Engineering maintenance technicians maintain, install and, if necessary, repair machinery. They play an important role in many different sectors, as machinery becomes more complicated and expensive, and work schedules become tighter.
Depending on the type of business they could look after:
Keeping equipment in good order is essential to make sure it is safe to use. If a piece of machinery is out of action for any reason, it can cause costly delays. For this reason, many engineering maintenance technicians carry out regular, planned maintenance of equipment, spotting and resolving potential problems at an early stage. This could involve:
If a piece of equipment does break down, it usually needs to be repaired as quickly as possible, so that production can continue. Engineering maintenance technicians providing emergency repair services must be able to respond immediately and diagnose and resolve problems quickly. If they cannot solve the problem on the spot, they may be able to make a temporary repair to keep production going until a full repair can be carried out.
Maintenance technicians usually specialise in one engineering discipline, but they often need a working knowledge of other disciplines, too. Servicing and repairing specific pieces of equipment may demand a working knowledge of mechanical, electrical and electronic engineering.
Some maintenance operations are extremely specialised. Aircraft maintenance technicians, for example, carry out checks according to a very strict schedule determined by the aircraft manufacturers, because lives could be at risk if a fault develops. They need special licences to demonstrate their competence to carry out the work.
Most maintenance technicians work between 37 and 39 hours a week. Exact working hours vary and may involve rota systems or shift work. Routine maintenance may need to be done during periods when the workplace is quiet, for example, in the evenings, at nights or at weekends. Engineering maintenance technicians may need to provide 24-hour cover for emergency repairs.
As engineering encompasses a whole range of industries, working environments vary widely. A maintenance technician may work in a laboratory or on a factory floor, make visits to construction sites, evaluate safety systems from an office or work from home. A driving licence may be useful.
The starting salary for a newly-qualified engineering maintenance technician is around £20,000 a year.
There is a steady demand for experienced engineering maintenance technicians throughout the UK. Some large organisations employ in-house maintenance technicians. Other employers include manufacturers of equipment and independent maintenance and repair providers. They range from multinational organisations to small, private companies. There may be opportunities to work overseas.
The manufacturing, process, transport, energy and construction industries, as well as the armed forces, all provide opportunities for maintenance technicians.
Vacancies are advertised in local newspapers, Connexions centres, Jobcentre plus and recruitment agencies.
The majority of candidates enter this career through Advanced Apprenticeships.
For an Advanced Apprenticeship, applicants usually need at least four or five GCSE's (A*-C) or equivalent qualifications, including English, maths and science or technology. Equivalent qualifications include Applied GCSE's (double award) in engineering or manufacturing.
Some technician apprentices first study full time for Level 3 qualifications, such as A levels, BTEC National Diplomas or Certificates, or City & Guilds awards.
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.
The Diploma in Engineering may be relevant for this area of work.
Relevant experience as, for example, an engineering craftsperson may also be useful.
Training usually combines on-the-job training with day or block release to study at a local college or registered training centre. Advanced apprentices work towards NVQ Level 3. They may be able to study for additional qualifications including a BTEC National Certificate or Diploma, or a C&G certificate.
Some employers offer opportunities for sponsorship for an HNC/HND, foundation degree or degree course.
When they finish training, technicians are encouraged to apply for engineering technician registration with the Engineering Council UK and, if successful, gain the letters EngTech after their name.
To apply for EngTech status, candidates must:
Registration may be more straightforward for candidates who have:
Oil Drilling Roustabouts and Roughnecks work as part of a small team on offshore oil or gas drilling rigs or production platforms. Roustabouts do unskilled manual labouring jobs on rigs and platforms, and Roughneck is a promotion from roustabout.
Roustabouts do basic tasks to help keep the rig and platform working efficiently and Roughnecks do practical tasks involved in the drilling operation, under the supervision of the driller.
Engineering maintenance technicians should:
Skilled, experienced maintenance technicians may be promoted to senior roles with more pay and responsibility.
Engineering maintenance technicians who qualify for professional status (EngTech) may have a wider choice of career development options, including further study towards incorporated and chartered status.
Technology changes quickly in this field, so it is important for engineering maintenance technicians to keep their knowledge and skills up to date.
Engineering Council UK (ECUK),
246 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EX
Tel: 020 3206 0500
Enginuity, Engineering and Technology Careers
Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET),
Michael Faraday House, Stevenage, Herts SG1 2AY
Tel: 01438 313 311
Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance (SEMTA),
14 Upton Road, Watford WD18 0JT
Learning helpline: 0800 282 167
Women into Science, Engineering and Construction (WISE),
2nd Floor, Weston House, 246 High Holborn WC1B 7EX
Tel: 020 3206 0408
Women's Engineering Society, The IET,
Michael Faraday House, Six Hills Way, Stevenage SG1 2AY
Tel: 01438 765506
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.