This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Fabrication engineers make, install and repair metal products such as vents, handrails, boilers, aircraft and boat parts, or beams and girders for construction projects.
Fabrication engineers with up to five years’ experience usually earn
$33K-$52K per year
Experienced fabrication engineers with more than five years’ experience usually earn
$52K-$80K per year
Source: Competenz, 2017.
Pay for fabrication engineers varies depending on experience and specialisation.
- Apprentice fabrication engineers may start on the training minimum wage, with their pay increasing as they gain experience and unit standards.
- Fabrication engineers with up five year's experience can earn between the minimum wage and and $52,000 a year.
- Senior fabrication engineers, or fabrication engineers working in supervisory positions, can earn from $52,000 to $80,000 a year.
Source: Competenz, 2017.
- PAYE.net.nz website – use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website – information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Fabrication engineers may do some or all of the following:
- examine drawings and other instructions for jobs
- draw patterns and cut them out of different metals
- drill and punch holes in the metal for screws, bolts or rivets
- fold, form and shape metal
- join and weld metal pieces
- polish and check the quality of the finished product.
Skills and knowledge
Fabrication engineers need to have:
- knowledge of metals and their properties
- knowledge of how to use and care for their equipment
- understanding of safety procedures
- technical skills for drawing and interpreting plans
- welding skills.
- usually work regular business hours, but may work shifts, or have to do overtime during busy periods
- work in workshops and factories and may also work in commercial buildings or private homes when installing their products
- work in conditions that may be dirty and noisy.
What's the job really like?
Sheet Metal Engineer
Variety is the great part of sheet metal engineering
When the opportunity to complete an apprenticeship in sheet metal engineering came up, Matthew Elliot says he jumped at the chance. "I've never looked back. It's great because there are so many different things you can make."
Working everywhere from transport to construction
Matthew has now been working as a sheet metal engineer for 19 years and has worked across a variety of industries – from transport to construction.
"At my first company, I was making the air bridges and walkways that you use to board planes. But the company I work for at the moment does stainless steel work for kitchens - extraction hoods, lots of bench tops; I also weld all the sink bowls and polish them up. Sometimes when the other guys get busy, I help out with ducting and roof flashings, too. You get to do a good variety of work in this job – not the same old boring stuff all the time."
Satisfaction in the end products
Matthew would eventually like to move into a management role but right now is happy creating kitchens. "When I finish a nice stainless steel job and it goes into a restaurant or someone's house, it gives me a real sense of satisfaction."
Brent Gear talks about his fabrication business - 2.12 mins. (Video courtesy of Te Puni Kōkiri - for more videos go to www.maorifuturemakers.com)
When I was at school I actually liked woodwork, later on in life mucking around with cars and stuff like that and was offered a labourer’s job. I made lots of cups of tea, swept the floor, picked up, did deliveries and stuff like that, and then someone offered me an apprenticeship, which was a four-year course.
Got my qualifications in engineering, also welding tickets. Opens lots of doors, being a transport engineer, structural on buildings, you can go into the mines, you can earn big money.
I’m a hands-on engineer. I really enjoy it because I get to fabricate, manufacture and design lots of things.
Behind me is a building that I made – the Tauranga Harbour Bridge – we were the main engineers on that and then we still turn around today and build towbars for cars and you know just real basic stuff.
I built a house for mum and dad, which only has eight piles. I managed to put a couple of patents on it. It calculates up as earthquake A to the seismic four and a lot of people are interested at the moment.
We’ve just sent 30 classrooms over to Papua New Guinea, 19 houses, and that’s a continuation of this type of building behind us – a lot of people are interested because of the strength of it.
If you’re not good with school work and that, this sort of trade, carpentry, are good trades to get into and then once you’ve been in the trade for long enough your brain starts developing, you know.
Start specialising – you can either just be a solid welder putting materials together or you can actually start fabricating and designing things and A, B, C, D that’s how it all goes together.
If you want to become an engineer stay at school for as long as you can 'cause that helps, get good at your maths, do metalwork at school, maybe do a polytech course, get a pre-trade and if you like it, go for gold, jump into it.
There is a lot of room for Māori to be part of what I do and the engineering side of it. We’ve got rhythm, we’re very good at holding things like the welding torches and stuff like that, and there’s plenty of room, it’s a great trade to be part of and it opens up a lot of doors.
Yeah I am living the dream. I’ve got a company that I’ve got the big boys really interested in. Nah it’s really good.
There are no specific requirements to become a fabrication engineer. However, some employers prefer you to have a qualification.
However, to become a qualified fabrication engineer you need to complete an apprenticeship and gain either a:
- New Zealand Certificate in Engineering - Fabrication (Level 4), which is the new qualification
- or a National Certificate in Engineering - Fabrication (Level 4), which is being replaced by the New Zealand Certificate.
For this certificate, you choose to specialise in light fabrication, heavy fabrication, or steel construction.
Industry training organisation Competenz oversees fabrication engineer apprenticeships.
A driver's licence may also be useful.
There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a fabrication engineer. However, NCEA Level 2 maths, physics, English and technology are useful.
For Year 11 to 13 students, the Gateway programme is a good way to gain industry experience.
These programmes may help you gain an apprenticeship, but do not reduce the amount of time it takes to complete it.
Fabrication engineers need to be:
- patient and accurate
- good at making calculations and working out formulae
- able to follow instructions.
Maths skills are important because you need to know your numbers for working out calculations.
Sheet Metal Engineer
Useful experience for fabrication engineers includes:
- welding work
- work in an engineering workshop
- any job working with metals and tools.
Fabrication engineers need to have strong arms and hands, as heavy lifting may be required.
Find out more about training
- 0800 526 1800 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.competenz.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Chances of getting a job as a fabrication engineer are average for those wanting to enter the role.
Employers prefer to employ experienced workers, who have a good chance of getting work because:
- not enough people are being trained to meet the demand for workers
- trained workers are leaving New Zealand to work overseas for higher pay rates
- New Zealand manufacturers need workers to build machinery components for export.
Fabrication engineers in short supply and needed to help with Canterbury rebuild
Metal fabricator (or fabrication engineer) appears on Immigration New Zealand’s immediate skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled metal fabricators from overseas to work in New Zealand.
The job also appears on Immigration New Zealand's Canterbury skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled fabrication engineers from overseas to work on the rebuild of Canterbury following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.
Types of employer varied
Fabrication engineers work in a range of industries, including:
- building and construction
- automotive engineering
- marine construction
- machinery and equipment manufacturing
- specialised craft and equipment making and repair.
Ten percent of fabrication engineers are self-employed.
- Book, S, 'Manufacturing Bounces Back in September', National Business Review, 13 October 2016.
- Competenz website, accessed March 2017, (www.competenz.org.nz).
- Hartley, B, engineering tutor, Southern Institute of Technology, Careers New Zealand intervew, March 2017.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Canterbury Skill Shortage List', accessed April 2017, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Immediate Skill Shortage List', accessed April 2017, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Manning, B, 'Gloombusters: Bringing Manufacturing Home', New Zealand Herald, 6 August 2015.
Progression and specialisations
- Fabrication engineers can progress to work in supervisory roles, or start up their own business.
- Fabrication engineers usually specialise in roles such as:
- Light Fabrication Engineer
- Light fabrication engineers work with light metals such as stainless steel and aluminium to make or repair a variety of metal products, such as vents, handrails and boat parts.
- Heavy Fabrication Engineer
- Heavy fabrication engineers work with steel and other heavy metals to make or repair metal products such as boilers, hot water tanks and components for building and construction.
- Steel Construction Engineer
- Steel construction engineers manufacture and install steel components such as beams and girders for structures and civil engineering projects.
Last updated 1 June 2017