You might need to call as many as four different people to fix abroken lightswitch, a clogged drain, a cracked ceiling, and a balkyfurnace–an electrician, a plumber, a plasterer, and a heating mechanic.
Most craft workers, after all, specialize in one kind of work. But inmany apartment buildings, schools, and hospitals, just one telephonecall would be enough, as long as the call went to a general maintenancerepairer. These workers are jacks-of-all-trades. They repair and maintain machines, mechanical equipment, andbuildings. They work on plumbing, electrical, and air-conditioning andheating systems.
They build or repair plaster and brick walls, fix orpaint 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, ageneral maintenance repairer might replace a broken electrical switch,repair an air-conditioning motor, install a dishwasher, and build anoffice partition. General maintenance repairers who work in small establishments,where they are often the only maintenance workers, do all repairs exceptfor very large or difficult jobs. In larger establishments that employmany repairers, they may work in only a few specialties.
General maintenance repairers inspect and diagnose problems andplan how work will be done, often checking blueprints, repair manuals,and parts catalogs. They obtain supplies and repair parts fromdistributors or storerooms, replace or fix worn or broken parts wherenecessary, and make or broken parts where necessary, and make necessaryadjustments. The tools they use include common hand and power toolssuch as screwdrivers, saws, drills, wreches, and hammers as well asspecialized equipment and electronic test devices. These workers also-perform routine maintenance to correct defectsbefore equipment breaks down or buildings deteriorate. They many followa check list, inspecting belts, checking fluid levels, replacingfilters, and so forth. Maintenance repairers also keep records ofmaintenance and repair work. Working Conditions and Earnings The working conditions of general maintenance repairers are asvaried as the jobs they must do; in fact, they often perform a widevariety of tasks in a single day, generally at a number of differentlocations in a building or in several buildings. They may have to standfor long periods, lift heavy objects, and work in uncomfortably hot orcold environments.
Like other maintenance craft workers, they may workin awkward and cramped positions or on ladders and are subject toelectrical shock, burns, falls, and cuts and bruises. Most generalmaintenance workers are on a 40-hour week, but some work evening ornight shifts or on weekends, and they may frequently be called to workat odd hours for emergency repairs. Those employed in small establishments, where they may be the onlymaintenance worker, often operate with only limited supervision. Most general maintenance repairers work in relativel stablenonmanufacturing industries and are not usually subject to layoff duringrecessions.
Those in manufacturing industries, however, may be laid offwhen economic conditions worsen. Earnings of general maintenance repairers vary widely by years ofexperience, skill level, industry, and geographic area. According to the available data, general maintenance workers had average hourly wagesranging from $5 to $12 in 1983, while all production or nonsupervisoryworkers in private industry averaged about $8. Repairers may have theopportunity to earn premium pay for working nights or weekends, orovertime pay when handling emergency repairs. Some general maintenance repairers are members of unions. Theunions include the American Federation of State, County, and MunicipalEmployees and the United Automobile, Aerospace and AgriculturalImplement Workers of America. Training and Advancement Opportunities Most general maintenance repairers learn skills informally on thejob. They start as helpers, watching and learning from skilledmaintenance workers.
Helpers begin by doing simple jobs, such as fixingleaky faucets and replacing light bulbs, and progress to more difficultones, such as overhauling machinery or building walls. Some learn skills by working as helpers to other repairers orconstruction workers, such as carpenters, electricians, machineryrepairers, or automotive mechanics. The necessary skills can also belearned in high school shop classes and postsecondary trade orvocational schools. It generally takes from 2 to 4 years of on-the-jobtraining 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 mechanicaldrawing, electricity, wood-working, blueprint reading,mathematics–especially shop math–and science are useful. Mechanicalaptitude and manual dexterity are important. Good health is necessarysince the mob involves much walking, standing, reaching, and heavylifting. Difficult jobs require problem-solving ability, and manypositions require the ability to work without direct supervision.
Some general maintenance repairers in large organizations advanceto maintenance supervisor. In small organizations, with only onemaintenance worker, there generally are no promotion opportunities. Theexperience gained by a general maintenance repairer, however, may makeit possible to enter one of the building trades. Employment and Outlook This is a large occupation; general maintenance repairers heldabout 695,000 jobs in 1982. They worked in almost every industry.
About30 percent were in service industries; most of these workers wereemployed in elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities,hospitals and nursing homes, and hotels. Another 25 percent wereemployed in a wide range of manufacturing industries; and still othersworked for real estate firms that operated office and apartmentbuildings, wholesale and retail firms, oil and mining companies, and gasand electric companies. Employment of general maintenance repairers is expected to growabout as fast as the average for all occupations through 1995.Employment is related to the number of buildings and amount of equipmentneeding repair. Growth will occur as the number of office and apartmentbuildings, stores, schools, hospitals, churches, hotels, and factoriesincreases. In addition to jobs created by increased demand formaintenance repairers, many openings will arise as experienced workerstransfer to other occupations, retire, or die.
Information about training opportunities and jobs for generalmaintenance repairers may be obtained from the local office of yourState employment service.