Career as a production engineer

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John Perry has a Degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering and is currently on an engineering graduate scheme. He is a production engineer based in Sunderland at a manufacturing site, which produces 1,200 cars every day.

What does your job involve?

I am the engineer responsible for one of the bodyshop zones, where the Primera and Almera models are assembled. I deal with tasks that the zone supervisors raise, such as modifications to assembly equipment like assembly jigs that are used to set the body parts of the car during manual welding.

I look after safety concerns and make improvements to the production cycle. I also focus on long-term projects such as on-going quality conditions and facility layout improvements.

What equipment do you use?

I use measurement tools like rulers, taper gauges and vernier scales, as well as computer-aided design (CAD) software packages.

What was your route into car manufacturing?

After university, I worked in the engineering department of a printed circuit board firm. The job was more computer based and my day was spent analysing and manipulating the CAD data necessary for manufacturing the circuit boards. Then I heard about, and applied for, the graduate scheme.

What hours do you work?

I work Monday to Thursday from 7.55am to 4.40pm, and on Friday from 7.55am to 2.25pm.

What do you like best about your job?

The job is challenging and provides plenty of variation. It's also a lot more hands-on than my last job, as my time is split between the shop floor and the office.

What training have you had?

I have completed courses on finance for engineers, problem solving analysis and training in process refinement. I have also been on a three-day outward bound teamwork course in the Lake District.

Do you have the chance to drive the cars?

Not on a daily basis, but recently all the engineers here were given the chance to test drive a new sports coupe.

Are there any disadvantages?

As this is such a large company with so many employees working a variety of different shifts, it's initially hard to get to know people in the different departments. Obviously this becomes easier the longer you are here.

What are the skills and qualities needed?

You need to be organised and able to prioritise, as you may be working on several projects at the same time. Projects also require careful planning and co-ordination.

What are your long-term career goals?

The first goal is to complete the two-and-a-half yearly introductory period that all graduate engineers have to finish before becoming a fully qualified engineer. I've only been here for six months so I'm still learning about future possibilities, such as working in new model development.

John's route

  • A levels.
  • Degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.
  • One-year degree placement working as an electrical engineer.
  • Product engineer.
  • Joined graduate scheme.

John's tips

  • Research the company/sector you are applying to.
  • Be patient, as the skills required to do the work are gained with time and experience.

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Salary of a production engineer

  • A graduate will start at around £22,000.
  • With experience, an electronics engineer can earn between £40,000 and £50,000.

Getting in

  • Many companies prefer to recruit people with electronics or electrical engineering degrees. Other relevant subjects include automotive or mechanical engineering. A higher degree is required to achieve chartered engineering status.
  • It is possible to start in a craft or technical post, perhaps on an Apprenticeship scheme or with a qualification such as an HND in an engineering subject.
  • Useful subjects to study at school include electronics, engineering, science and maths.
  • There are many opportunities to work abroad so a second language can be very useful.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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