Land-based Service Technician

The Job and What's Involved

Land-based service technicians work on specialist machinery used at farms, nurseries and market gardens, ground care and horticultural businesses, sports facilities and parks. They play an important role in keeping equipment in good working order through planned maintenance, as well as carrying out any diagnostic and repair work when required.

They may work on:

  • Complex machinery, such as tractors, harvesters, sprayers, cultivators, planters and fertiliser spreaders - some of these machines use technology such as global positioning systems (GPS), electronic mapping and guidance systems, electronic engine and transmission management systems, radar speed monitoring and other high-technology control systems.
  • Professional and domestic machinery such as compact tractors, rotary tillers, cultivators, quad bikes, grass collectors, lawnmowers, ride-on mowers, chainsaws and hedge trimmers.
  • Equipment used in livestock handling and control, including milking systems, mobile handlers and feeding systems.
  • Machinery used in forestry.

The work involves:

  • Running diagnostic tests on complex machinery and equipment.
  • Adjusting and setting equipment to operate correctly.
  • Replacing parts and making new components if necessary.
  • Using techniques such as welding to make repairs.
  • Referring to technical information and repair manuals.

Land-based service technicians are likely to use a wide range of tools, often including diagnostic equipment and laptop computers.

Land-based service technicians normally work around 37.5 hours a week, but additional work is often required, including early mornings, evenings and weekends, to meet deadlines. Technicians working in agriculture may work longer hours during the summer months as farmers look to do as much work as possible during the extra daylight hours.

Land-based service technicians usually work in well-equipped workshops. In some jobs it may be necessary to work outside, in all weather conditions. Technicians may spend lots of time travelling, sometimes to remote areas. A car or van equipped as a mobile workshop may be necessary.

Most technicians wear protective overalls and steel toe-capped boots. For some jobs they need other protective clothing, including safety glasses and welding aprons.

A driving licence may be required.

An apprentice technician is likely to start on around £8,000 a year. Transport may be provided by employers. Technicians employed by large farms may be provided with accommodation.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Currently there are around 20,000 land-based service technicians working in the UK. Much of the work is based in rural areas, but there are also many opportunities in towns and cities, especially for those technicians specialising in garden machinery.

Land-based service technicians are employed by farmers, contractors, large garden centres and nurseries, and manufacturers and distributors of agricultural/horticultural machinery. There may also be opportunities with golf and other sports clubs, the parks and gardens department of local authorities and specialist companies offering servicing and repair for a range of equipment.

Many manufacturers are multinational companies so there are likely to be opportunities to work overseas. There is currently a worldwide shortage of land-based service technicians, so prospects are good.

Vacancies are usually advertised in Jobcentre Plus offices, the local press and on employers' websites.

Education and Training

Many people enter this career through an Apprenticeship. Entry requirements vary, but most employers expect four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including maths and science or technology, or the equivalent.

Many of the large manufacturers provide specialist apprentice training. These schemes are usually run in partnership with a further education college, and are either NVQ/SVQ or national diploma based.

The British Agricultural and Garden Machinery Association operates an Apprenticeship scheme lasting three to four years. Apprentices receive on-the-job training from the organisation that employs them, and attend college on block release.

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.

It may also be possible to enter the career through a:

Traineeship in land-based engineering - which is available at some colleges of further and higher education. There are no formal entry requirements, but prospective students are asked to complete an aptitude test.

National Diploma in Land Based Technology - which lasts two to three years full time and is dependent on candidates securing a work placement. Entry requirements are four GCSE's/S grades, including maths and one subject testing the student's command of English.

A Diploma will help you make a more informed choice about the type of learning that best suits you and about what kind of work or further study you may want to do afterwards.

Other useful qualifications include:

  • NVQ's/SVQ's in Land-based Service Engineering at
    Level 2 and 3.
  • Edexcel Level 2 BTEC First Certificate in Land-based Technology.
  • Edexcel Level 3 BTEC National Certificate in Land-based Technology.
  • National Proficiency Tests Council (NPTC) Level 2 Certificate of Competence in Machine Maintenance and Related Operations.
  • City & Guilds Certificate of Competence in Land-based Machine Maintenance and Related Operations.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Trainees are taught to work on power units, transmission and power train systems, hydraulics, electrics, electronics, wheels and tyres, and braking systems across a wide range of different machines. They are also trained to use hand tools, soldering and welding equipment to remove, replace and shape components.

As training progresses, they are taught to diagnose faults and test machinery after repair. Health and safety, emergency first aid, tractor and lift truck driving, and abrasive wheels regulations are also included in the training.

Advances in technology mean that ongoing training is essential in this career. This is usually delivered by the distributors and manufacturers of agricultural and horticultural machinery, through training courses in repairing and maintaining their products.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Land-based service technicians should:

  • Be good with their hands, with a high level of mechanical skill.
  • Be able to understand and apply information from technical manuals.
  • Be physically fit.
  • Have good communication skills.
  • Have problem-solving skills.
  • Have patience and perseverance when trying to locate faults.
  • Be able to work quickly and accurately under pressure.
  • Be able to make decisions and work alone without direct supervision.
  • Be able to follow strict safety procedures.

Your Long Term Prospects

Experienced land-based service technicians may be able to progress to a wide range of roles, including diagnostic technician, master technician, workshop supervisor and sales representative. There may also be opportunities for self-employment.

The Institution of Agricultural Engineers provides information and support on the routes to professional registration as a technician and, ultimately, as an incorporated or chartered engineer.

With appropriate qualifications and experience, it is possible to move into training, possibly as a college technician or college lecturer. It is also possible to progress into managerial positions.

Get Further Information

British Agricultural and Garden Machinery Association (BAGMA),
Entrance B, Level 1, Salamander Quay West, Park Lane,
Harefield, Middlesex UB9 6NZ
Tel: 0870 205 2834
Website: www.bagma.com

Engineering and Technology Board
Website: www.tomorrowsengineers.org.uk

Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgrE),
Barton Road, Silsoe, Bedford MK45 4FH
Tel: 01525 861096
Website: www.iagre.org

Lantra, Lantra House, Stoneleigh Park,
near Coventry, Warwickshire CV8 2LG
Tel: 024 7669 6996
Websites: www.lantra.co.uk and www.ajobin.com

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