Engineering and electrical

We live in a world constantly in motion: electricity fizzing around at the speed of light along power lines, through cables into billions of light bulbs and motors, industrial machines and household appliances. Voices babbling down telephone lines and over the radio waves. Gas pumping through pipes into ovens and heaters. Water gushing from taps and cisterns, down drains and into sewers. Computers spinning webs of data while moving pictures bounce off satellites onto TV screens.

It’s a wonder it doesn’t descend into absolute chaos. That it doesn’t is thanks to a legion of skilled people making sure their part of the system functions as it should—from the plumber mending a broken pipe to the team of electricians wiring up an office block to an engineer servicing a broken escalator.

The engineering and electrical sector is all about making things work. It’s a huge field, so you’ll specialise in a particular area, but there are many different options available. For example, few apprenticeships offer as many diverse pathways as the Engineering Manufacturing Apprenticeship—you could be demolishing buildings, servicing escalators, checking RAF aircraft or activating phone lines—and that’s just the start of a long list of opportunities.

One thing is certain: you’ll need to be good with machines, whether your specialism is fixing faulty DVD players in a local electronics shop, or maintaining the machinery in a factory. You’ll often need to be good with people, too—you might be going into somebody’s home to fix their fridge or to stem the flood in their bathroom.

Manual and technical skills are important in this sector, and maths, IT and science are often relevant. You need to be good at following instructions and working as part of a team, but engineers in particular often need to use their own initiative to solve problems.

Prospects are good in this sector. And while there are many large firms on the lookout for skilled employees, a lot of electricians and plumbers are self-employed and run their own companies. If you think you can combine your manual and mechanical skills with a head for business, there’s a healthy living to be made.

At a glance

  • The UK is a world leader in engineering construction, second only to the USA
  • There are more than 138,000 employees working in the science, engineering, manufacturing and technology industries in the UK
  • The building services engineering sector carries out £20 billion of work each year and at any one time is training 18,000 apprentices


  • Be practical and handy with machines
  • Have a good understanding of technology
  • Understand engineering principles
  • Have good electrical knowledge
  • Excel at physics and maths
  • Be methodical and able to follow instructions
  • Be able to work on your own or in a team
  • Have good communication skills
  • Have excellent problem-solving abilities
  • Be computer literate
  • Understand health and safety risks and take suitable precautions

Useful contacts

ECITB—National training organisation for the engineering construction industry

SemtaScience, Engineering, Manufacturing and Technologies Alliance


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