could be at risk if a fault develops. They need special licences to demonstrate their competence to carry out the work.

Most maintenance technicians work between 37 and 39 hours a week. Exact working hours vary and may involve rota systems or shift work. Routine maintenance may need to be done during periods when the workplace is quiet, for example, in the evenings, at nights or at weekends. Engineering maintenance technicians may need to provide 24-hour cover for emergency repairs.

As engineering encompasses a whole range of industries, working environments vary widely. A maintenance technician may work in a laboratory or on a factory floor, make visits to construction sites, evaluate safety systems from an office or work from home. A driving licence may be useful.

The starting salary for a newly-qualified engineering maintenance technician is around £20,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There is a steady demand for experienced engineering maintenance technicians throughout the UK. Some large organisations employ in-house maintenance technicians. Other employers include manufacturers of equipment and independent maintenance and repair providers. They range from multinational organisations to small, private companies. There may be opportunities to work overseas.

The manufacturing, process, transport, energy and construction industries, as well as the armed forces, all provide opportunities for maintenance technicians.

Vacancies are advertised in local newspapers, Connexions centres, Jobcentre plus and recruitment agencies.

Education and Training

The majority of candidates enter this career through Advanced Apprenticeships.

For an Advanced Apprenticeship, applicants usually need at least four or five GCSE's (A*-C) or equivalent qualifications, including English, maths and science or technology. Equivalent qualifications include Applied GCSE's (double award) in engineering or manufacturing.

Some technician apprentices first study full time for Level 3 qualifications, such as A levels, BTEC National Diplomas or Certificates, or City & Guilds awards.

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.

The Diploma in Engineering may be relevant for this area of work.

Relevant experience as, for example, an engineering craftsperson may also be useful.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training usually combines on-the-job training with day or block release to study at a local college or registered training centre. Advanced apprentices work towards NVQ Level 3. They may be able to study for additional qualifications including a BTEC National Certificate or Diploma, or a C&G certificate.

Some employers offer opportunities for sponsorship for an HNC/HND, foundation degree or degree course.

When they finish training, technicians are encouraged to apply for engineering technician registration with the Engineering Council UK and, if successful, gain the letters EngTech after their name.

To apply for EngTech status, candidates must:

  • Become a member of one of the institutions that register engineering technicians (see www.engc.org.uk for a list).
  • Demonstrate that they have the necessary technical and personal competence, and are committed to keeping these up to date and acting in a professional and socially responsible manner.
  • Pass an assessment set by practising engineering professionals.

Registration may be more straightforward for candidates who have:

  • A National Certificate or Diploma in engineering or construction.
  • A technical certificate gained as part of an Advanced Apprenticeship.
  • An approved Level 3 NVQ.
  • Followed a work-based learning route approved by a licensed professional engineering institution.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Engineering maintenance technicians should:

  • Be practical.
  • Be good with their hands.
  • Have good problem-solving skills.
  • Have good communication skills so they can explain problems to people with varying levels of technical knowledge.
  • Be able to do calculations.
  • Have computer skills, since computer diagnostics are used in many operations.
  • Understand engineering drawings and principles.
  • Be able to work accurately and quickly under pressure.
  • Be well organised and able to prioritise a range of tasks.
  • Work well in a team and on their own initiative.
  • Be able to follow health and safety procedures.
  • Have normal colour vision.

Your Long Term Prospects

Skilled, experienced maintenance technicians may be promoted to senior roles with more pay and responsibility.

Engineering maintenance technicians who qualify for professional status (EngTech) may have a wider choice of career development options, including further study towards incorporated and chartered status.

Technology changes quickly in this field, so it is important for engineering maintenance technicians to keep their knowledge and skills up to date.

Get Further Information

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

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

Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET),
Michael Faraday House, Stevenage, Herts SG1 2AY
Tel: 01438 313 311
Website: www.theiet.org

Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance (SEMTA),
14 Upton Road, Watford WD18 0JT
Learning helpline: 0800 282 167
Website: www.semta.org.uk

Women into Science, Engineering and Construction (WISE),
2nd Floor, Weston House, 246 High Holborn WC1B 7EX
Tel: 020 3206 0408
Website: www.wisecampaign.org.uk

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

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