Picture the one possession that you just could not live without. Maybe it’s your phone, a laptop, or even the kettle you use to brew your favourite cup of coffee in the morning.
Behind all of your favourite everyday items is a whole team of designers and engineers who’ve worked to make sure that it is the best product it can be. The manufacturing and design sector is often overlooked or taken for granted, but a career as one of these unsung heroes is both rewarding and challenging.
If you like to engage your brain, enjoy problem solving, and want to work in an environment where every day throws up a new challenge, this may well be the perfect career for you. If this sounds right up your alley, read on to discover our top five tips for getting into the manufacturing and design industry.
Choose a relevant degree
One of the most common routes into a career in manufacturing and design is to gain a degree in an engineering subject. Most of these qualifications will equip you with the basic skills that you need to succeed in this sector, but the most helpful degrees are those in chemical engineering, electrical engineering, manufacturing engineering, production engineering, or mechanical engineering. Studies in these fields are particularly relevant to a career in manufacturing and design, so if you definitely want to work in the industry, they will be your best bet.
Though not essential, undertaking a master’s degree in a particular field of engineering is a great way to increase specialisation. There are qualifications at this level that are available through accredited professional bodies — such as the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) or the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) — that will allow you to become a chartered engineer further down the line. A master’s is also a great way of entering the industry if you have an unrelated undergraduate degree.
Become a member of a chartered body
As we’ve just discussed, it’s possible to study a qualification through a chartered body like the IET or IMechE, but this isn’t the only way of becoming a member if you are studying an unrelated qualification. Both of these organisations offer a category of membership suitable for students studying in the field, and the benefits can be well worth it. Not only will you be able to keep up with latest industry news, but you will also have access to events where you can network and build contacts — an essential process if you want to advance your career.The importance of professional bodies in the engineering sector can’t be understated, as they can give you the support you need to work abroad. In an interview with the Guardian, Henry Noteman, regional manager at engineering recruitment firm Jonathan Lee Recruitment, said: “People should be aiming to acquire membership of a chartered body. They are of growing importance, not only in the UK but also those run by European engineering bodies. So look to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, but also overseas.”
Build up experience
While an engineering degree or related qualification will equip you with the knowledge you need to succeed in the manufacturing and design industry, you still need to make sure you gain practical experience so you aren’t lost in your first role. A lack of experience can be a negative point on your CV, as it suggests you will be less likely to adapt to a role than someone with a few similar jobs under their belt.
Barry Crackett is Design Engineer at Brushtec, a manufacturer that specialises in producing industrial and municipal brushes. He said: “We have met many engineering graduates that are clueless about the manufacturing industry. Try and get some hands-on experience with a real company during your studies, as it will be very beneficial when it comes to finding your first role.”
You can get this hands-on experience by looking for a degree that includes an industry placement. Failing that, take it upon yourself to undertake summer work or complete an internship once you graduate. The government have a search tool called the Graduate Talent Pool that you can use to find graduate opportunities where you live.
Consider doing an apprenticeship
If you don’t want to endure the financial costs associated with pursuing a degree, completing an apprenticeship is another route into the manufacturing and design industry. These schemes are organised by the manufacturing company themselves, and offer a mixture of on-the-job training and experience, often with a guaranteed role at the end of their duration. Many firms actually prefer training apprentices over taking on staff from outside the company, as it gives them the opportunity to develop the exact skills the employee requires to succeed in the job.
Another bonus to undertaking an apprenticeship is the opportunity to earn as you learn — something that is guaranteed by law. So, not only will you be training and getting experience, but you will be paid a wage for the time you spend doing so. You can use the government’s apprenticeship search tool to find more information and research available opportunities in your area.
Read the right books
Last but not least, reading the right books about the manufacturing and design industry can give you a better idea of what goes into creating a product, as well as the skills you need to excel at making it happen. Two books that are highly recommended by those in the industry are Manufacturing Processes for Design Professionals by Rob Thompson and Making It: Manufacturing Techniques for Product Design by Chris Lefteri. These are both great books that explore how things are made, and each will give you a comprehensive understanding of the manufacturing process.
Follow these five important tips and you will be well equipped to pursue a degree in the manufacturing and design sector.