Career as a Glassmaker

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Steven Smith works at the UK's biggest glass manufacturer. He is part of a production team making flat glass, using a high-tech method called the float glass process.

What does your career as a glassmaker involve?

I monitor the glass as it is loaded onto various sized stillages, depending on the size of the plates. Stillages are metal pallets used to store and move glass. I have to make sure that I've set up the loading machines correctly to avoid breakages.

What do you do if the glass breaks?

The first thing is to switch the machine off before it causes damage. Then I clear up the glass quickly to make sure no-one gets injured. I then have to find out the cause of the breakage and make the relevant changes so it doesn't happen again.

What is the float process?

It was developed in the 1950s. Molten glass is floated on a bath of molten tin which makes it spread out into a flat sheet. It's then passed between two rollers which squeeze it into shape or press patterns onto it. When the glass leaves the tank it has to be cooled down before going into the cutting area.

Is there a lot of equipment to use?

A lot of the cutting machinery is set up using computers, so I have to programme the measurements in. I also drive vehicles around the factory floor, such as different kinds of fork-lift trucks.

Why did you choose this type of work?

I didn't want to go to university, so I applied for an Apprenticeship in glassmaking. I started as a production apprentice, where I worked in every different area of the float glass process. Eventually, a full-time vacancy arose in the loading and dispatch area.

Can you describe the training you've received so far?

As part of my Apprenticeship I have achieved NVQ Level 2 in Glassmaking. I've also trained in routine maintenance and learned how to drive all the different types of vehicles we use. Health and safety training is very important and I receive constant coaching so I know what to do if anything goes wrong.

What hours do you work?

The production line never stops, so I have to work a combination of morning, afternoon and night shifts. I don't mind this, although sometimes the shift pattern doesn't fit in with my social life.

Do you find your work interesting?

Yes, extremely. There is always something new to learn and there are good opportunities to move to different departments and sites.

What are the skills and qualities needed to be a glassmaker?

People in this job need to be good communicators, keen to learn, able to work in a team, reliable and good at timekeeping.

What opportunities for progression are there?

My next step will be to complete my NVQ Level 3 in Glassmaking. I would like to work my way up to supervisor, team leader or even manager.

Steven's route to his career as a glassmaker

  • 6 GCSEs.
  • 2 AS levels.
  • Apprenticeship.
  • NVQ Level 2 in Glassmaking.
  • BTEC National Certificate in Engineering.

Steven's glassmaking tips

  • Always be keen to learn about the job.
  • Be punctual and prepared to come in early or stay late.

Glassmaker related jobs

  • Ceramic/pottery maker
  • Engineering craft/CNC machinist
  • Engraver
  • Glassblower
  • Glazier

Salary of a glassmaker

  • An apprentice glassmaker earns around £9,500 a year.
  • An experienced glassmaker can earn up to £20,000.

How to become a glassmaker

  • The most common route into glass manufacture is through an Apprenticeship scheme. Entry requirements vary according to the employer.
  • For my scheme 5 GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) are required, including maths, English and a science subject. Other useful qualifications include design and technology. IT skills are important.
  • Glassmakers can study for NVQs/SVQs in Glass Manufacturing and in Glass Processing at Levels 2 and 3. Glass manufacturing involves working in factories with raw materials, melted glass or semi-finished products. Glass processing covers glassblowing, finishing, bending, scientific glassblowing and decorating.
  • Glass Training Ltd offer a City & Guilds in Glass Manufacture.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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