Maintenance and Repair Workers

There are approximately 1.4 million general maintenance and repair workers in the United States. Job growth statistics indicate this occupation is growing at an average rate of about 11 percent. Nearly every industry employs general maintenance and repair workers. Often, these workers are trained on the job, although certification makes an applicant a more valuable potential employee.

General maintenance and repair workers possess a wide range of skills, including electrical, heating and air, plumbing, and construction. They can fix or replace a roof, construct a wall, lay a floor, repair or replace windows and doors, and so on. Some work on equipment specific to restaurants, offices, hospitals, and laundry facilities. They must be able to locate, diagnose, and repair malfunctions. If a building is equipped with the necessary features, maintenance workers can control light and heat remotely and locate areas where something is in need of repair.

General maintenance and repair workers use manufacturer manuals, blueprints, parts catalogs, and their own experience to make repairs. Hand tools, such as wrenches, screwdrivers, and hammers, and electric tools, such as power saws, grinders, and drills, are used on a daily basis. Oftentimes, a malfunction is diagnosed using an electronic- or computer-based tool.

In addition to making repairs, general maintenance and repair workers are responsible for maintenance. They must regularly inspect their buildings for machines that aren’t working correctly and to catch building deteriorations early to avoid expensive repairs. They must also record dates and types of repairs made.

Smaller businesses are likely to require a maintenance worker to have sufficient skills for all types of repairs. Larger companies may have several maintenance workers who specialize in different areas.

General maintenance and repair workers may work inside or outside, depending on the nature of their job or of the task. Some travel from one location to another if they are given a group of buildings to maintain. They generally work standard weekday hours, but in some cases, they may need to put in overtime or be on call for emergencies.
Standing for extended periods of time; lifting and carrying heavy tools or components; and squatting, kneeling, reaching, or working in awkward positions can cause muscle ache, headache, or other physical discomfort. Hazards include the possibility of shock, burns, falling from ladders or rooftops, cuts, and bruises. The work-related injury statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate the general maintenance workers’ injury rate was substantially higher than average.

After a number of months as an apprentice trainee, maintenance workers are considered fully qualified to take on basic jobs independently but under supervision. Possessing basic computer skills is required in many jobs because of the number of buildings that use computers for systems control. Computer equipment companies often provide training so that maintenance workers can operate the newly installed equipment. High school studies in electricity, woodworking, science, math, blueprint reading, and mechanical drawing make job applicants especially attractive. Some attend a vocational or community college to learn how to service electrical, plumbing, and heating and air-conditioning systems or do carpentry related work.

Some states require general maintenance workers to be licensed, while others do not. It is common for some specialties, like electrical or refrigeration, to require licensing. The International Management Institute (IMI) certifies workers at three competency levels. The test addresses a wide range of material, including math, plumbing systems, landscape maintenance, reading blueprints, and diagnosing malfunctions. The beginning level offered by IMI is Certified Maintenance Technician, followed by Certified Maintenance Professional, and finally, Certified Maintenance Manager.

General maintenance and repair workers in large businesses or organizations can become supervisors, managers, or qualified electricians, heating and air-conditioning mechanics, or plumbers. Advancement opportunities in smaller companies are likely to be limited. Certification will help maintenance workers advance more quickly. The median hourly pay for general maintenance and repair workers is less than $17. Those at the bottom in terms of pay earn around $10 per hour, and those at the top, more than $26 per hour. Unions such as the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and the United Auto Workers represent about 15 percent of all general maintenance and repair workers.