Marine engineer

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Steven Hall is an engineering apprentice at a company that fabricates and repairs yachts and small ships at a boatyard in Southampton. UK shipbuilding is now a growing industry, with new orders reversing many years of decline.

What sort of vessels do you work on?

I work on any vessel that comes into the yard for building, maintenance or repair. The vessels we work on are 22 feet in length or more, and can range from large ocean-going yachts for pleasure cruising, to racing yachts or small power boats.

What type of work does a Marine engineer do?

I work on the engines, transmission systems and propellers. The engines may be diesel or petrol and can be of many different types. They may have minor problems, or require a complete overhaul or replacement. The propeller shafts and the propellers themselves may be worn or damaged and in need of servicing. At this stage in my Apprenticeship, I am learning machining, milling and fitting.

What equipment do you use?

In a typical day, I use spanners, sockets and screwdrivers for dismantling and re-assembling machinery. We then use lathes, milling machines and grinders for repairs – building up or grinding down the engines, propellers or shafts. During maintenance on a larger scale, chain blocks are used.

How did you enter this type of work as a Marine engineer?

I have always lived near the sea and been interested in the marine industry, so it seemed a natural choice. I also have some experience in seamanship. After my GCSEs, I went to college for a year on a marine engineering course and obtained an NVQ Level 2 in Marine Engineering.

What hours do you work?

I work from 8am to 4.30pm, from Monday to Friday. When we have an urgent job, overtime may include evening or weekend work, but this doesn't happen on a regular basis.

What do you enjoy about being a Marine engineer?

I enjoy the responsibility and the variety in my work. Although I am still in the early stages of my Apprenticeship, I feel that I'm contributing towards an efficient operation.

What are the main challenges?

There is nothing serious. Occasionally having to work outside in bad weather or in cramped conditions inside a small engine room may be difficult, but I wouldn't call it a major disadvantage.

What skills and qualities do you need to become a Marine engineer?

An interest in engineering is essential as is the ability to solve problems and correct them quickly. It's also important to be able to get on well with people and to work effectively as part of a team.

What are your plans for the future?

I hope to learn the trade well, become a skilled craftsperson and eventually have my own business.

Steven's route to becoming a Marine engineer

  • GCSEs.
  • NVQ Level 2 in Marine Engineering.
  • Apprenticeship.

Steven's Marine engineer tips

  • Try to gain an Apprenticeship with a good company.
  • Be prepared to work hard and apply yourself.
  • Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions – it's a good way to learn.

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Salary of a Marine engineer

  • Trainees or apprentices under the age of 18 years start on around £5,000 a year.
  • This may rise to around £10,000 after gaining NVQ/SVQ Level 3.
  • The basic rate for a qualified craftsperson is around £18,000 a year.
  • With overtime and bonuses, they may earn up to £25,000 a year.

Becoming a Marine engineer

  • In shipbuilding, many entrants are 16 or 17 years of age. Minimum entry requirements are normally GCSEs/S grades (A-G/1-7) in English, maths and a science or technology subjects, or the equivalent.
  • Some employers require higher grades, and may set an aptitude test. In small ship repair or boat building companies, entry requirements vary depending on the employer. Entrants usually join a firm of shipbuilders, ship repairers or boat builders and train on the job, often through Apprenticeships.
  • An alternative route is to enter after taking a full-time college course.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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