Motor vehicle technicians maintain and repair cars, motorcycles, vans, lorries and other vehicles such as buses and coaches.
They might specialise in repairing a certain type of vehicle, but in all cases they will need to diagnose problems, advise the owner about the options and then carry out the required work.
Technicians work on a vehicle's engine, brakes, cooling system, steering, gearing and suspension. Today's vehicles are very sophisticated and include a lot of computerised and electronic systems. The work is now not just a mechanical occupation but also requires skills with technology.
The work includes:
Servicing vehicles - carrying out checks and maintenance according to the manufacturers' specifications.
Light vehicle technicians (working on light vehicles such as cars) may also carry out MOTs and fit car alarms, stereos, satellite navigation equipment and so on.
Auto-electricians work with a vehicle's electronic control unit (ECU) and use computers with specialist programs to locate faults in the vehicle. Cars without an ECU have to be checked methodically using ammeters and voltmeters.
Heavy vehicle technicians work on machinery that is often considerably larger - this might include lorries, buses, construction vehicles, cranes and so on. Because the components are more expensive, heavy vehicle technicians often try to repair the fault rather than replace the part. Knowledge of hydraulics is sometimes needed to mend hoists or levers on cranes, as well as other larger parts.
Most technicians work 40 hours a week. There may be shift work and overtime. There are some opportunities for part-time work.
Garages or workshops can be dusty, full of fumes and may be either quite hot or cold and draughty. More modern workshops will have good ventilation and good lighting. All garages and workshops, though, have to meet health and safety regulations.
Heavy vehicle repairers may work at night, and some travelling could be involved for technicians attending breakdowns.
The job involves a lot of bending and kneeling. Getting access to parts of the vehicle can be tricky and may involve spending long periods in uncomfortable positions.
Employers may provide a uniform.
The starting salary for motor vehicle technicians is around £10,500 a year. There may be bonuses and overtime pay.
Some employers provide tools to help with training or to encourage new applicants. If a technician has to buy their own tools, employers may subsidise the cost or provide a loan.
There are more than 30 million vehicles on the UK's roads and there is a very high demand for skilled, well trained technicians.
There are jobs in garages, workshops and dealerships, with large companies that operate their own fleets, with bus and coach companies and with organisations such as the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) and Automobile Association (AA). There are opportunities throughout the country.
Bus and coach companies generally employ their own technicians and carry out the work in the workshops at their depots.
Jobs are advertised in the local press and in Jobcentres. Chains of repair shops and large companies, such as the AA and RAC, may also advertise for staff through their own websites.
There are several ways of starting as a trainee:
Most technicians start off on a training scheme or Apprenticeship.
Although no formal qualifications are needed, most large employers prefer applicants who can demonstrate a good level of English and ability with numbers. It is often easier to get in if you have four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) including English, maths and a science (physics is preferred).
The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) has a pre-apprenticeship programme for students aged 14 to 16. The scheme offers a fast-track progression route onto a full Apprenticeship with recognised Level 1 Technical Certificates within the Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships frameworks.
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.
There is a range of NVQ's/SVQ's, including Vehicle Maintenance and Repair - Light Vehicle, Heavy Vehicle, Motorcycle, Lift Truck, Mobile Electronics and Security, Vehicle Fitting and Auto Electrical - at Levels 2 and 3.
City & Guilds offers relevant courses, including Vehicle Maintenance (entry level), Vehicle Maintenance and Repair (NVQ/SVQ Levels 1-3) and Automotive Vehicle Servicing and Repair (Progression Award).
There are also BTEC National Certificates and Diplomas in Vehicle Repair and Technology. Applicants need four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) or equivalent qualifications including a science, English and maths.
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.
Motor vehicle technicians are expected to have a clean driving licence. Young people can be employed before they are old enough to take the test, as long as they are prepared to learn to drive.
Many garages, large organisations and component suppliers provide in-house training. Manufacturers often offer Apprenticeships run jointly with local employers.
Training will usually be a mixture of on-the-job experience, under the guidance of experienced technicians, and college study.
Trainees can usually work towards NVQ's/SVQ's - either to gain recognition for their skills, progress their skills or to specialise in an area such as forklift repair or auto-electrics.
Technicians who have passed an NVQ/SVQ Level 3 can take a two-day accredited course to qualify as providers of MOT tests.
Automotive Technician Accreditation (ATA) is a voluntary assessment programme for technicians working in the retail motor industry. It has the backing of major vehicle manufacturers, independent service and repair organisations and Automotive Skills, which is the Sector Skills Council for the retail motor industry.
Automotive Technician Accreditation is governed by the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI). ATA-registered technicians must sign and be bound by a special code of conduct. They are issued with a photo identity card and their details are included on the ATA website at www.automotivetechnician.org.uk.
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.
Motor vehicle technicians need:
Technicians may need to move to different garages or organisations to gain experience and skills, and to increase their chances of promotion.
The usual route for promotion is from technician to senior technician and then to technical supervisor.
Larger companies often offer the chance to progress either in the motor vehicle technician field or to gain promotion to supervisory, management or teaching positions.
It may be possible to become self-employed, but this usually involves a large investment in terms of setting up and equipping premises. Some set up as 'mobile' technicians, using a van instead of premises, to reduce the costs.
Automotive Skills Ltd,
93 Newman Street, London W1T 3DT
Tel: 020 7436 6373 or careers line: 0800 093 1777
Goskills, Concorde House,
Trinity Park, Solihull B37 7UQ
Tel: 0121 635 5520
The Institute of the Motor Industry,
Fanshaws, Brickendon, Hertford SG13 8PQ
Tel: 01992 511 521
ReMIT, Mere Way,
Ruddington Fields Business Park,
Ruddington, Nottinghamshire NG12 1NA
Tel: 0115 8461200
SEMTA (Science, Engineering
and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance),
14 Upton Road, Watford WD18 0JT
Tel: 01923 238441
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.