Heating and Ventilating Engineer

The Job and What's Involved

Heating and ventilation systems ensure that buildings provide the right environment for living and working. All buildings (including shops, offices, factories and laboratories) have complicated, precise heating and ventilation systems to make them work effectively. These can take many forms, such as a series of ventilation grilles on classroom walls or a large network of pipes across factory ceilings.

The heating and ventilating industry installs innovative systems and new technologies such as air and ground source heat pumps to make buildings as energy efficient as possible. To do this, the industry requires highly-trained engineers who have the skills to install increasingly complex systems.

Heating and ventilating engineers may be involved in a diverse range of duties:

Pipework and Ductwork Installers use their skills to cut, form, weld and join a wide range of materials used within a heating and ventilating system.

Control and Commissioning Engineers use their knowledge to ensure systems meet the design requirements for the building.

Maintenance Engineers identify faults, fix them and plan and carry out service and maintenance activities on all heating and ventilating systems, making sure they work efficiently and effectively.

Heating Engineers install complex heating equipment and pipework systems, within large buildings such as office blocks, hospitals and schools.

Domestic Heating Engineers install and commission domestic central heating systems and ensure they function correctly and efficiently.

Most heating and ventilating engineers work around 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday, but deadlines may sometimes demand additional hours including evenings and weekends. Some engineers may take part in a call-out rota. Some are self-employed or work on short-term contracts and, as a result, working hours can vary from one week to another.

The majority of the work takes place at construction sites which can be noisy, dusty and cold. Engineers usually work locally, travelling from one project to another. However, some firms may require engineers to work away from home for short or long periods. Employers may provide a vehicle.

Engineers will be expected to wear hard hats, high-visibility jackets, safety shoes and other necessary equipment when on construction sites.

The starting salary as an apprentice may be around £9,000 to £11,000 a year. A newly-qualified engineer may earn around £20,000 a year. More experienced engineers may earn £30,000 or more a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 56,000 heating and ventilation engineers in the UK. Most are employed by specialist mechanical and electrical contractors and consultancy firms, many of which are based in large cities.

Jobs are advertised in the local press and in industry magazines such as the Building Services Journal. There are also specialist construction recruitment agencies and websites.

Education and Training

Many engineers start through an Apprenticeship.

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 entry requirements for an Apprenticeship are likely to be at least three GCSE's (A*-C) or equivalent.

The Diploma in construction and the built environment or in engineering may be relevant for this area of work.

Applicants also have to pass a colour vision test and a selection test.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

It takes between two and four years to be trained as a heating and ventilating engineer, involving time in college or a training centre together with on the job training.

Apprentices are required by the heating and ventilating industry to work towards NVQ Level 2 or 3, as well as a technical certificate to gain qualified operative status. The level of qualification required will depend on the degree of responsibility and complexity of the systems being worked on. Both involve heating and ventilating installation in either industrial and commercial or domestic or ductwork. Level 2 includes the option to study heating and ventilating maintenance of system components and Level 3 has the option of studying heating and ventilating rectification of systems.

There are opportunities to gain higher level qualifications. Some engineers progress to NVQ Level 4, foundation degree, degree or Masters level. Some qualifications can lead to registration as an engineering technician (EngTech) or membership of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE).

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Heating and ventilating engineers need:

  • Good practical skills and hand skills.
  • The ability to follow technical drawings, building plans and other instructions.
  • The ability to work carefully, methodically and safely.
  • The ability to measure accurately.
  • A head for heights.
  • To be prepared to work in all sorts of weather.
  • A willingness to work in confined spaces.
  • Good written and verbal communication skills.
  • To be able to work in a team but also able to work on their own initiative.
  • The ability to adapt to change.
  • Good problem-solving skills.
  • Normal colour vision, for some work.
  • To be presentable with a pleasant manner.

Your Long Term Prospects

Most large organisations provide opportunities for promotion, giving engineers the chance to carry out larger projects and take on supervisory or managerial responsibilities.

Some heating and ventilating engineers become self-employed. Chartered engineering status may be necessary for heating and ventilating engineers wanting to set up their own business.

There may be opportunities to work abroad.

Get Further Information

Building Engineering Services Training (BEST) Ltd,
The Priory, Stomp Road, Burnham,
Buckinghamshire SL1 7LW
Tel: 0800 917 8419
Website: www.best-ltd.co.uk

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

Building Engineering Services Association (BESA),
Lincoln House, 137-143, Hammersmith, London W14 0QL
Tel: 020 7313 4900
Website: www.thebesa.com

JTL, National Administration Centre, Unit 3H1,
Third Floor, Redwither Tower, Redwither Business Park,
Wrexham L13 9XT
Tel: 0800 085 2308
Website: www.jtltraining.com

SummitSkills, Vega House,
Opal Drive, Fox Milne, Milton Keynes MK15 0DF
Tel: 01908 303960
Careers helpline: 0800 068 8336
Websites: www.summitskills.org.uk

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