Platers/fabricators work mainly in engineering and construction.
Platers help to prepare steel or other metal plates and sections for the manufacture of items such as power station boilers, pressure vessels for chemical plants and refineries, and storage tanks for oil and other liquids. They also work in shipbuilding and in the production of structural steelwork for oil rigs, bridges and buildings. They work with various thicknesses of metal plate ranging from 5mm to over 100mm and, due to the extreme weight of some of the larger plates, they often need to use:
- Cranes and hoists
- Heavy-duty guillotines to cut the plates
- Oxyacetylene flame cutters for curves and complex shapes
- Rollers and presses to curve and bend the plates
The completed plates are then welded or bolted together to complete the finished product.
Fabricators cut and shape thin sheets of metal using hand and machine saws, metal cutters and small presses and rollers to create bends and curves. Working with stainless steel, aluminium, mild steel and sheet metal they manufacture brackets, tables, cabinets, catering equipment, control panels and items such as electrical and ventilation ducting for buildings. Some fabricators use huge presses to make mass-produced items such as car bodies.
The work of a plater/fabricator may involve:
Platers/fabricators either work alone or in small teams, often with other craftspeople under the supervision of a foreperson. All their work is subject to stringent quality control using a combination of MRP (Manufacturing Resource Planning) and ISO 9002 quality control procedures.
Platers/fabricators normally work 37 to 39 hours a week, possibly in shifts. Overtime is common and many people work longer hours.
They may work in large workshops, which can be noisy and hot, or outdoors in all weather conditions. They wear protective clothing and equipment, including ear protectors, boiler suits, gloves, helmets, safety glasses or visors and safety boots.
Platers/fabricators have to be alert to the safety risks of using welding machinery and cutting tools, and lifting and moving heavy sheets of metal.
The starting salary for trainee platers/fabricators is around £12,000 a year. Experienced workers may earn £25,000 or more.
Skilled workers using computer-controlled equipment, or those with supervisory responsibilities, may earn up to £35,000 a year.
Shift work and overtime payments may increase these salaries.
Platers and fabricators work for:
- Boiler and pressure vessel fabrication plants
- Heavy machinery manufacturing companies
- Manufacturing companies making products from sheet metal
- Platework fabrication plants
- Shipbuilding companies
- Structural steel fabrication plants
They also work for engineering and civil engineering companies involved in projects that involve large metal structures, such as oil rigs and storage tanks.
Heavy engineering and engineering construction companies carry out work across the UK but tend to be based in the north of England and in Scotland and Ireland.
Vacancies are advertised on engineering recruitment websites and on the websites of the larger engineering, building and construction companies. The engineering trade press, local newspapers and Jobcentre Plus offices may also list job opportunities.
Employers normally expect entrants to have GCSE's (A*-C) in English, maths and a science subject, or equivalent qualifications. The Diploma in engineering may be relevant for this area of work.
Possible entry routes include:
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.
It is possible to obtain the Skills and Technical Certificate of Training through which employers recruit new staff or retrain existing staff. Developed by the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB), the scheme leads to craft status for unskilled and semi-skilled adults.
Under the scheme, trainees progress through different units of competence until they have reached the standard both they and their employer require.
No previous experience or academic qualifications are required. However, candidates must already be in a related area of employment.
An Apprenticeship in engineering combines training on the job with part-time study at a college or, in the case of larger employers, in company training centres.
Apprenticeships lead to:
Engineering construction craft apprentices train in two phases. Initial training takes place at an ECITB-approved centre for one year. Apprentices then go to engineering construction sites with a sponsor company to gain practical experience for a further two years.
All apprentices complete final examinations at the end of their initial training, including the Technical Certificate, key skills and Safety Passport.
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.
Platers and fabricators need:
A plater or fabricator may progress to become a foreperson, technician, supervisor, manager or trainer. It is possible for those who have completed their craft training to train as engineering technicians. Some platework fabricators may also become certified as welders.
There are opportunities to work abroad for both UK and foreign companies.
Tel: 0800 917 1617
Engineering Construction Industry
Training Board (ECITB),
Tel: 01923 260000
Engineering Council UK
Tel: 020 3206 0500
The Institution of Engineering and Technology
Tel: 01438 313 311
SEMTA (the Sector Skills Council for Science,
Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies)
Tel: 01923 238441
Learning helpline 0800 282167
Tel: 01908 303960
The Welding Institute (TWI)
Tel: 01223 899000
WISE (Women Into Science, Engineering
Tel: 020 3206 0408
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.