How to become a Plant Operator

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by Jessica Tabinor on

There are excellent plant operator jobs in the UK construction industry for operators at all stages of their career.

Keep reading to find out more about the skills you’ll need to enter this field and to discover if a career as a plant operator is the right fit for you.


RATES
£14-35 dependent on experience
 

HOT SPOTS
Hinkley Point C / HS2


QUALIFICATIONS
NVQ or City & Guilds, CPCS, CSCS

 

What do plant operator jobs involve?

Plant operators work with heavy machinery, also known as plant, and equipment on construction sites. The machinery you’re responsible for can vary depending on the specific job, but could include any of the following:

  • Forklifts
  • Bulldozers
  • Mobile, crawler and tower cranes
  • Compactors
  • 180 and 360-degree excavators
  • Concrete pumps
  • Dump trucks
  • Piling rigs
  • Telescopic handlers

Plant operator jobs are required in all manner of construction projects, from home building sites and roadworks to demolition sites and quarries.

As part of your role, you’ll also be responsible for carrying out daily safety assessments on the machinery you’re using. As you progress through your career, you’ll often become an expert in one specific type of machinery.

 

What is a plant operator’s salary?

Your salary as a plant operator can vary, depending on the size, scope and nature of the project you’re working on. It can also vary from one employer to the next. In an entry-level role, however, you can expect to earn between £14,000 and £19,000 per year, with this increasing up to £30,000 as you gain more experience. The most highly-experienced plant operators can earn up to £35,000 per year.

These figures are intended as a guideline only. 

 

What skills do I need?

For this role, it’s important that you have a good level of general fitness, as it can be physically demanding work, from regular heavy lifting to climbing in and out of cabs. You’ll also need excellent hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity, to ensure you can control large machinery safely.

Because you’ll be carrying out daily safety checks and taking on responsibility for your machinery, it’s important that you’ve got an up-to-date knowledge of both the machinery itself and the latest health and safety procedures.

You’ll need to be able to interpret and follow detailed instructions and be confident working both on your own and as part of a team.

 

What qualifications do I need?

There are no formal requirements to become a plant operator. However, many employers will ask for GCSEs in subjects such as English, Maths and Design and Technology.

Alternatively, they may ask for vocational qualifications, such as a Diploma in Construction and the Built Environment, NVQ in Plant Operations or City & Guilds 2764.

Apprenticeship schemes are another popular route into the industry, during which you’d study towards an NVQ Level 2 in Plant Operations.

It’s helpful if you can demonstrate to employers that you’ve got previous experience in the industry operating plant and machinery, as well as having a good knowledge of mechanics.

Finally, you’ll need to gain a Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) card, as well as a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card if you’re going to be working on a building site.

 

What are the hours and conditions?

You’ll usually work between 37 and 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. However, your hours can vary and you may be required to work evenings and weekends as and when projects require it. This overtime gives you an opportunity to boost your earnings.

The majority of your work will take place outside, meaning you’ll be working in all weather conditions. If you’re working with equipment like cranes, you can expect to work at considerable heights. It can be noisy, dirty and hazardous, so safety equipment is essential.

 

Career progression

With the right training and experience, you could progress into a construction management or site supervision role. You could also move into a plant coordinator role, which involves deciding which machinery is needed for specific jobs and assessing new equipment.

 

Areas of specialism 

Many plant operators will specialise in a specific piece of machinery, becoming an expert throughout the course of their career.
 


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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Visual Modeller

Our Client is developing a virtual aircraft maintenance trainer at its Dalgety Bay facility in Fife. The software solution exploits an existing in-house product capability called VoRTEX (Virtual Reality Training Executive). The VoRTEX core software provides the virtual environment, state store and rule set that govern how the user interacts with the platform virtual model. To run with the VoRTEX core, the project is creating the specific behaviour and 3D visual models for the relevant aircraft systems.The role will primarily focus on creating real-time textured 3D objects to be incorporated into a highly detailed aircraft with opening panels and removable parts. The source data will usually comprise very high polygon count CAD files that need to be optimised then textured. This will mostly be done manually because automated tools usually create unacceptable artefacts. Some objects will be created from photographs and measurements only. Applicants with full-time experience creating 3D assets for games or military simulators will have an advantage. The applicant should provide a portfolio or examples of work. Skills (essential):3D Modelling and texturing/shading of real time assets based on real world reference materials;Ensuring that all models produced are optimised for performance, taking into consideration the limitations of the target system;Ability to work in a team setting, working to deadlines and time constraints. Skills (desirable):Understanding of baking textures, generating specular / normal maps and physically based shading;Pro-actively contributes to improvement of production pipeline;General knowledge of rigging, lighting, animation and rendering techniques;Can develop MEL / Maxscript tools;Traditional art drawing skills;Knowledge and experience of using JIRA for task management. Tools (essential):3D Modelling - Autodesk Maya preferred, also 3DS Max (pure CAD software experience is unsuitable);Texturing - Adobe Photoshop CC expertise. Tools (desirable):Texturing - 3D painting software experience is useful;Game Engine - Unity 3D preferred, also Unreal Engine.

Site Manager

Are you an experienced Site Manager? Do you want to work for a company that is demonstrating sustained periods of growth, as well as having a solid order book of more work to come? Do you want to work for a company that offers autonomy, along with the freedom to develop in your career? Then Vital want to speak to you.Vital resources are currently working with a reputable and well established multi-disciplined contractor to assist them in their search for a new Site Manager. Our client is looking for someone who can demonstrate a background in Rail, Water, Civils, or Infrastructure projectsAs an experienced Manager your responsibilities will include but are not limited to:Daily management of groundworks packages in the central Belt of ScotlandOrganise and Purchase on Site Labour, Materials, and PlantLiaise with the commercial teams and other operational teams to ensure projects are delivered in a timely, and cost effective manner.Organise and Chair meetings with clients and senior management.The successful applicant for this role will be able to demonstrate:Background in a similar positionPrevious experience working within groundworks, deep drainage and, cut & fill works.Experience working as a subcontractor is preferred, but not essentialSMSTS CertifiedFull UK Licence as travel to sites will be requiredAbility to work alone with minimal supervisionFor this our client is willing to offer a competitve salary, along with a comprehensive package.For more information, please contact Jamie Nicholson using the details provided, or click the apply now link.

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