Introduction to the engineering sector
Published: 27 Oct 2016 By Natacha Cullinan
Introduction to the engineering sector
With the numbers of jobs in the sector set to grow substantially year-on-year, the engineering sector shows no signs of stopping in its tracks when it comes to recruitment. Boiled down to its very essence, engineering combines mathematics and scientific principles to provide effective solutions to people, businesses, and society at large.
Engineers create new products, facilitate product development, test and screen these to drive change, and better serve people and businesses. They are problem-solvers, looking at ways in which issues may be improved, with a solutions-based approach. This can be physical, taking shape in a new bottle or bridge; this can be energy-centric, with the creation of renewable energy commodities; this can be virtual, with new hardware created to advance current systems.
Delivering over £280bn in added value to the UK every year, and with such a wide net of jobs available, you could just about work anywhere and in anything, in this sector. Studies have shown that there are more employers to graduates, meaning that job prospects are extremely favourable.
What areas could I work in?
With so much technological advancement, and a recent focus on renewable goods and energy, as well as a larger ageing population in latter-day decades, recruitment has been particularly active in these areas.
However, that’s not to say you should disregard rather more traditional roles in civil and mechanical engineering, as automobiles, infrastructure, and urban planning are still just as important as they were 50 years ago.
By and large, the sector is spread across mechanical, chemical, civil, electrical and manufacturing engineering, with many subdivisions within each field.
Whether it’s the car you want to buy, the remote control you’ve commandeered, the train you’re about to board, all of this falls under mechanical engineering. Mechanical engineers imagine, create, develop, and build new products – big and small – to aid safety, productivity, and in some cases, mass-production of everyday items available to you.
How does plastic get made? What goes into making sustainable substances for renewable energy? Chemical engineering is concerned with turning raw materials into something all the more special – economic, energy-saving, and in some cases, ethical solutions to the world’s problems.
You might have a favourite bridge, or a favourite green space, or even a favourite building – you’ll have to thank civil engineering for that. Working with architects and touching on all sorts of different engineering fields (such as mechanical and chemical in some cases), civil engineers are responsible for creating, developing, and building projects in the natural and urban environment.
Electrical engineering is concerned with designing, developing, and preserving electrical systems to upgrade how we use electricity. Work in this field could have you involved in transport networks, manufacturing, and construction, as well as heating, electricity sourcing, and cabling. You’ll build, test, and improve on current and future operations, sometimes taking on maintenance work to ensure a good service.
Ever thought about what makes a product, well, a product? That can of pop you drink, or the phone you’re currently using, or even the fancy perfume bottle you spritz yourself with, are all part of manufacturing engineering. It’s not just the design aspect that’s important in this particular fragment of the engineering industry; product shapes need to be tested, for wear and tear, usability, and efficiency. You’ll also have your economic and eco-friendly hat on, as you try to look at cost-effective and sustainable products to bring to market.
Which jobs exist in the engineering sector?
It is a common myth to believe that engineering corporations do not employ marketing, sales and support workers, as – just as any sector – engineering tools and solutions need to be brought to market and sold, to generate revenue.
There are many areas to work in, but the areas experiencing the most growth in the engineering market are currently aeronautical, civil, and chemical engineering. Many companies also offer opportunities at home and abroad, so you could work just about anywhere depending on what you want out of your job – whether it’s building the tallest building in the world, working on an oil rig or developing a brand new rocket engine to explore space.
Depending on which strand of engineering you choose to focus on, you’ll get vary varied work hours, work spaces and salaries. There is a lot of importance placed on continuing professional development, meaning that this is a field you will be trained and assessed on, continually – which means you will be all the more employable.
There has also been a very conscious effort by many in the industry to support female engineers, with associations, dedicated organisations, and mentorship programmes to ensure a more balanced workforce.
Who recruits in the engineering sector?
Depending on which field you choose to specialise in, you’ll come across the big wigs, such as Shell, BP, Rolls Royce, Volkswagen and Airbus, Nestlé, Apple, as well as smaller outfits – such as IT firms and consultancy services.
Work can be based in one place, but take you to all four corners of the world – with easily-transferable skills abroad, you could take on large projects with international teams.
There is an absolute plethora of internships, apprenticeships, and graduate jobs for engineers across the board, but in the UK, the largest employers still remain small to medium-sized enterprises, so keep your eyes (and your digits) focused on job openings across the British Isles.
What are the pros and cons of working for engineering corporates?
- Defined career progression
- Working on large projects with big teams, learning from others
- Mentorship and buddying up with experienced engineers
- More competition to get on schemes
- Less chance to move around departments
- You might feel like a small cog in a very big wheel (excuse the pun)
What are the pros and cons of working for smaller engineering companies?
- You can work your way up very quickly
- You can be part of an exciting start-up
- You have more flexibility in your job role
- You need to seek training, sometimes elsewhere, as it is not necessarily incorporated into your workplace
- You might not earn as much as you could in a corporate
- Your chances of working abroad can be limited