Chemical engineering job

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Sophie James is an engineering facilities technician working for Pfizer, which is a research-based global pharmaceutical company. Sophie gained an HNC as part of her Apprenticeship and is now studying towards a Degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

What is involved in your Chemical engineering job?

I work in the electrical and instrumentation departments maintaining site facilities across a diverse manufacturing plant. We also provide breakdown cover where necessary.

Do you have a typical day?

In engineering there is no typical day. One day, I could be taking a motor apart to find a fault in the effluent plant, which is a fairly dirty but straightforward job; the next day, I could be fitting a new instrument in the general ethical area, a hospital-like area where full-body cover must be worn to eliminate contamination. Or, I could be carrying out maintenance in the chemical area, a zoned area where all the equipment I use must be explosion proof. It all depends on what has to be done and where.

What type of equipment do you use?

I mainly use test equipment and special calibration or measurement instruments for testing pressure, temperature, humidity and flow. I also use hand tools, general craft equipment and computer equipment.

What training have you received?

I left school after the first year of my A levels and took up an Apprenticeship. The company then put me through all my training and qualifications.

When I was first employed by the company, I spent a year at college learning basic engineering techniques and how to work safely. On completion of my NVQ Level 2, I went to work on site whilst attending college one day a week to study for my HNC. I then went on to achieve my NVQ Level 3 whilst at work, and this completed my Apprenticeship.

Why did you choose this career in Chemical engineering?

I always enjoyed the sciences and mathematics, and I often found myself wondering how things worked. So it made sense for me to enter the field of engineering! Also, it's good to know that engineers will always be needed and the demand for work should never fall short.

What do you like best about your Chemical engineering job?

I really enjoy the challenges that come from being a female in this sort of job. The people are also great. It is a very male-dominated environment, but they do go out of their way to help me and they treat me as an equal.

What skills do you need for a career in Chemical engineering?

You must be level headed and focused on meeting targets and goals. Engineering is a practical subject, so you have to be someone who thinks logically and can rise to a challenge. This doesn't make the job any more difficult, just more exciting!

Sophie's route to her Chemical engineering job

  • GCSEs.
  • AS level maths.
  • NVQ Level 2 in Engineering Manufacture.
  • NVQ Level 3 in Engineering Maintenance.
  • HNC in Engineering.

Sophie's Chemical engineering tips

  • An Apprenticeship is an excellent route into the industry – you gain invaluable experience and training at all levels.
  • As long as you work hard, there will be lots of opportunities to develop your career.

Chemical engineering related jobs

Salary as a Chemical engineer

  • New technicians typically start on a salary of around £12,000 a year.
  • Experienced chemical engineering technicians may earn around £18,000.
  • Fully qualified technicians can earn up to £30,000 a year.

Chemical engineering job

  • A common entry route is to train with an employer as a technician apprentice.
  • Most apprentices start at the age of 16 to 18 years, but it is possible to start an Apprenticeship up to the age of 25.
  • Applicants generally need four GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3), including maths and science or technology, or the equivalent.
  • Technicians learn from observing experienced colleagues, gradually taking on responsibility for areas of work under a reducing level of supervision.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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