The Job and What's Involved

Fabricators manufacture, assemble and/or install structural frames of buildings. They can work on both new buildings and the extension or adaptation of existing ones.

The structures they work on include:

- Houses
- Public buildings, such as schools
- Shops
- Swimming pools
- Airport terminal buildings
- Caravans

Demand for improved creativity, thermal performance, speed and versatility in architecture is leading to substantially different forms of construction from the concrete, steel and glass buildings that fabricators have traditionally worked on. They are now likely to work with a much more diverse range of materials, including glass reinforced plastic (fibreglass), aluminium, acrylic plastic and PVC foam, timber, timber-based products, including laminated timber, vinyl and natural stone.

They may specialise as:

Aluminium Fabricators, responsible for manufacturing curtain walls, windows, doors, frames and entrances.

Acrylic Fabricators, working with acrylic plastics and PVC foam. This job involves the production of signs and components using standard aluminium extrusions and sheet products.

Corian Fabricators, working with a blend of natural minerals and pure acrylic polymers used in, for example, airports, schools, hospitals, shops, ships, restaurants and bars.

Conservatory Fabricators, working with glaziers/window fabricators erecting conservatories out of timber, aluminium or PVC.

Curtain walling Fabricators, working on projects from offices and retail stores to major building projects, such as the London Gherkin curtain wall system of two layers of glazing with a ventilated cavity in between.

Window Fabricators, frame makers and door makers building off-site manufactured rooms that can be assembled on site.

A large amount of fabrication work is now completed off site as, in many cases, this saves on time and money, and can improve quality.

Fabricators usually work in teams. They use hand and power tools, and may be trained to use larger, fixed machines to secure the sections they are assembling. Strict adherence to safe working practices and health and safety regulations is essential.

Fabricators typically work normal hours Monday to Friday, although this varies according to the demands of particular projects. Shifts and overtime work, including evenings and weekends, may be required.

Fabricators may work indoors or outdoors, at varying heights, in all weathers. The work includes climbing and carrying ladders, tools and equipment.

Fabricators are often responsible for the operation of mobile cranes and machinery in the areas where they are working.
A driving licence is useful.

Salaries for new fabricators start from about £13,000 a year.
Experienced workers may earn between £18,000 and £25,000 and highly experienced fabricators may earn £35,000 or more.

Fabricators are normally paid according to nationally recommended industry rates agreed annually by the Building and Allied Trades Joint Industrial Council and the Construction Joint Industry Council. Earnings of apprentices are graded to a nationally agreed minimum rate.

Fabricators may significantly increase their income with overtime payments and shift allowances.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The construction industry accounts for half of the UK's total investment and is the country's biggest employer. However, there has been a decline in opportunities recently, in line with trends in the wider economy.

Fabrication jobs are available across the UK. There has been a significant increase in the use of new construction methods and, in particular, off-site fabrication in the building industry in recent years.

Many construction vacancies are advertised through employment agencies and Jobcentre Plus offices. National and local newspapers, and journals such as Construction News, also advertise fabrication jobs.

Education and Training

There are no specific entry qualifications, although GCSE's (A*-E) in English and maths are useful, as are science and design and technology for providing a background for the calculations, measurements and theory required.

The Diploma in construction and the built environment may be relevant to this role. It offers an introduction to all the stages of a building project. Students also select specialist topics to study, and carry out some work experience in the industry.

Apprenticeships may be available through ConstructionSkills. Candidates have to sit an aptitude exercise involving maths and problem solving. They are also assessed on literacy and their ability to work at heights.

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

Construction apprentices are able to train and gain vocational qualifications while they work. They learn practical skills on the job, under the supervision of skilled fabricators, and spend time off site at a college or training centre.

A variety of NVQ's are available, including:

- Level 1 in construction and civil engineering services
- Level 2 and 3 in fabrication and welding engineering
- Level 4 in construction site management

By 2010 workers within the construction sector must hold a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card or be registered with an affiliated scheme. CSCS cards are graded according to qualifications and experience.

For experienced workers without formal qualifications, on-site assessment and training (OSAT) can be used to achieve an award.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Fabricators should:

  • Have good balance and be able to work at heights.
  • Be physically fit.
  • Be good with their hands.
  • Be able to work well in a team.
  • Have a sound knowledge of correct working and safety practices.
  • Have good organisational skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience, fabricators may be able to progress to supervisory positions.

There are good opportunities for self-employment. There may also be opportunities to work abroad.

Get Further Information

The British Woodworking Federation (BWF),
55 Tufton Street, London SW1P 3QL
Tel: 0870 458 6939
Website: www.bwf.org.uk

ConstructionSkills, Bircham Newton,
King's Lynn, Norfolk PE31 6RH
Tel: 01485 577577
Websites: www.cskills.org, www.bconstructive.co.uk and www.cscs.uk.com

National Association of Shopfitters,
NAS House, 411 Limpsfield Road,
Warlingham, Surrey CR6 9HA
Tel: 01883 624961
Website: www.shopfitters.org

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