How to become a mechanical engineer: Jack's story

Meet Jack, 23, from County Durham. Find out about his job as a mechanical engineer at Taylormade Timber Mill. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

Jack at work.
"I was always very good at Maths at school which has helped me a lot in this job."

How would you describe your job?

I'm responsible for maintaining the machines at our timber (wood) mill. If something breaks, it's my job to fix it. It's also my job to prevent things from breaking. We do little jobs every day to help things work as they should, for example greasing chains.

I work shifts in my job – sometimes I do a night shift which is midnight to 6 o'clock in the morning. This is to make sure the machinery is working properly ahead of the team starting their day shifts.

What skills do you use in your job?

We're trained to think in a certain way in this job. I know how to find faults and how to fix things so you need to have a really good understanding of machinery and how it works. We work with everything from motors to saws, gear boxes, bearings and belt drives.

Health and safety is so important in this job. You need to keep everyone safe because we are working with some potentially dangerous equipment.

Teamwork and time management skills are needed as well. You have to work in a team and make sure things are done as quickly and safely as possible.

Jack fixes a machine at work.
Jack started his job on an apprenticeship.

Can you explain how you got into this job?

When I finished school, I started doing odd jobs at this mill because my granddad worked here. After six weeks, I started a plumbing course which I did two days a week. The rest of the time, I was working here doing things like painting and tidying up.

I liked it here much more than plumbing and they offered me an apprenticeship so I could work here full time. I studied Maths and Science at GCSE as well as Product Design and Business. All of these subjects have helped me, but Maths and Science are essential for this job.

Top tips

  • Apprenticeships are great options. You are always learning and you're getting paid at the same time
  • Spending time at the mill before my apprenticeship helped me get a feel for the work environment and if I'd be a good fit for the team.

What to expect if you want to be a mechanical engineer

Mechanical engineers develop and design the components and machinery used in manufacturing, construction and other industries.

  • Mechanical engineer salary: £22,000 to £55,000 per year
  • Mechanical engineer working hours: 35 to 40 per week
  • Typical entry requirements: An engineering operations technician advanced apprenticeship, or a degree apprenticeship in manufacturing mechanical engineering with an engineering company are two routes to becoming a mechanical engineer. You’ll usually need five GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), usually including English and Maths, for an advanced apprenticeship. You can also study a higher national diploma or degree in a subject like Mechanical Engineering or Engineering Manufacturing. Some courses include a year working in industry. This experience could be useful when you start applying for jobs after finishing your course.

This information is a guide (source: National Careers Service)

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

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