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Electrical / Electronic Engineer to Electrician
mattsnow
3 Posts
Question
Hi all,

I have my Electrical & Electronic BEng, EngTech and I'm 25.

From my placement year and from my first job after graduating, I've come to realise that a desk job is not for me. I'll spare you all the details but I was quite unhappy in my last job and became disillusioned with engineering. My other main passion is the outdoors, I really enjoy hiking, camping, climbing etc as well as teaching people outdoors. I now have a couple of jobs within the outdoor industry which I find much more fulfilling, but a part of me still misses the technical challenge that interested me in engineering in the first place. And from meeting other instructors I've come to realise it's quite common for people to split their time between working outdoors and another profession, trades being quite popular (carpenter, landscaper etc), in order to make a decent living.

Which leads me to my current position. What draws me towards being an electrician is the practical nature of the work (getting to use my hands / tools), the variety of working in different locations and eventually the prospect of working for myself and the flexibility this could offer. The obvious downsides like the physical wear and hazardous environments don't bother me for now, but when they inevitably do I hope that the experience gained by then would allow me to transition into something less strenuous. 

Despite my qualifications I think I would still have to start with the Level 2 & 3 Diploma courses and then work as an electricians mate / apprentice for a few years before getting the NVQ Level 3. Unless anyone can advise if there's a way to streamline this?

Has anyone been in a similar position before and can offer any advice as to whether this plan makes any sense?

I'm also applying to more practical job posts like Maintenance Engineer, jobs related to PLCs and especially jobs related to Wind Turbines but I'm not having much luck.

Cheers,
Matt
11 Replies
Roy Bowdler
819 Posts
Matt,

I don't know if you have ever had any inclination towards the military or not ? If so this could be worth enquiring  into, for reserve service they are primarily looking for ready skilled people, but you get reasonably well-paid and could probably get some additional skills training and opportunities to lead adventurous training. https://www.army.mod.uk/who-we-are/corps-regiments-and-units/corps-of-royal-engineers/65-works-group/      
Denis McMahon
328 Posts
Hello, Matt. On leaving school I wanted something practical rather than academic and did not fancy going to university. I took an apprenticeship in the electricity supply industry. There was certainly a lot of practical, hands-on-tools involvement here. I was expected to work alongside electricians and fitters and become acquainted with their trade, though not necessarily acquire their level of skill. The idea was that as I progressed towards a managerial role I  would appreciate their side of the job.

Following apprenticeship, I took on a supervisory role, but decided that I needed higher academic qualifications to further my career well, and I took a degree in my mid twenties.

It sounds as though you, at a similar age, want to gain the mix of academic and practical experience I had, except that you are doing things in a different order. I can certainly see sense in your aims. A problem you may find is that prospective employers will see you as over-qualified and at risk of soon becoming bored with a job, hence not stay for long. You suggest yourself that the physical aspects of work could bother you in due course. Desk jobs have their boring and interesting sides and that is also the case with an electrician's work. You are not going to  want to spend the rest of your life shoving wires inconspicuously into awkward places.

By all means go for an electricians course if this interests you. State your reasons as wishing to understand the practical side. This way  you will probably gain useful contacts towards suitable work; these training organisations can probably  advise you better than the IET can.

But keep your eye on a wide range of opportunities. Roy Bowler's suggestion about the military sounds well worth of consideration. You also mention maintenance engineering. This can be very fulfilling; it is not just about servicing and repairing things; it can involve interesting projects, and you  will spend a lot of time away from the desk.

It could help us if you were to say a little more about your last job and placement. It sounds as though you have been a bit unfortunate in the types of work you have had so far.  I am sure there is better stuff out there.
Matt,
Another possibility (which I would have responded earlier with a mention of had I thought of it) is one of the larger manufacturing companies in the role of Service Engineer (the title does not actually mean servicing the equipment but providing after sales support service to the customer). This often involves going out on site and dealing with issues, or carrying out installation and commissioning.
Whatever your choice, I hope you find a role that suits you.
Alasdair
Denis McMahon
328 Posts
Yes, I agree with Alasdair that service engineer would be well worth  consideration. It would require mix of academic and practical skills, to which you are suited.
Hello Alasdair Anderson,
Do you mean my website?
of course. When calling a service, I go out and check the vehicle at the customer's request.
How are you ?
With a bachelor's degree in engineering, I think you'll try your luck at the link:https://pg-online.leeds.ac.uk/?utm_source=IET&utm_medium=solusemailapril&utm_campaign=engmgmt
mattsnow
3 Posts

I don't know if you have ever had any inclination towards the military or not ?

Thanks for the suggestion Roy, it's interesting to find out about opportunities with the army. I would probably be more disposed towards the RAF so I'm looking into opportunities with them, although they look more likely to be full time rather than reserve. However some of the sports and activities available sound right up my street! I'm going to seriously look into this.

Denis, thanks for sharing some details about the path you've taken. I sometimes think if I could do it again I would have started with an apprenticeship and maybe not be in the somewhat backwards position I'm in now! However my degree is certain to open a range of opportunities for me so is of course a very fortunate position to be in. To address some of your points:

  A problem you may find is that prospective employers will see you as over-qualified and at risk of soon becoming bored with a job, hence not stay for long.

Yes I can see this is likely to be a drawback when applying for certain roles. If I get the chance I think I would really have to paint a very convincing picture of why I want to be there. 

You suggest yourself that the physical aspects of work could bother you in due course.

This is not at all a problem for now but trying to think long term I can imagine in 10-20 years wanting to spend more time at home and having a less physical job might be a higher priority for me.

It could help us if you were to say a little more about your last job and placement

My placement was mainly a technical support role, although I had a short time in sales and had the opportunity to teach some courses as well (which I really enjoyed). My last job was supporting a production environment at an ASIC design company, this involved some more practical work and was a much better fit for me. For a number of reasons to do with the work environment I couldn't see myself there long term though. From both these experiences though I've learnt a lot and I think they've better positioned me in knowing what I really want to pursue.

Your mention of maintenance engineering (and Alasdair with Service Engineering, thanks!) sounds quite promising and is another area I'm going to look closely at. The opportunity to use and develop some practical skills and getting out into the field sounds really appealing.  

 
Roy Bowdler
819 Posts
Happy hunting Matt ! 

This link perhaps makes clearer my initial intent. My reserve experience is 20+ years out of date now. But I was recruited on the basis of my civilian skills, then assessed by the army for trade pay and promotion. I didn't seek the commissioned pathway because it was primarily a "hobby" not my main career  https://apply.army.mod.uk/roles/royal-engineers/electrician-royal-engineers. If you were thinking of a full-time military type career, then an RAF Engineer Officer could be a great choice, but many service roles can also involve desk jobs.   

Perhaps you could come back and tell us how you got on in future. I'm sure everyone who contributed wants to help, and there are so many different options it's almost impossible to give perfect advice.   
mattsnow
3 Posts
Thanks for the clarification and the extra info Roy, yes there are so many options out there it seems a bit overwhelming at times! Plenty of opportunity to do interesting things though, I will try and update later on.
Coming to the conversation late Matt, but your dilemma caught my eye. I reached a similar age as you and realised I needed a change of direction, but where possible I would encourage you to also try to combine your qualification / skills you've built up already. Therefore I would second the service engineer route for you, but I am biased because that was my career path! This would give you plenty of variety and not have you tied to a desk. If you pick the right direction there would be many companies very happy to make good use of your qualifications to date. Then if later on you fancy progressing further, there many opportunities for as you gain expereince. For myself this eventually led me into senior technical management positions which has taken me all over the world. 

A couple of avenues I would suggest to explore: Large scale solar farm O&M. This will have your outside most of the time and they have some great jobs available. Plus anything else in the renewables sector. Yes Wind Turbines are very cool things to work on (excuse the pun), but its hard to get in on because of the safety requirements, so I notice they are always trying to recruit expereinced people.

Anything in the medical or life sciences electronics servicing area is a great area to work in.  If you can get in with one of the manufuacturers of this kit you will be out and about all the time and they are well paid jobs. For the former check out the likes of Siemens, Philips, GE and for the latter companies like Perkin Elmer and Thermo Fisher. They normally ask for a minimum of HNC / degree in electronics, so you will be well suited. 

Of course there are millions of types of kit out there that need servcing, so if the above doesn't appeal, do some research and see what turns up. Good luck

Tim
nicemark
16 Posts
I strongly advise preparing to go down the quals and AM2 route rather than training on the job. Though training on the job  would be preferable, I expect that unless you get lucky you will find a lot of difficulty in getting that kind of job. 
Younger "apprentices" are cheaper, and your higher quals will either been seen as "daunting" or "High risk of leaving" or someone who will be only months away from becoming competition. 

If you get FULLY qualified and then offer to go cheap as a mate, you have a better chance. I too was an electronic test engineer with all the academic electrical quals to be and electrician and an inspector, but could never call myself as such, because I never did the site work and couldn't get any even though I tried for years to get in as a "mate". Mind you I also had age against me as well.  I have also been advised that the AM2 route may be closed off in a few years. 

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