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
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
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.