Electrical mechanic

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Rob, 23

A life long interest in computers, electronics and cars has led Robert to his ideal job, working with electronics at a car manufacturing plant. Find out more:

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Fact File

Job description: If something goes wrong with one of the machines on the line, Robert has to find out what the problem is and fix it. Or if the line is being reconfigured, Robert has to make sure the new electrics are properly wired.

Subjects studied: Maths (Methods), English, Physics, Systems Electrical, Information Systems

Further training: E Class Electrician 4 years Apprenticeship

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Profile

Robert works as an electrical mechanic for Ford. He works with a fully automated (robotic) production line and is responsible for the maintenance, repair and performance of the electrical and electronic components.

A life long interest in computers, electronics and cars has led Robert to his ideal job, working with electronics at a car manufacturing plant.

Rob has always been interested in how things work. He was one of those kids who would pull everything apart just to see what it was like on the inside. As he grew older, this fascination never really left him, so when he was in Year 12 he decided to complete a Certificate 2 in Engineering, as part of his VCE studies.

He also sat for the NECA (National Electrical Contractors Association) aptitude test to see if that would be an area he would be good at. Little did he know that shortly after his results were published, six companies would be trying to get him to take an apprenticeship with them. He eventually chose to work with Ford because of the technology involved in automotive manufacturing. He couldn't pass up the opportunity to work with robotics and automation.

Having completed his apprenticeship, Rob now works in the rotor and disk brake machining and cylinder machining divisions. This is where the brakes and other vital parts for the cars are produced. At any one time, there can be up to fifty operators working on the production line, which is fully automated. If something goes wrong, Rob has to try and fix it as soon as possible in order to minimise the time the line has to be stopped. In automotive manufacturing, every second a line isn't running can cost thousands of dollars.

"Sometimes you don't know what went wrong so you have do some fault finding," he says. "It could be anything from a loose wire (which is good) to a major fault in the machine's electronic system (which is very bad). You just never know what you will find or how long it will take to fix."

As well as responding to problems, Rob has to undertake regular preventative maintenance on all the machines. This involves testing all the components to make sure they are working properly. And on the rare days when there are no emergencies and things are quiet, Rob has to take stock of the spare parts and order in more as needed.

Over the New Year, the line stops production. During this time, there may be some special projects Rob has to work on. For example, last year some old disused equipment needed to be moved. Sounds simple, doesn't it? But in order for this to happen, the robot it was attached to had to be moved. And that robot was attached to another, different robot. So what seemed at first to be a simple job was actually quite complex as the robots then had to be replaced in their original positions and rewired. In the end, the whole process took Rob and his team more than a week to complete.

Rob loves the fact that this is not the sort of work you would normally get to do as an electrician, nor the sort of responsibility you would normally have. Rob would like to move into a more engineering based role in the future, so is looking to study part time. Luckily, Ford is very supportive of this and offer traineeships people can take in engineering while they study part time.

Ford also supports Rob's main hobby, competing (with a workmate) in The World Skills Competition. This competition draws on the talents of people in a range of industry or trade areas from all over the world. Rob competes in the mechatronics (a cross between electronics, electrical and automation systems) competition where you build an automated machine based on the competition specifications. Rob and his competition partner went to Brisbane to compete nationally after winning the local heats in their category. Later this year, they will be travelling to Finland to compete internationally.

It's no wonder Ford want to keep this bright spark.

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Job Specs

Electricians install, maintain, repair, test and commission electrical and electronic equipment and systems for industrial, commercial and domestic purposes. Electricians may also work on electrical transmission and distribution equipment.

Duties

Electricians may perform the following tasks:

  • Read electrical, architectural and mechanical diagrams, drawings or specifications to determine job requirements
  • Plan the layout of wiring systems
  • Test for, locate and repair electrical malfunctions
  • Install electrical and electronic control systems
  • Assemble and fabricate electrical and electronic components and appliances
  • Connect electrical equipment to power supplies
  • Maintain automated production processes
  • Install insulated cables and connect switches, outlets and other fittings; connect circuit breakers, transformers, motors, heaters and other electrical equipment
  • Install electrical equipment such as storage heaters, water heaters, electric signs, switchboards, motors and other electrical equipment

Personal requirements:

  • Enjoy mathematical and technical activities
  • Practical and good hand-eye coordination
  • Good eyesight and normal colour vision
  • Diagnostic ability
  • An aptitude for mechanics and electronics
  • Able to do precise and detailed work
  • Able to work as part of a team
  • Able to work independently
  • Physically fit
  • Good communication skills

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More Information

Find out more about a career in metal fabrication engineering by contacting these organisations.

E-Oz Energy Skills Australia
282A Queens Parade
Fitzroy North, VIC 3068
Tel: (03) 8414 0000
Email: office@e-oz.com.au 

Electrical Trades Union (VIC)
Level 1, 200 Arden Street, North Melbourne VIC 3051
Tel: (03) 8329 0000
Fax: (03) 8329 0066
Email: etu@etu.asn.au 

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).

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