Elevator Installers and Repairers

Elevator installers and repairers are also referred to as elevator mechanics or elevator constructors. They not only work on elevators, but also assemble, install, repair, or replace escalators, wheelchair lifts, dumbwaiters, and moving walkways. Many installers and repairers specialize in installation, maintenance, or repair.

The installation of elevators and other people-moving equipment requires the worker to be able to read blueprints, determine the equipment needed for the job, and determine the location of motors, pumps, cylinders, and plunger foundations. Then, working on scaffolding or platforms, installers begin the difficult task of constructing the steel rails and attaching them to the walls of the shaft to guide the elevator. Next, they install a large tube called a conduit along the shaft wall from floor to floor. They then pull all the electrical wiring into the conduit and terminate the components at each floor and at the main control panel. They also construct the frame, floor, ceiling, walls, and doors of the elevator car. Additionally, they connect guides and rollers to ensure smooth movement of the device. If they are working on cabled elevators, workers install the weights, counterweights, and other machinery needed to move the cars from floor to floor. They also install the outer doors at elevator entrances located on various floors. Installers working on escalators also lay the steel framework, tracks, stairs, motors, and wiring.

Maintenance and repair workers regularly perform preventative service on equipment to ensure it is in safe working condition. This maintenance might include routine tasks such as oiling and greasing moving parts, replacing worn moving parts, and testing and adjusting equipment. However, they also have to troubleshoot problems that arise, meaning they must possess an excellent knowledge of electronics. Frequently, maintenance workers have a specific set of elevators/escalators that they service on a regular basis.

The most highly skilled workers in this group are the adjusters. Their specialty is fine-tuning all equipment after it is installed to make sure it works correctly and meets relevant specifications. Adjusters must be thoroughly competent in electronics, electricity, and computers.

In the United States, most elevator installers and repairers learn the trade by completing an apprenticeship program sponsored by a local committee representing employers, the International Union of Elevator Constructors, or independent contractors. If an apprenticeship program is registered with the U.S. Department of Labor or their state board, apprentices will earn a journeyworker certificate that is recognized nationally. Apprenticeship programs include both classroom and paid on-the-job training. Applicants for an apprenticeship program must be at least 18 years old, and are usually required to have a high school diploma or GED.
Most apprenticeship programs are four years. The apprentice begins by carrying materials and tools and helping experienced workers bolt rails to walls and assemble elevator cars. As their training progresses, they learn progressively more difficult tasks such as wiring. A majority of employers require union membership, and unions require the apprentice to pass a standard exam administered by the National Elevator Industry Education Program. In addition, once the apprenticeship has been completed, many cities and states require elevator installers and repairers to pass a licensing examination.

There are numerous specialization and advancement opportunities for elevator installers and repairers. The National Association of Elevator Contractors offers certification as a Certified Elevator Technician (CET) or a Certified Accessibility and Private Residence Lift Technician (CAT). To be eligible for promotions, workers must meet continuing education requirements mandated by unions. Installers may earn a certificate or A.S. degree in electronics to further their knowledge and advance in their field.

Elevator mechanics are among the highest paid professionals in the construction industry. The median hourly wage for elevator installers and repairers is $33.35. The middle 50 percent earn between $25.79 and $39.41 per hour. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $19.38 per hour and the highest 10 percent earn more than $46.78 an hour. Since the majority of elevators and escalators are located indoors, little time is lost due to inclement weather, allowing workers to consistently work 40 hours a week. In addition, some workers may need to work overtime to maintain essential equipment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook expects average employment growth of about 9 percent over the next 10 years. Growth will be fueled by a growing need to install and repair elevators in residential construction. In homes, elevators are both a luxury feature and a way to provide access and mobility to the growing elderly population. Major job growth is also expected from continuing commercial construction and the need to update, maintain, and repair existing equipment.