Shipbuilding is the business of building large ocean-going vessels usually of steel. Boatbuilding is the term used for the construction of smaller vessels from materials such as wood, steel, aluminium, glassfibre or new composite materials. There are opportunities in shipand boatbuilding at every level.
- The worldwide shipbuilding industry has changed in recent years – dominance has moved from the West to the Far East – particularly South Korea and China. In the UK, there are currently a small number of shipyards engaged in building large ships. These may build specialist vessels such as chemical carriers, or, often, ships for the Royal Navy (the UK is a leader in warship production – an example being the HMS Daring, the first of a new generation of destroyers which, it is claimed, can defend the city of London from aircraft and missile attack single handedly!). There are also a number of smaller shipyards building smaller vessels such as tugs, ferries, fishing and survey/research vessels.
- Boatbuilders construct boats typically up to about 50 metres in length – both boats for leisure (from luxury power boats to sailing dinghies) and small commercial craft. There are also manufacturers of marine equipment such as sails, engines, electronics and boat fittings. Most modern boats are made in a factory environment, but there are also some boatbuilders that build traditional wooden craft. Boatbuilding for the leisure industry is thriving.
What opportunities are there?
There are various levels of employment.
- There are many specialised craft jobs. Skills include welding, steel-cutting and bending, assembling sections, pipework, installing engines, plumbing, carpentry, boat-fitting, painting, rigging and sailmaking.
- Technicians are employed on such work as drafting, estimating, testing, quality control, building/manufacture, surveying and production control. Skilled technicians are also needed to install the sophisticated electrical and electronic systems in boats and ships – such as navigation systems and communications equipment.
- Professional engineers are highly-qualified people who design vessels, and may oversee their manufacture and production. Designers often specialise in a particular aspect of the design. Specialist interior designers are also needed. Apart from the technical careers involved in designing and manufacturing, there are jobs within the industry in general management, project management, training, sales and marketing, purchasing and supply, accounts, and in administrative work.
What skills and personal qualities do you need?
A shipbuilder or boatbuilder needs:
- good practical skills
- problem-solving skills
- the ability to work accurately
- the ability to meet deadlines
- good teamworking skills.
What about entry, training and qualifications?
Craft trainees - Training is usually in the workplace, combined with a part-time college course or attendance at a company training centre, perhaps gaining NVQs. Good GCSE grades (or the equivalent) in maths and science are usually required for entry. Craft training in boatbuilding could lead towards a vocational qualification, such as a City & Guilds level 2 or 3 Certificate in Boatbuilding, Maintenance and Support. Apprenticeships are available with some shipbuilders and boatbuilders. For some crafts, such as welding, plumbing and carpentry, it is possible to move into marine work after completing your initial training in a non-marine environment.
Engineering technicians - Craftsmen and women may move up to technician level by gaining qualifications such as an NVQ 3, BTEC National or a City & Guilds Certificate. Entry at trainee technician level is also possible with four good GCSEs, preferably including maths, science and english, or equivalent. Training may be through an Advanced Apprenticeship. A few colleges offer full-time BTEC National courses in marine engineering or related subjects. With experience and competence, appropriately qualified people can apply for ‘Engineering Technican’ status.
Professional engineers - Degree and foundation degree courses in marine technology/engineering are offered at a number of universities. Some are sandwich courses, offering work experience as part of the course. Degree qualifications, plus further training and work experience, can lead eventually to ‘Chartered Engineer’ or ‘Incorporated Engineer’ status. Degrees that cover yacht and small boat design are offered by a small number of institutions. For information on relevant higher education courses, see higher education directories, websites/ databases or visit the websites of the IMarEST, the British Marine Federation or the Royal Institution of Naval Architects. For general information on higher education entry requirements, see page 34.
Who employs shipbuilders and boatbuilders?
- Shipyards – you can find details of UK shipyards on the website of the Shipbuilders and Shiprepairers Association (see details below).
- Boatyards – in the UK, manufacture is carried out primarily in small- to medium-sized companies employing fewer than 50 people. Visit www. uksail.com for links to UK boatbuilders.
- Specialist companies making engines, sails, fittings, electronics and other specialist marine components
What about future prospects?
Promotion prospects depend on the nature and size of the employer. With the right experience and skills, in boatbuilding, there are some opportunities to be selfemployed or to start up your own business.
Where can I find out more?
- British Marine Federation – tel: +44 (0)1784 473377 for the booklet: Your Future in the Boating Industry, or download it from: www.britishmarine.co.uk
- Engineering Council UK – tel: +44 (0)20 3206 0500 – contact for information on the standards required for Engineering Technician, Incorporated Engineer and Chartered Engineer status, or see: www.engc.org.uk
- SEMTA – the UK’s Sector Skills Council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies – learning helpline: +44 (0)800 282167. www.semta.org.uk
- Shipbuilders and Shiprepairers Association – tel: +44 (0)1784 223770. www.ssa.org.uk
- The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST) – tel: +44 (0)20 7382 2600. www.imarest.org
- Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA) – tel: +44 (0)20 7235 4622. Read about naval architecture on page 8 of this brochure. www.rina.org.uk