Your Skills: Engineering Success

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The engineering skills and experience you’ve gained from the Armed Forces puts you in a good place when it comes to a civilian career. 

From Civvy Street #45 (March 2014)

The everyday activities of the UK’s Armed Forces involve a lot of increasingly complex kit – everything from SA80 individual weapons and Challenger 2 tanks to Chinook helicopters and a communication satellite network called Skynet. (Seriously, did the person who came up with that name never see any of the Terminator films? What were they thinking?!)

Thanks to the obvious Military necessity of keeping maintenance and repair in-house (no good hanging around for the AA to turn up to repair your motor en route to operations), each of the Services trains up the people it needs to keep the show (both in terms of the hardware and, increasingly, software) on the road. These tend to be all lumped under the simple term, “engineering”, but given that there are currently some 36 professional engineering institutions operating in the UK under licence from the Engineering Council, there are obviously plenty of specialisms to focus on.

So, if you’re among the many hundreds of Service-leavers who has an engineering qualification (or three) in your back pocket, then your resettlement needn’t be that scary; the civilian world to which, sooner or later, you’ll be returning, is just as complex, full of technical wonders and so dependent on the skills of engineers as the one you’re leaving. And, depending on which employer you choose, you’re just as likely to find the kind of camaraderie you’ve enjoyed in the Services.

BRAVE NEW WORLD

In general, career prospects for engineers of all kinds are good, not least thanks to the wide range of sectors in which you can potentially find work: manufacturing, telecommunications, construction, transport (including aerospace), healthcare, and agriculture, to name just six! In addition, both home and overseas, recruitment is expected to rise in numerous sectors during the next few years, thanks to both healthier economies around the world and the growing skills gap as a generation of baby-boomers take the next ‘resettlement’ step – into retirement.

Of course, during the last few years, employers as diverse as BT, National Grid and British Airways have deliberately targeted Service-leavers with engineering backgrounds, knowing that they tend to be enthusiastic, hard grafters. Former Royal Navy Marine Engineer Officer, Lloyd Griffiths is now a lead project manager, construction, with National Grid, the UK’s largest utility business. “I brought a number of skills with me: an engineering ability to pick up various different kinds of technologies and apply them without having to understand the first principles, and also motivating people and driving them forward to achieve a common goal,” he says.

“My preconception of National Grid before joining was that it might be quite a staid organisation, coming from the ex-state owned CEGB, but to be honest it’s anything but the case,” he adds. “It’s a very commercial organisation, very dynamic, always looking at new ways to deliver things to satisfy our customers, and it’s also very receptive to trying new things and innovating. The thing I’m most proud of is the ability to bring on new people within my team. We’ve got a number of people who are new to engineering and new to construction; they come into our team, we throw them in at the deep end but we give them the support, the guidance and the help they need to succeed in what they’re doing. That’s really rewarding for me.”

LIE OF THE LAND

Most home opportunities for engineers are in the UK’s major towns and cities, although multi-national companies can offer opportunities for you to work on projects overseas. Regional variations apply, of course; for example, the UK’s chemical manufacturing is centred in northwest England while the oil industry works out of Aberdeen. High-tech engineering companies, meantime, seem to be grouped around Oxford, Cambridge and London.

On the whole, Military experience is of genuine interest to civilian employers. Not only will time served in (for example) the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers or Corps of Royal Engineers give you internationally recognised qualifications (eg, NVQ, BTEC or BSc), you will invariably have the kind of skills and practical experience that will set you apart from your civilian peers.

Before you step back on civvy street, you should ensure you are registered with the Engineering Council, as it will ease your career choices and options considerably; registration is completed through the appropriate licensed institution (see the Engineering Council website for a list). Depending on your qualifications and experience, this will be as an Engineering Technician (EngTech) or Information and Communications Technology Technician (ICTTech), or as an Incorporated Engineer (IEng) or Chartered Engineer (CEng).

MORE GOOD NEWS

According to the most recent survey by the Engineering Council (for 2013),  professionally registered engineers and technicians holding the titles Engineering Technician (EngTech), Incorporated Engineer (IEng) and Chartered Engineer (CEng) continue to enjoy pay increases and low levels of unemployment.

Since the last Engineering Council survey in 2010, registrants have seen an increase in median total earnings of 8.1% for Engineering Technicians (£40,000), 5.1% for Incorporated Engineers (£45,500) and 14.5% for Chartered Engineers (£63,000). Significantly, these higher earnings were coming from rises in basic income, rather than increases in overtime, bonuses and commission payments – in fact, these had noticeably declined since 2010.

The CEO of the Engineering Council, Jon Prichard CEng FICE FInstRE, said: “It is encouraging to see that professionally registered engineers and technicians continue to enjoy a reasonable increase in their income in comparison to other sectors that have stagnated during this period of austerity. With a handful of registrants reporting earnings of more than £1m and around 10% of registrants earning over £100,000 the signs are that the engineering profession is keeping pace with other professions.”

Of equal interest, just 1% of more than 6,000 respondents to the 2013 survey described themselves as “unemployed and seeking re-employment”, a proportion well below the UK national unemployment figure of around 7%.

MORE:

CAREER TRANSITION PARTNERSHIP

www.ctp.org.uk

ENGINEERING COUNCIL UK

020 3206 0500; www.engc.org.uk