Developing new products is an expensive process, so models are often used to test various aspects of the design before production begins. Model makers design and make models of a wide range of items - from products such as mobile phones and DVD players to construction developments such as new libraries and shopping centres.
Their clients may be involved in a variety of sectors, including manufacturing, engineering, biosciences, architecture and construction, stage, film and television production, and heritage.
Model makers work in a number of different areas:
Architectural model design - building scale models of construction developments.
Product model design - making prototype models of new products to be tested before going into production.
Visual effects design - making models to use in film and TV special effects, as well as producing models of film, TV and theatre sets, exhibition stands and displays.
Model makers may also assist in market research by developing models to show potential purchasers or clients what an item will look like.
The work involves:
Model makers usually work around 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday, but evening and weekend work may be required to meet deadlines.
They are normally based in workshops or laboratories. Work environments may be noisy, dirty and dusty at times. Some of the products used, such as adhesives, may give off unpleasant or dangerous fumes. Safety equipment, such as eye protection, masks and gloves, is provided where necessary. The work can combine a lot of standing at work benches or machinery with sitting at drawing boards or computers.
It may be necessary to travel to meet clients or visit sites, so a driving licence is useful.
Salaries may start at around £12,000 a year.
Many model makers are freelancers who work on projects for a number of clients. There are also opportunities with design, specialist model making, civil engineering and production companies. Most employers are based in large cities across the UK.
In recent years, demand for traditional model makers in the UK has been affected by outsourcing of model making contracts to overseas companies. This has resulted in UK companies placing more emphasis on IT skills and computer-aided model making in order to remain competitive.
Vacancies may be advertised in Jobcentre Plus offices, in Connexions centres, and in local and national newspapers. Specialist publications such as Design and Design Week, and the newsletters of professional bodies such as The Institution of Engineering Technology (IET), may also list job vacancies.
In some sectors there are no set academic requirements to become a model maker. Employers normally expect to see a portfolio of work (which may include model making done as a hobby). In engineering and manufacturing, many employers offer Apprenticeships. Entry is very competitive, and it is best to have some GCSE's/S grades in subjects such as maths, design and technology, and physics.
Relevant courses/qualifications include:
The Diploma will give you the knowledge and skills that you will need for college, university or work in an exciting, creative and enjoyable way.
Entry requirements vary depending on the level of the course and educational institution. Check with individual institutions before applying. As a guide, the usual entry requirements for an HND are five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) and one A level/H grade, or the equivalent. For a degree course, the usual entry requirements are five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) and two A levels/H grades.
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.
Some employers may provide training in tool use, machine operation and specialist software packages.
Model makers may get the opportunity to work towards relevant vocational qualifications, including NVQ's/SVQ's in Performing Engineering Operations at Level 2 and Engineering Woodworking, Pattern and Model Making at Level 3.
Professional organisations such as the Design Council and D&AD provide details of ongoing training and development opportunities, and run design award schemes. The Institution of Engineering Designers operates a membership scheme with events and workshops for members.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
A model maker should:
In large organisations, there may be opportunities for promotion to team leader or senior model maker. With additional qualifications it may be possible to progress to positions in design. Model makers in smaller companies may have to move between employers in order to progress.
Experienced model makers may choose to work freelance, creating models for a range of different clients.
With appropriate experience and qualifications it may be possible to teach model making.
Chartered Society of Designers,
1 Cedar Court, Royal Oak Yard,
Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3GA
Tel: 020 7357 8088
D&AD, 9 Graphite Square, Vauxhall Walk,
London SE11 5EE
Tel: 020 7840 1111
Design Business Association (DBA),
35-39 Old Street, London EC1V 9HX
Tel: 020 7251 9229
34 Bow Street, London WC2E 7DL
Tel: 020 7420 5200
The Institution of Engineering Designers (IED),
Courtleigh, Westbury Leigh,
Westbury, Wiltshire BA13 3TA
Tel: 01373 822801
SEMTA (Science, Engineering and
Manufacturing Technologies Alliance),
14 Upton Road, Watford,
Hertfordshire WD18 0JT
Tel; 01923 238441
Prospect House, Focus Point,
21 Caledonian Road, London N1 9GB
Tel: 020 7713 9800
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.