Choosing a job or career is one of the most important life decisions people make. It can also be one of the hardest decisions to make. Sometimes it becomes overwhelming due to the vast numbers of different types of jobs society needs coupled with a lack of knowledge about what those jobs entail and demand in terms of skills and behaviours. Use this section of our website to start to understand what skills and qualifications you need to enter into the world of engineering and manufacturing.

Roger Smith Wristwatches

Before we get into the amazing types of careers engineering can support, and in particular what the island's engineering and manufacturing sector can offer, you need to consider the following:

  1. Strategy - what do you want to achieve in the long term, what are the key milestones or achievements you need to accomplish to make that happen? Develop a plan, ideally on paper or on your phone, but at least in your head. What kind of lifestyle do you wish to support? What do you need to achieve to support that?
  2. Employability - consider this at all times. What makes you more employable than someone else? What do you need to achieve (competencies and personal attributes - see below) for each role and what can you offer that potential employer that enables them to say 'yes' to your application?
  3. Enjoyment - make sure whatever you wish to achieve you are going to enjoy. We spend a lot of time working, usually more time than on our social activities, so make sure you are happy with what you are doing or planning to do. Enjoyment comes from many things, not just how much you get paid for a role (though engineering is usually well paid). Think of job satisfaction, progression opportunities, people with whom you work, challenges, creativity, security, pension contributions, and health care which the role/company may offer. 

Engineering offers fantastic careers which in turn support great lifestyles for all different types of people. Engineering is a very people focused, problem solving, creative, and socially beneficial discipline.

Assystem design progress meeting

You know you've made some correct career choices when you look forward to going into work each day, enjoy working with your work colleagues, find the work interesting, stimulating and satisfying, return home thinking another day of achievement and maybe then socialise with some of your work colleagues as part of your family life.

However, this ideal doesn't just happen. It requires you to invest a considerable amount of time and effort to achieve, through studying hard, developing your behaviours and making some informed decisions about your career path. We hope that these sections and the information presented help you in that quest.

There are generally two main skill groups in engineering companies.

(1) People who manufacture products e.g. aircraft components, valves, optics, etc. 66% of sector employees have this skill set.

(2) People who support those in (1) above e.g. designers, marketers, human resources, planners, purchasers, quality engineers, etc. 44% of sector employees have this skill set.

Both groups are equally important and need each other for the whole engineering task to be delivered. It would be wrong to suggest that knowledge and skills do not pass between the two groups as they do, but for the purposes of career choices, you can consider them as two groups initially.

Target Tools storeroom

The skills and competencies needed in either group differ in that people in (1) manufacturing, need to be able to understand the best way to make things efficiently whereas people in (2) support, need to be able to understand and provide the means to make things through providing the resource needed (raw material, equipment, tooling, design drawings, specification, test standards, delivery mechanism, finance, etc.).

It is therefore best for you to consider which group you would prefer to work in, at least initially as once inside engineering companies, people can move between the two areas; more (1) to (2) than (2) to (1) in general.

Triumph Actuation Systems machine operator

Regardless of what group you decide to consider, in order for you to join and then thrive in engineering you will need a mixture of the following:

(A) Knowledge and skills -  technical knowledge, experiences, expertise and qualifications.

(B) Personal attributes -  inquisitiveness as to how things work, an interest in how things are made, a desire to continually improve things and solve problems or come up with new and unique ideas; and also have good work related behaviours - time keeping, be reliable, trustworthy, communicate well and work well with others. Have a positive approach to life/work, enjoy a challenge, be flexible, always willing to get involved, eager to learn new competences and can adapt to working on your own or in a team.

People with only (A) or (B) may struggle inside engineering companies, as no one person has all the answers needed to solve some of the complex problems we face. So technical skills and (for example) communication work hand in hand in order to arrive at a solution to a challenging problem. In other words we need people with a good mix of both (A) and (B).

Strix support office

With regard to (A) knowledge and skills, you should consider how you learn best. There are several aspects to learning involving listening, logic, physical activity, verbal, and visual. There is no best way to learn - only what suits you best. Two complementary ways of learning are: 

(i) academic - theoretical presentation and digestion of information to develop knowledge; usually validated by written examinations leading to qualifications.

(ii) practical - 'hands on' development by performing tasks to develop knowledge and skills; usually validated by demonstration and/or assessment.

Some subjects tend to be more academic biased (e.g. languages, maths, history), whilst others a mixture of both (e.g. science, design and technology) and some are biased towards practical (e.g. art, drama). 

It is important to recognise your strengths and preferences to make the right choices to gain academic and practical qualifications and skills. In relation to our formal education system, this choices start at Year 10 in Secondary School with IGCSE's, leading on to the further choices between sixth form, University College Isle of Man or university.

With regards to (B) Personal attributes, in the main these are shaped by your family, friends, environment and your personality. Society and employers can guide you but ultimately it's down to you to adapt to your environment to be successful.

Two further considerations on (A) and (B)

(i) people leaving the education system may have limited work related experiences and only qualifications, thereby making their competencies and personal attributes really important for potential employing companies to consider (note: the importance of any work experience undertaken is therefore very valuable). This is why many companies may have an assessment centre or interview process designed to be able to observe these as opposed to just reading about them on a CV.

(ii) consider inside/outside of school activities which will not only develop your personal attributes, skills and experiences but also could influence employers (and maybe universities if you are planning to go there) as it shows more of what you are about. Such activities are girl guiding, scouts, sports, volunteering, beach cleaning, charity work etc. 

Swagelok assembly area

All of the above is important but another essential ingredient for a successful career in engineering is enthusiasm. Engineering is fun and interesting, but also very demanding and so you have to enjoy it. This generally comes about because of your enthusiasm to not only understand the technical aspects but how you go about applying them in a disciplined environment. It is therefore important to build into your thoughts and career choices enjoyment. However, make sure this does not reduce the opportunities for employment - a fine balance is needed here.

Use the tabs within this section to see what considerations should be made at each stage towards developing a career in engineering.

To see an overview of how to work towards securing positions in engineering companies view our Career Paths document use link here.

Triumph Actuation Systems inspection


"I've been involved with engineering all my working life and have experienced many different roles and areas, all of which I have thoroughly enjoyed. From what I have experienced and seen in my career is it is often hard to understand which bit of engineering you should go for as there is so much of it; and sometimes it has sounded as though I couldn't do something when in fact I could and did. Hopefully this website will help people become more knowledgeable towards engineering and with that make some informed decisions about gaining employment with us."

Adrian Harrison (Engineering and Manufacturing Sector Skills Champion).