Mechanical engineers are involved in design, production and installation within a range of high-value industries, including aerospace, automotive, oil and gas refining, chemicals and manufacturing.
Apprenticeships and graduate traineeships are the two main starting points for staff who wish to become mechanical engineers. As the sector is so broad there is a wide variety of entry-level positions available.
Typically, workers who begin their employment as an apprentice go on to gain jobs as fitters, CNC millers and turners, draughtsmen or mechanical technicians. Starting salaries for such roles are usually in the region of £15,000 to £20,000, while experienced staff can expect to be paid between £22,000 and £35,000 a year.
People with degrees in mechanical, computer-aided, manufacturing or aeronautical engineering are well placed to secure graduate traineeships that lead to positions such as design, commissioning, packaging or piping engineer and project manager. Starting salaries for graduates are generally around £22,000, while staff with five years' experience can earn between £35,000 and £50,000 per annum.
The major employers in the sector include engineering contractors, manufacturers, aeroplane builders and carmakers, along with petroleum, gas, chemical and pharmaceutical companies. Typically, they use a mixture of permanent staff and highly-skilled contractors recruited to work on specific design or installation projects.
As competition for experienced workers is strong, most employers use engineering recruitment agencies to secure the services of the best staff. This is particularly true in the aerospace industry, where the government has declared that mechanical engineer is an official shortage occupation.