- Construction plant mechanic install, repair and maintain all types of construction plant, including cranes, JCBs and bulldozers
- As a mechanic, you could work for a construction company or you could work for a plant hire firm, or you could work freelance
- Though you may mainly work a standard working week, you could be required to be away from home for long periods of time, depending on the project
- There are no formal qualifications needed, though many mechanics hold relevant certificates such as those from BTECs and City & Guilds courses
- You will, however, need a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) Card before you will be allowed to work on a building site
- Pay for entry-level plant mechanics starts at just £12,000 a year, though senior mechanics can earn more than £40,000 a year
- However, the work can be physically demanding and has the potential to be dangerous
What Do Construction Plant Mechanics Do?
Construction plant engineers work on building sites and at construction company headquarters servicing and repairing a wide range of plant machinery, including JCBs, bulldozers, cranes and cement mixers.
The work is highly varied and requires a good working knowledge of plant machinery as well as general mechanical skills. The work can also be highly varied, demanding and satisfying. Some of your day-to-day activities may include:
- Carrying out routine inspections of plant machinery, both on and off-site, certifying what is safe to use and seeing what needs to be worked on
- Carrying out repairs of all sizes and, if necessary, replacing faulty parts
- Working with external mechanical specialists to get machinery fixed if it cant be done on-site
- Liaising with construction site staff of all levels and advising them on the proper and safe usage of plant machinery
As a rule, you will work a standard 40-hour-week as a construction plant mechanic. However, if a project has a strict deadline, you may be required to work evenings or weekends to ensure the work is done on time.
Skills and Qualifications
There is no one single route to becoming a construction plant mechanic. However, there are two main options open to you.
For starters, you could consider taking a vocational college course and then looking for work in the construction industry. Relevant courses on offer at colleges across the UK include:
- BTEC National Certificate in Vehicle Technology
- City & Guilds Vehicle Maintenance and Repair
In both cases, you may be required to have at least four good GCSEs, including a good grade in science or maths, plus you should also be able to show a keen desire to work with machines. Once you have your qualification, you will be able to apply directly to employers in the hope they will take you on in a junior capacity.
Alongside studying for a vocational qualification, you can also get into this line of work through the governments official Apprenticeship scheme. Again, you will usually be required to have a handful of good GCSEs, while an employer may also test your technical know-how before deciding to take you on. To look for opportunities in your area, visit the official Apprenticeships website. (http://www.apprenticeships.org.uk/)
As well as official qualifications, you will also need to demonstrate a range of skills and aptitudes if you want to find work as a construction plant engineer. For instance, you may be required to demonstrate:
- A high level of mechanical skills and a good working knowledge of a wide range of machinery
- An ability to work methodically to solve problems
- The ability to work well under your own initiative as well as to work well as part of a small team
- A high level of fitness and the ability to work at heights
Training and Career Development
Once you start work on a construction site, there are a number of ways you can boost your skills set and push your career forward.
The best way to improve your career prospects is through taking a short course organised by the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS). Not only will getting a CSCS Card allow you to work on building sites right across the UK and in many other parts of the world, it will also show prospective employers that you have a good working knowledge of plant mechanics and, just as importantly, of site safety.
Similarly, the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) organises a range of specialist training courses, most of which are designed to allow you to learn new skills alongside working in a full-time job.
Pay and Benefits
Pay for entry-level construction plant mechanics is low. In fact, newcomers to this line of work can expect to earn just £12,000 a year while they learn their trade. With experience, however, pay rates can be considerably higher, with some mechanics earning around £30,000 a year. Make it to plant workshop manager-level and you can expect an annual salary of £40,000 or even more when overtime and shift allowances are accounted for.
Other benefits of life as a construction plant mechanic include being able to tinker with a wide range of specialist, often highly-advanced machinery, working as part of a small team and being able to take pride in a job well done.
Apart from the low rates of pay when youre starting out, the main downside of working as a construction plant engineer is the fact the work can be physically demanding plus, given the nature of some projects, you may be required to travel a lot and even spend several days, if not weeks, away from home. The job can also involve working at height and, while health and safety rules are strictly-enforced on UK building sites, the work is never without its risks.
Construction plant engineers are employed right across the construction sector. So, you could, for example, work for a building contractor, a plant hire firm, a machine manufacturer or, with sufficient experience, you could go it alone as a freelancer.
A good place to start looking for work is using our job search that can be found at the top of the page. If you want to speak to your local JobcentrePlus to see if they have any jobs or advice then find contact details in our job centre section.
Alternatively, if you cant find anything by using our job search, then a specialist recruitment website such as Careers in Construction (http://www.careersinconstruction.com) regularly advertise for plant mechanics, while you may also want to get in touch with employers directly.
Learn more about careers and prospects in the construction sector with the help of the ECITB: http://www.ecitb.org.uk/