Post Room Assistant/Messenger

The Job and What's Involved

Post room assistants (sometimes known as messengers) sort, collect and deliver mail and other items within an organisation, and to other organisations. In spite of the wide use of email for communication, many larger businesses still rely on personal mail systems.

Jobs vary according to the employer, but post room assistants usually:

  • Sort incoming post, packages, newspapers, magazines and journals into the correct tray or pigeon hole for a person or department.
  • Deliver these items to the right people or department.
  • Collect outgoing post, packages and other items.
  • Deliver these internally, or frank and bag them up for external mail collection.
  • Deliver urgent items or packages to other businesses, or other offices of their own organisation.
  • Take urgent special items to the post office - for instance, for special delivery within the UK, or international express.

Post room assistants have to keep up to date with post office dispatch systems, as well as current domestic and international postage rates. They must be aware of security systems and their employer's procedure to follow if they find a suspicious looking package.

Assistants may have to deliver items personally to other businesses and organisations. These could include very urgent letters or financial documents, or valuable items such as jewellery or money. They may have to get a signature when delivering these to prove that they have been received.

Other tasks vary from job to job but may include:

  • Administrative tasks, such as photocopying, filing and maintaining records - for instance, of special deliveries or the circulation of specific items.
  • Basic maintenance work, such as changing light bulbs or moving equipment.
  • Arranging rooms for meetings.

Post room assistants use franking machines, as well as other equipment such as photocopiers. In some organisations, they may need to use an x-ray machine for incoming packages.

Post room assistants usually work around 35 to 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday. They often start at around 8.00am to deal with the delivery of mail and to begin sorting. Part-time work is possible.

Most of the work is indoors. Assistants are based in the mail room or facilities department but move around the whole building when delivering or collecting. Those working for organisations with more than one office may regularly have to collect and deliver items between offices.

The work involves a lot of standing and walking. Trolleys or carts are used for collection and delivery. Assistants may also have to lift or carry larger items and equipment.

Some assistants occasionally travel longer distances, within the UK or overseas, to deliver urgent or valuable items. Some employers require a driving licence.

Assistants may have to wear a uniform provided by their employer.

The starting salary for post room assistants may be between £9,000 and £12,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Post room assistants are employed by large and medium-size businesses and organisations throughout the UK. Employers include:

  • Local councils.
  • Government departments.
  • NHS Trusts.
  • Electricity, gas and water companies.
  • Financial institutions, such as banks and insurance companies.
  • Law firms.

Most assistants work in cities and large towns. The increasing use of email and other automated services has led to a decrease in the number of job opportunities for post room assistants. Each vacancy may attract a large number of applicants.

Vacancies may be advertised in local and, sometimes, national newspapers, and in local Jobcentre Plus offices and Connexions centres. They may also be advertised on the websites of employment agencies and of organisations with vacancies. See www.lgjobs.com for opportunities in local government. Some councils display their own jobs bulletins in libraries and local community centres.

Education and Training

There are no set academic requirements for entry to this work, but post room assistants need good basic literacy and numeracy skills. Some employers prefer applicants to have some GCSE's (A*-C).

Courses and qualifications that can provide useful skills include:

  • Key Skills: Application of Number, Communication, Working with Others Levels 1 to 4.
  • City & Guilds: Business Studies (8954), Office Procedures (8965) Levels 1 to 2.

The Diploma in business, administration and finance (available from September 2009) may be relevant for this area of work.

Personal qualities are important. Employers look for people who will fit into their organisation and work well with others. Many employers prefer people who have had previous experience, such as in administrative, stockroom or warehouse work.

It can be possible to enter this work through an Apprenticeship in business and administration. Individual employers have their own entry requirements for Apprenticeships. Some may ask for a number of GCSE's (A*-C).

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.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Post room assistants are usually trained by a supervisor, manager or other experienced member of staff. Training is likely to include health and safety, security and screening of packages, manual handling and customer service.

Assistants may be encouraged to work towards NVQ Levels 1 to 3 in subjects such as administration, business and administration, or customer service. NVQ's are based on the ability to do the particular job and do not involve any formal examinations. They are assessed by on-the-job observation and training by an assessor. Candidates put together a portfolio of evidence to show that they are competent in the required areas during normal work activities.

Apprentices are trained in the workplace by experienced staff and work towards NVQ Level 2 in business and administration and a technical certificate. Apprenticeship training lasts at least six months.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A post room assistant should:

  • Be reliable, conscientious, accurate and honest.
  • Have good communication skills.
  • Be able to read addresses and decipher poor handwriting and spelling quickly.
  • Be physically fit for the job.
  • Be able to remember names, faces and locations.
  • Have a methodical approach.
  • Be capable of working to deadlines.
  • Be well organised.
  • Be able to work without supervision at times, but also work well as part of a team.
  • Be fully aware of relevant security, health and safety issues.

Your Long Term Prospects

Promotion may be possible to team leader or supervisor in charge of a mailroom. This is more likely in larger organisations.

Post room assistants with an interest in developing their skills and qualifications may be able to move into other areas of work. They could, for example, become administrative assistants, receptionists, drivers or couriers.

Get Further Information

Council for Administration (CfA),
6 Graphite Square, Vauxhall Walk,
London SE11 5EE
Tel: 020 7091 9620
Website: www.cfa.uk.com

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