Mechanical Engineering Technician

The Job and What's Involved

Mechanical engineering technicians solve technical problems in manufacturing, sales, construction, inspection, and maintenance by using engineering and scientific principles. They work at all stages of machinery use from development, manufacture and installation to continuous operation, and at all levels they assist engineers and scientists. They may work in:

  • Manufacturing - helping to make everything from washing machines to packaging equipment, cranes and escalators.
  • The automotive industry - building cars and other vehicles.
  • The transport industry, aerospace, road, rail and marine transport.
  • Healthcare - producing medical equipment for use in hospitals.
  • Chemical, glass, oil, rubber and plastics process industries.
  • Electricity, nuclear power, renewable energy, coal and water industries.
  • The armed forces.

Depending on the particular industry, they could be:

  • Operating complex machinery.
  • Designing and constructing test equipment and working models.
  • Installing, testing, setting and adjusting instruments and machinery, including robotic machinery.
  • Diagnosing and repairing faults in industrial equipment such as automated production lines, estimating costs and purchasing materials and equipment.
  • Preparing and carrying out maintenance programmes to keep machinery running efficiently.
  • Monitoring production processes and checking the quality of the products.

They usually work with other engineering technicians under the guidance of an incorporated or chartered engineer.

Mechanical engineering technicians also work alongside engineers and scientists in research and development.

Working hours vary from job to job. Mechanical engineering technicians generally work around 37.5 hours a week. Shift work may be required and overtime may be available.

Depending on the type of industry and job role, Mechanical engineering technicians could be working in a laboratory, a factory or production plant or outdoors. Some may visit customers at their premises to install or maintain machinery.

Mechanical engineering technicians wear safety equipment where required, including goggles, protective headgear and safety boots.

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

Getting Started with this Career Choice

SEMTA, the Sector Skills Council, estimates that 10,000 qualified technicians will be needed in the aerospace, automotive, electronics and marine sectors over the next ten years. There are many opportunities across the UK and there tends to be a shortage of skilled workers.

Vacancies are advertised in the local press and in professional publications such as The Engineer. There are also many websites that specialise in engineering jobs.

Education and Training

The Diplomas in engineering, construction and the built environment, and manufacturing and product design may be relevant for this area of work.

Most people start as apprentices and train on the job. It is possible to become an apprentice without formal qualifications. However, most employers ask for some GCSE's (A*-C) in English or mathematics or equivalent.

Apprentices often follow an Advanced Apprenticeship scheme leading to a technician-level qualification. Some Apprenticeships lead directly to Engineering Technician registration awarded by the Engineering Council UK. This means that technicians can use the letters EngTech after their names.

Advanced Apprenticeships are open to young people aged between 16 and 25 years. Entry requirements vary, but are likely to be four GCSE's (A*-C) including maths, science or technology. In some cases an A level or equivalent qualification is required.

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 is also possible to take a course at college or through a training provider. These include:

  • BTEC National Certificate, National Diploma or HNC/HND in mechanical engineering.
  • NVQ Level 2 in performing engineering operations.
  • NVQ Levels 2 and 3 in mechanical manufacturing engineering and aeronautical engineering.
  • NVQ Level 3 in installing plant and systems - mechanical and maintaining plant and systems - mechanical.
  • City & Guilds Level 3 Certificate in production engineering.

There are usually openings for those who have worked in a related field and it is possible to get EngTech status with relevant experience rather than qualifications.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Apprenticeships usually take three to four years and include practical training at work as well as study at college or with a training provider. Apprenticeships lead to an NVQ Level 3 or qualifications such as a BTEC National Certificate or Diploma.

Continuing professional development (CPD) could lead to the registration level of EngTech. To achieve this, technicians must register formally with the Engineering Council as an engineering technician, and will need:

  • An appropriate qualification such as an NVQ Level 3 or a BTEC National Certificate or Diploma.
  • At least three years' work experience with responsibility, including further training and development.
  • Membership of a relevant professional institution, such as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) or Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

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You may use life saving skills as part of your day-to-day work.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A mechanical engineering technician should:

  • Understand technical drawings and information.
  • Have practical skills and be able to use different types of tools.
  • Be able to work out solutions to engineering problems.
  • Work well as part of a team.
  • Have good IT skills.
  • Be able to communicate clearly.
  • Be able to plan work to keep to timetables and deadlines.

Your Long Term Prospects

Mechanical engineering technicians may be able to progress into supervisory and management jobs or move into related areas such as technical sales. With further study and experience they may become an incorporated or chartered engineer.

UK engineering qualifications are respected throughout the world so there may be opportunities for work abroad.

Get Further Information

Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB),
Blue Court, Church Lane, Kings Langley, Hertfordshire WD4 8JP
Tel: 01923 260000
Website: www.ecitb.org.uk

Institute of Marine Engineering,
Science and Technology (IMarEST),
80 Coleman Street, London EC2R 5BJ
Tel: 020 7382 2600
Website: www.imarest.org

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET),
Michael Faraday House, Six Hills Way,
Stevenage, Hertfordshire SG1 2AY
Tel: 01438 313311
Website: www.theiet.org

SEMTA (the Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering
and Manufacturing Technologies),
14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT
Tel: 0800 100 3682
Website: www.semta.org.uk

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

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