How to become a… Process Plant Operator

how to become a process plant operator
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by Jessica Tabinor on

Process plant machinery is widely used throughout the UK construction industry, creating many elementary process plant operator jobs opportunities for operators at all levels.

Read on to find out more about the skills you’ll need and discover whether process plant operating is the right fit for you.

RATES 
£17-40k dependent on experience 

HOT SPOTS
Hinkey Point C/HS2

QUALIFICATION
Driving Licence, NVQ, CPCS

What do elementary process plant operator jobs involve?

Process plant operators control, monitor and maintain the machines and equipment used to move and process materials or chemicals. This can include excavators, cranes and carriers. The work can include roles in materials and waste management and roles in the oil, gas and petroleum industries. In some cases, the machinery and equipment used are driver-controlled. In others instances, the processes are computer controlled.

Process plant operators have to set the controls and observe gauges and other instrumentation to monitor progress and check for malfunctions and faults. Many process plant operators are responsible for preparing and measuring the raw materials that are used in manufacturing and refining processes.

What is an elementary process plant operative’s salary?

Average salaries vary according to location, and from employer to employer. Rates of pay also vary depending on the type and size of machinery being used. Starting pay is usually in the region of £17,000 per year, rising to £30,000 with training and experience. Those with a particular specialism in operating very large or complex plant and machinery can command higher rates of pay, around £40,000.

These figures are intended as a guideline only. 

What skills do I need?

You need to be capable of following detailed written instructions and to enjoy practical and manual activities. Process plant operators need analytical skills and need to be good problem solvers who work well in a team. You’ll need good spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination to operate heavy machines with safety and accuracy. The work can be physically demanding so as with all site-work, a degree of fitness is advantageous.

What qualifications do I need?

You’ll almost always need a driving licence to start work. After which a Level 2 NVQ Certificate and Diploma in Plant Operations provides official recognition of the knowledge and skills needed to work in this field.

In addition, the Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) provides an industry registration card scheme for those involved in plant operations. Operator cards document recognized skills, competence and qualifications, with different codes covering different classes of machinery. Some of the most common classifications are listed below:

  • Crawler crane CPCS Code A02
  • Tower crane CPCS Code A04
  • Ride on Road Roller CPCS Code A36
  • Excavator 360 degree tracked CPCS Code A59
  • Crane supervisor CPCS Code A62
  • Ride on Road Roller CPCS Code A31
  • Plant and Vehicle Marshaller CPCS Code A73

All process plant operators will need a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card to work on building sites.

What are the hours and conditions?

Process plant operators often work in hot, dusty and noisy conditions, with some exposure to hazardous fumes. Many work shifts, including nights and weekends, with associated opportunities for overtime pay. The work is potentially hazardous so strict adherence to safety procedures and regulations is essential.

Process plant operators need to understand the full range of equipment and machinery employed for their particular operation. Many processes are controlled by automated computer systems, so you need to be comfortable using computers and electronic interfaces and instruments. Safety equipment such as overalls, hardhats, safety glasses, ear protection and safety boots is frequently essential.

Career progression

Elementary process plant operators can graduate on to larger and more sophisticated pieces of machinery with the right training, skills and experience. The NVQ Assessment and Verification Service is designed for plant operators who wish to move beyond a Level 2. Accreditation goes up to level 6 NVQ/SVQ in Specialised Plant and Machinery Operations.

Those with a background in operating process plant can move into technical careers in maintenance and mechanics.

Areas of specialism 

Process plant operators can achieve a high degree of specialism in operating a particular type of machinery, for instance, tower cranes or very heavy mechanical shovels, including dragline excavators for quarrying and open cast mining.


To search for opportunities across the sector click here. Or, browse our dedicated HS2 and Hinkley Point C pages for more information.


Cx Jobs

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We are looking for a Digital Workplace Contractor to join our central Digital Workplace team. This role requires involvement in a variety of projects including intranets, collaboration sites, information architecture, document management, apps, forms, workflows and migration. The ideal candidate will be able to assess, design, implement, handover, review, document and support SharePoint and Office 365 no/low code solutions. RESPONSIBILITIES * SharePoint solution delivery from initial customer contact through to delivery including support * Implement solutions using SharePoint functionality including search, content types, sites, lists, web parts, forms, page layouts, etc. * Automate business processes using Nintex workflows and forms * Migrate sites and content between SharePoint farms using both out of the box and 3rd party migration tools * Ensure delivered solutions are completed as planned and to an agreed budget * Update DevOps and report on progress to stakeholders and management * Work with 3rd party suppliers to ensure a continuous service * You will be a subject matter expert in SharePoint and Office 365 solutions providing guidance across the enterprise to ensure all applications deliver business value * Be aware of any costs that are incurred and ensure the budget holder has agreed to this cost * Conduct requirements gathering, solution design and progress updates with customers * Ensure development work is completed and tested within agreed timescales and to agreed standards * Ensure project scopes and requirements do not deviate from the agreed strategy * Identify and suggest existing or new emerging standards and technologies * Manage your time and priorities to deliver activities to agreed timescales * Ensure all relevant documentation is produced to approved standards * Complete assigned support issues for the Web Services team to agreed SLAs * The above list of job duties is not exclusive or exhaustive and the post holder will be required to undertake such tasks as may reasonably be expected within the post. * Migrating large SharePoint environments QUALIFICATIONS AND REQUIREMENTS Essential * Experience of delivering no/low code SharePoint solutions for the business using enterprise content management, document management, SharePoint, Nintex workflow and forms, O365 power platform and reporting * Excellent understanding of SharePoint on-premises and online * Good experience of understanding and writing business requirements, specification writing and delivery of business focussed technical solutions to an agreed and tested standard * Experience delivering solutions using Agile and Waterfall methodologies * Ability to work both in teams and autonomously, is self-motivated and keeps up to date with trends in technology * Proven experience working in a small team delivering technical solutions to business requirements * Experience of working with internal and external suppliers to ensure specified SLAs are met * Ability to build successful business relationships across a range of stakeholder groups * Responding to and resolution of SharePoint issues and incidents * Experience supporting complex SharePoint and web application solutions across multiple environments and versions * Experience of migrating large SharePoint environments Desirable * Knowledge of the full Office 365 suite of applications including Power Apps, Power Automate and Power BI * Experience with Project Server 2013/2019/Project Online * Knowledge of SharePoint farm server architecture and installations * Experience with JavaScript, HTML, CSS, PnP, PowerShell * Experience with DevOps and Agile development * Information systems related Degree * Microsoft technology qualifications * PRINCE 2 Foundation, ITIL Foundation, BCS Solutions Development Foundation PERSON SPECIFICATION * Demonstrate 100% commitment to excellence in everything you do, a real desire to deliver a quality service to customers at all times * Be flexible, hard-working and thorough * Work collaboratively across IT and non IT departments * Ability to effectively communicate, present and influence others * Understanding of Agile project management * Experience of working in technical teams with large enterprise class systems * Must be able to follow agreed processes and make suggestions for improvements * Good creative thinking, problem solving and analytical skills * Willingness to undertake reasonable travel for work Desirable * Proven ability to build trust with stakeholders * Security cleared SECURITY Must have or be able to gain SC clearance

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