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General maintenance and repair.

You might need to call as many as four different people to fix a broken lightswitch, a clogged drain, a cracked ceiling, and a balky furnace--an electrician, a plumber, a plasterer, and a heating mechanic. Most craft workers, after all, specialize in one kind of work. But in many apartment buildings, schools, and hospitals, just one telephone call would be enough, as long as the call went to a general maintenance repairer.

These workers are jacks-of-all-trades.

They repair and maintain machines, mechanical equipment, and buildings. They work on plumbing, electrical, and air-conditioning and heating systems. They build or repair plaster and brick walls, fix or paint roofs, windows, doors, floors, woodwork. They also install, maintain, and repair specialized equipment and machinery in cafeterias, laundries, hospitals, stores, offices, and factories. In a single day, a general maintenance repairer might replace a broken electrical switch, repair an air-conditioning motor, install a dishwasher, and build an office partition.

General maintenance repairers who work in small establishments, where they are often the only maintenance workers, do all repairs except for very large or difficult jobs. In larger establishments that employ many repairers, they may work in only a few specialties.

General maintenance repairers inspect and diagnose problems and plan how work will be done, often checking blueprints, repair manuals, and parts catalogs. They obtain supplies and repair parts from distributors or storerooms, replace or fix worn or broken parts where necessary, and make or broken parts where necessary, and make necessary adjustments. The tools they use include common hand and power tools such as screwdrivers, saws, drills, wreches, and hammers as well as specialized equipment and electronic test devices.

These workers also-perform routine maintenance to correct defects before equipment breaks down or buildings deteriorate. They many follow a check list, inspecting belts, checking fluid levels, replacing filters, and so forth. Maintenance repairers also keep records of maintenance and repair work.

Working Conditions and Earnings

The working conditions of general maintenance repairers are as varied as the jobs they must do; in fact, they often perform a wide variety of tasks in a single day, generally at a number of different locations in a building or in several buildings. They may have to stand for long periods, lift heavy objects, and work in uncomfortably hot or cold environments. Like other maintenance craft workers, they may work in awkward and cramped positions or on ladders and are subject to electrical shock, burns, falls, and cuts and bruises. Most general maintenance workers are on a 40-hour week, but some work evening or night shifts or on weekends, and they may frequently be called to work at odd hours for emergency repairs.

Those employed in small establishments, where they may be the only maintenance worker, often operate with only limited supervision.

Most general maintenance repairers work in relativel stable nonmanufacturing industries and are not usually subject to layoff during recessions. Those in manufacturing industries, however, may be laid off when economic conditions worsen.

Earnings of general maintenance repairers vary widely by years of experience, skill level, industry, and geographic area. According to the available data, general maintenance workers had average hourly wages ranging from $5 to $12 in 1983, while all production or nonsupervisory workers in private industry averaged about $8. Repairers may have the opportunity to earn premium pay for working nights or weekends, or overtime pay when handling emergency repairs.

Some general maintenance repairers are members of unions. The unions include the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America.

Training and Advancement Opportunities

Most general maintenance repairers learn skills informally on the job. They start as helpers, watching and learning from skilled maintenance workers. Helpers begin by doing simple jobs, such as fixing leaky faucets and replacing light bulbs, and progress to more difficult ones, such as overhauling machinery or building walls.

Some learn skills by working as helpers to other repairers or construction workers, such as carpenters, electricians, machinery repairers, or automotive mechanics. The necessary skills can also be learned in high school shop classes and postsecondary trade or vocational schools. It generally takes from 2 to 4 years of on-the-job training and/or school to become fully qualified.

Graduation from high school is preferred, but not always required, for entry into this occupation. High school courses in mechanical drawing, electricity, wood-working, blueprint reading, mathematics--especially shop math--and science are useful. Mechanical aptitude and manual dexterity are important. Good health is necessary since the mob involves much walking, standing, reaching, and heavy lifting. Difficult jobs require problem-solving ability, and many positions require the ability to work without direct supervision.

Some general maintenance repairers in large organizations advance to maintenance supervisor. In small organizations, with only one maintenance worker, there generally are no promotion opportunities. The experience gained by a general maintenance repairer, however, may make it possible to enter one of the building trades.

Employment and Outlook

This is a large occupation; general maintenance repairers held about 695,000 jobs in 1982. They worked in almost every industry. About 30 percent were in service industries; most of these workers were employed in elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, hospitals and nursing homes, and hotels. Another 25 percent were employed in a wide range of manufacturing industries; and still others worked for real estate firms that operated office and apartment buildings, wholesale and retail firms, oil and mining companies, and gas and electric companies.

Employment of general maintenance repairers is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 1995. Employment is related to the number of buildings and amount of equipment needing repair. Growth will occur as the number of office and apartment buildings, stores, schools, hospitals, churches, hotels, and factories increases. In addition to jobs created by increased demand for maintenance repairers, many openings will arise as experienced workers transfer to other occupations, retire, or die.

Information about training opportunities and jobs for general maintenance repairers may be obtained from the local office of your State employment service.
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Author:Watson, Audrey
Publication:Occupational Outlook Quarterly
Date:Mar 22, 1985
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