Materials Technician

Job description

Materials Technicians maintain and repair land vehicles and related equipment. Materials Technicians belong to the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Branch of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

Their primary responsibilities are:

  • Welding
  • Machining
  • Sheet metal work
  • Painting
  • Work with textiles, fibreglass and composite

Transcript

MATERIALS TECHNICIAN

BURKE: In the Canadian Forces, we’re the ones who have the feel for steel. You break it, we fix it.

I’m Corporal Tommy Burke from Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, and I’m a Materials Technician.

And I’m Sergeant Jeff McLeod. I’m from the South Shore of Nova Scotia, the village of Milton. I’m a Materials Technician with 3 Area Support Group in Gagetown, New Brunswick.

Welcome to my idea of the perfect job.


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MATERIALS TECHNICIAN

BURKE: When military vehicles and equipment wear down, rust through, crack apart or rip open, they bring them to a shop like ours, here at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, near Fredericton, New Brunswick. As Materials Technicians, we’ve got the tools, and the skills, to fix them with a welding torch, an auto-body toolbox, a paint sprayer or an arc cutter - whatever it takes - and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m pretty darn handy with a needle and thread, too.

MCLEOD: People are depending on their equipment regardless of what it is. It could be a Leopard tank, it could be a tarp for a trailer. Everything has a purpose, everything has to be repaired.

They call us Mat Techs. It’s a job that’s different every day. Skill-intensive, interesting and important. The pay is good, the benefits are great and our shop floor has got gear as modern as anyplace you’ll find in Canada. This is our welding shop.

Personally, I like the welding side the most… the flame, the sparks, the heat, that sort of thing and being able to take bar stock or sheet metal on the floor and cut it and weld it and at the end of the day, you have something fabricated, that’s useful.

BURKE: And this is our textile shop.

We don’t go around hemming dresses and stuff like that. We fix big stuff, right? We fix the big modular tentage and the gas masks and the cots and any big tarps that come in, come through us and we sew them up or patch them as needed. And people like to come in and kind of rib us a little bit. Good-natured fun.

Today, we’ve got a shipment of gas masks to check out and repair before they go out to our troops. Tomorrow, it could be an armoured vehicle that needs a re-fit or a folding bridge assembly that has to be welded water-tight before it gets flown overseas to the Combat Engineers.

MCLEOD: It doesn’t matter location, weather – if we have the material and the capability to help them to do the job, then we’ll do it.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to work with your hands, serve Canada at home and on overseas deployments and never stop learning, then Materials Technician could be the right trade for you.

BURKE: It’s important to remember that Mat Techs are soldiers, too. Our résumé includes the same basic military qualifications as the infantry and other combat units. We’ve been through 10 weeks of intensive training including weapons and ground warfare. We can fight if we have to.

MCLEOD: As a Materials Technician, after Basic Military Qualification, you’ll get a full year of specialized training at the Canadian Forces School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering at Canadian Forces Base Borden in Ontario. That’s where you’ll learn the basics of reading blueprints, welding, auto body work, metal refinishing, rust-proofing, spray painting, as well as composite material and textile repair -- a long list of incredibly varied skills that it would take years of study and thousands of dollars in tuition to acquire in a civilian classroom. Everything from fixing snowplows to welding boats to sewing tents.

BURKE: When you’ve finished that course, you’ll be posted to a Canadian Forces base for a year and a half of on the job training. It’s like a civilian apprenticeship, at full pay with plenty of opportunities after that for intermediate and advanced courses in machining, welding and other fields.

MCLEOD: You’re not going to get that anywhere else. You’re getting paid to learn from the moment you start your basic military qualification.

BURKE: Most of our work is done here, on base in Canada, but wherever the Forces and their gear goes, Mat Techs go, too.

MCLEOD: I was in Bosnia in 1994 and besides the work we did with our own forces, we also did a lot of work to help out the local population.

BURKE: I like to think we accomplished a lot of things for the people like building schoolhouses, playgrounds, a little bit of infrastructure, working with our engineers and things of that nature, maybe helping out with some supplies or anything we can.

Our Canadian soldiers know how important our job is to keeping them in the fight and in the field.

MCLEOD: Like the armoured boys, if they wanted to walk to battle, they would’ve joined the infantry, so they want their vehicles fixed.

BURKE: I like the fact that when I come in to work, I feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day when I complete a work order, I complete a task. It’s a great job because of the job diversity. I mean, you learn all kinds of different skill sets and you can take them with you the rest of your life.

MCLEOD: We have an unofficial motto in the Mat Tech trade. It’s “we can’t weld the crack of dawn nor mend a broken heart, but we’re definitely working on it”.

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MATERIALS TECHNICIAN

Overview

Working environment

Materials Technicians experience the unique adventures and challenges that come with working in different environments. Materials Technicians are employed at bases and stations across Canada and on deployed operations around the world. While on a base, they may be working in small spaces, like a workshop. In the field or on deployment they may work outdoors most of the time or in temporary accommodations. Their work usually supports Army units, but they may also work with the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Pay and career development

The starting salary for a fully trained Materials Technician is $49,400 per year; however, depending on your previous experience and training the starting salary may be higher. Material Technicians who demonstrate the required ability, dedication and potential are selected for opportunities for career progression, promotion and advanced training.

Related civilian occupations

  • General Welder
  • Millwright
  • Tool-and-Die Maker
  • Sheet-Metal Worker
  • Auto Body Repair Technician

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Training

Basic military qualification

The first stage of training is the Basic Military Qualification course, or Basic Training, held at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. This training provides the basic core skills and knowledge common to all trades. A goal of this course is to ensure that all recruits maintain the CAF physical fitness standard; as a result, the training is physically demanding.

Basic military qualification - land course

After Basic Training, Army recruits go to a Military Training centre for the Basic Military Qualification - Land Course for approximately one month, which covers the following topics:

  • Army Physical Fitness
  • Dismounted Offensive and Defensive Operations
  • Reconnaissance Patrolling
  • Individual Field Craft

Basic occupational qualification training

Materials Technicians attend the Canadian Forces School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering in Borden, Ontario for about a year. Using a combination of instruction, demonstrations and practical work, they learn the following skills:

  • Shop mathematics
  • Interpretation of mechanical drawings and blueprints
  • Power and hand tools
  • Metallurgy and heat treatment
  • Pattern development and layout
  • Welding:
    • Oxy-acetylene
    • Gas Metal Arc
    • Gas Tungsten Arc
    • Shielded-metal Arc
  • Plasma arc cutting
  • Metal surface refinishing
  • Auto body repair and refinishing
  • Rust-proofing and retreatment
  • Spray-painting
  • Drilling, threading and reaming
  • Textile repair
  • Sewing-machine repair
  • Respirator repair
  • Repair of fibreglass and composite materials
  • Identification of metals, alloys and plastics

On-the-job training

Materials Technicians are posted to a CAF Base for about 18 months of on-the-job training, which resembles a civilian apprenticeship program.

Specialty training

Materials Technicians may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training, including a 27-week intermediate training course. At the end of this training phase, a Materials Technician’s trade knowledge, skills and experience are comparable to those of a civilian journeyman.

There is also the possibility to take training to reach supervisor and manager levels. The supervisor level course takes about 13 weeks, and the manager level course takes about nine weeks.

Advanced training

As they progress in their career, Materials Technicians who demonstrate the required ability and potential will be offered advanced training. Available courses include:

  • Advanced machining
  • Advanced welding
  • Non-destructive testing techniques
  • Military bridging inspection
  • ISO sea container inspection
  • Occupational health and safety

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Entry plans

Required education

The minimum required education to apply for this position is the completion of the provincial requirements for Grade 10 or Secondaire IV in Quebec, including Grade 10 Applied Math or Math 426 in Quebec. Foreign education may be accepted.

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