Are you contemplating a career in plant engineering? Are you someone who:
• Enjoys and excels in shop classes at school?
• Is skilled in fixing broken machine parts with tools?
• Is a methodical person who can solve problems in a step-by-step linear process?
• Enjoys drafting and design?
• Prefers a job that does not require constant sitting at a desk?
If so, you may want to do more research on the training requirements for a position in plant engineering. Plant engineering as an occupation has been in existence since the early 20th century with the invention of the world’s first assembly line. Plant engineering has been traditionally regarded as a trade in which workers can learn on the job and through experience, they will eventually be promoted to a position of a manager. However, as manufacturing processes became more complex, the field of plant engineering has evolved to beyond maintenance management and therefore requires formal training.
Plant engineering today involves the design of processes involving the creation or transportation of physical, chemical and biological materials. In addition, with the increasing emphasis on workplace safety and environmental sustainability, occupational health and safety as well as environmental engineering are part of the field. Furthermore, because manufacturing and utilities are industries that are dependent on the economy’s performance, asset management has become one of the many hats that a plant engineer/manager wears in managing a plant operation.
The amount of training required of a plant engineer varies depending on the type of company/plant in which a person is interested in work as well as his/her level of skills and aptitude. Here are some of the programs available for the field of plant engineering:
• Apprenticeships: These are state government sponsored industry-specific programs designed to train students to become plant managers through a series of on-site and in class training. The length of apprenticeships varies depending on the industry requirements and students can apply to programs in industries ranging from utilities, mining, oil and gas as well as heavy material manufacturing. Students will learn a variety of skills ranging from machine operations and workplace safety procedures.
• Associate Degree: These are two-year programs offered in most colleges. These programs usually comprise of a combination of technical principles and on-site internships. Graduates from this program are usually employed in a technician’s role, focused on monitoring equipment performance, machine maintenance and repair as needed, implementation of project upgrades and in some roles, staff management within the plant.
• Bachelor Degree: These are four-year degree programs offered in colleges. These programs focus fundamentals of plant management, including operations and process improvement, health and safety program design, resource and asset management. For students who wish to take the engineering stream of plant engineering may take courses focused on the design of plant structures as well as science courses in chemistry, biology and environmental studies to gain further knowledge on specific material processes. Graduates from these programs may be work with a manufacturing company, utility or an engineering firm where they may be involved in plant and process design projects as well as asset management programs.
Plant management spans many industry sectors and depending on your area of interest, it can be a rewarding career. For more information on state internship programs, financial aid and specific college programs, please contact your career counselor or financial aid and admission officer of specific colleges.