Engineering and manufacturing

Getting in

If you like solving problems, working in a team, perhaps enjoy drawing and design or you just like making things work, employers in the engineering industries in the South West are looking for people like you!

Companies need people with a range of different skills, from practical problem solvers, to creative designers and mathematicians and have an eye for detail to design and programme systems and test reliability of products.

The introduction of robots into the manufacturing process has changed the types of jobs that are available with engineers requiring higher level skills.

Also manufacturing has changed with the advent of cheap 3D printers. This means that a company can send through plans to anywhere in the world and the product can be printed and assembled anywhere. This means that you could come up with a good idea, design and manufacture it in your bedroom, which is how this company Open Bionics,who manufacture affordable bionic hands started.

Routes into this job sector

There are various types of qualifications available: 

  • At 14 GCSEs in English and maths will help get you into this sector. Also, although not compulsory, if you know you are interested in this sector you could choose to do a vocational GCSE (if offered by your school). Your school might also offer vocational qualifications such as BTECs, OCR Nationals, etc.
  • At 16 you have more options, you could do A Levels,  which are general academic subjects or develop your knowledge and skills for this sector through an apprenticeshipstraineeshipsvocational qualification.
  • At 18 or 19 your options open further - you may wish to do higher education/university, with 8 out of 10 A Level students choosing this pathway and half of all BTEC National students. However there are other routes into your chosen career through apprenticeships and vocational qualifications 

Skills shortages identified in the advanced engineering sector include:

  • Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) machine operations
  • Computer aided design (CAD)
  • Computer aided engineering or manufacturing (CAM)

As an Engineering (CNC) Operative you could enter the industry as an apprentice if you have a minimum of 4 GCSE’s, with English and Maths and possibly Design and Technology, science or engineering or equivalent.  Alternatively you may decide to take a BTEC or City and Guilds qualification at college

For jobs in advanced engineering you will usually need a BTEC, HNC/HND or degree in a subject relevant to the job role such as:

  • mechanical engineering
  • manufacturing or product engineering
  • maths
  • physics and applied physics
  • electrical or electronic engineering
  • software engineering
  • aeronautical or aerospace engineering

To find out more about the qualifications needed in this sector visit the Sector Skills Councils websites as follows:

  • For Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies SEMTA
  • For Building Engineering Services BESA

Read this article Guide to UK Engineering – Hints, Tips and Job Opportunities

Find out what A Levels you need to study engineering

Spotlight on... Engineering degrees

A degree in engineering or manufacturing will give you a head start when it comes to starting a well paid and interesting career. In demand with employers, you may find that you can earn money whilst you are studying through sponsorship by large employers, and they may even guarantee you a job when you graduate.  

Mathematics is an integral part of the study of engineering regardless of which branch you might choose. Its important that you achieve a good grade in GCSE maths, physics and also in mathematical subjects at either A level or in other level 3 subjects such as BTEC Engineering. If you have A level Further Maths that will be a huge advantage to your degree.

Choosing an engineering degree course

It's important to give some serious thought to what area of engineering you want to work in. Try and work out which parts of physics, chemistry or maths you enjoy as these modules will tie in with specific engineering degrees. For instance if you like learning about circuits then you might like Electrical Engineering. 

Some courses have close links with companies and they may offer you sponsorship opportunities or will pay for you to work in the summer or for a placement year. You might even have the chance to work abroad as part of your degree. Most companies would rather a graduate with relevant work experience.

You will also need to decide if you are going to start on a 3 year Bachelors in Engineering [BEng] degree or a four year Masters in Engineering [MEng] degree. The MEng will normally have higher entrance requirements and be 4 years rather than 3 years. Be aware that some large employers prefer to recruit from an MEng. Also check whether your course is accredited by the relevant professional institution eg ICE - the Institute of Civil Engineers. This will mean as well as working towards your degree you will also be working towards Chartered Professional Engineer status.

Make sure you visit the universities and check out their facilities as some have had some fantastic investment and have close links with industry and research opportunities after your degree.


Studying engineering

You are likely to be taught in a variety of ways, including some practical methods. Depending on the course, you will have lectures, seminars, tutorials, laboratory work, case studies and mini-projects with a mixture of group and individual activities.

Part-time students

Some engineering courses are available to study on a part-time day release basis meaning you work and study. A key benefit of studying part-time means you can put your learning directly into practice, and where possible you can use work-related problems in projects. 

Watch the video below to find out about studying Engineering at UWE Bristol, including the excellent teaching, links to industry and fantastic facilities that enable students to learn and apply their skills in state-of-the-art labs.

Engineering at UWE

Sector Factsheets

View/download a fact sheet about Engineering

View/download a fact sheet about Automotive

View/download a fact sheet about Manufacturing and Processing

Websites with vacancies in this sector

Why not try a free, online course (MOOC) in this job area?

Future Learn have lots of free, online courses that will improve your knowledge of this job sector and improve your chances of landing your dream job. e.g. The University of Bristol has developed a 6 week course about Cracking Mechanics: Further Maths for Engineers. 

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