How to become a Plant Operator
Keen to explore all your career options – including a position as a plant operator?
Luckily, the team of expert assessors at SB Skills Solutions has helped countless companies upskill their
employees as well as numerous individuals obtain essential qualifications to achieve their dream job in the
construction industry and further afield.
From the average plant operator salary in the UK to which qualifications, skills, and training courses can help
you to become a plant operator, we explain everything you want to know about this profession.
What is a plant operator?
A plant operator is a title given to an employee that supervises the daily running of a construction site and has
responsibility for the operation of heavy machinery.
What do construction plant operator jobs involve?
As a plant operator, you’ll be required to carry out a wide range of tasks. Primarily, this will include the
operation, monitoring, and maintenance of heavy machinery like diggers, bulldozers, cranes, and excavators.
With help from these machines, you may be asked to move, excavate, lift, or crush building materials or organic
matter. Alternatively, if you’re working with automated machinery that tends to be controlled by a computer,
you may be required to work in a control room and monitor their progress.
In the event that these machines stop working or develop inefficiencies, a plant operator will be on hand to
rectify any issues and support productivity. This role tends to also cover the maintenance of these machines,
ensuring they’re in good working order.
A more comprehensive list of plant operator responsibilities can include:
∙Supervising and overseeing operations
∙Monitoring process parameters
∙Performing maintenance tests
∙Ensuring safety rules are followed
∙Operating heavy machinery and equipment
∙Transporting a variety of materials
A construction plant operator, in particular, may have more specific daily duties such as:
∙Operating forklifts, bulldozers, excavators, trucks, and more heavy machinery
∙Transporting and storing building materials and earth
∙Carrying out safety checks
∙Level out working areas
∙Communicate using radio signals
What are the working conditions like?
A construction plant operator will often be required to work outdoors in a range of weather conditions.
Construction sites aren’t squeaky clean like an office or control room. You may work at heights such as
operating a tower crane or a large excavator.
Instead, the working conditions for a construction plant operator tend to be significantly dirtier and nosier than
alternative plant operator positions. Due to the nature of the building industry, you may also be required to work
nights or weekends in order to deliver the necessary progress within the set construction deadline and budget.
How much does a plant operator earn?
According to information published by Totaljobs, a plant operator salary in the UK varies between £27,681 and
£37,500, with an average annual salary of £32,500. It’s worth bearing in mind that the exact salary for this
position will naturally vary depending on the location of the job and the industry that you work in.
Higher-paying positions are more accessible to individuals that upskill themselves, allowing them to work in a
wider range of relevant industries. This is because plant operators tend to specialise in just one type of
What skills do I need to become a plant operator?
Unsure whether you have the necessary skills to become a plant operator? Below, we list some of the most
common skills plant operators possess that can help them to succeed in both this role and their chosen industry.
These plant operator skills include:
∙An interest in heavy machinery and equipment
∙Ability to operate, fix, and maintain machinery
∙Understanding of engineering, maths, and computers
∙Ability to use relevant computer software
∙Strong attention to detail
∙Excellent teamwork skills
∙Ability to work independently
∙Able to work well under pressure
Construction plant operators must also possess certain physical skills like excellent movement and coordination.
What qualifications do construction plant operators need?
In England, if you want to become a construction plant operator, you’ll need to obtain either your Level 2 NVQ
(National Vocational Qualification – practical, work-based qualifications) in Construction Plant Operations,
your Level 2 Construction Plant Operative Apprenticeship qualification, or your Level 3 Diploma in
Construction and the Built Environment.
In addition to these qualifications, you may also need to apply for your blue CPCS (Construction Plant
Competence Scheme) Competence Card or your CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) accreditation
to work on a construction site as a plant operator.
What courses and training can I take to become a plant operator?
There are many routes you can take to become a plant operator. Some of these avenues involve applying for an
apprenticeship, while others require work experience in the relevant industry to get you started.
To help you determine which route might be right for you, we explore each of these avenues in more detail.
College or training provider
As mentioned above, a course from either a college or training provider in Level 2 Certificate in Construction
Plant Operations or Level 3 Diploma in Construction and the Built Environment can provide you with the
relevant qualifications to become a plant operator.
While these courses will cover most of the required skills to join this profession, on-site experience is also
crucial to obtaining a construction plant operator role, so many applicants will seek out a trainee position on a
construction site following completion of the course.
For the level 2 course, you’ll need two or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), while a level 3 course
requires four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C). Without GCSEs, you must hold an equivalent
If you want to start earning quickly while also gaining on-site work experience and a qualification (from either a
college or a training provider) to help you become a plant operator, an apprenticeship could be for you.
Open to all individuals over the age of 16, a construction plant operator intermediate apprenticeship or a lifting
technician intermediate apprenticeship can pave the way into this profession.
You’ll typically require some GCSEs (including maths and English) or an equivalent qualification to
successfully apply for an apprenticeship.
Working your way up is one of the more common ways you can become a plant operator. Often, if you’re
enthusiastic enough and willing to work hard to obtain the relevant plant operator skills and qualifications, many
employers will consider offering individual work as a general labourer with training opportunities.
They may request certain GCSEs grades (in subjects like English, maths, and technology), but they can provide
you with invaluable on-site experience with heavy machinery and equipment.
Once you’ve gained enough experience and knowledge of the construction industry, they may contact a training
provider to help you obtain the relevant qualifications to become a plant operator.
Career path and progression
Once you’ve managed to secure a plant operator position, there is still room for career progression. Often, one
of the best ways to both increase your earning potential and develop your career in this industry is to specialise
in a broader range of machines and equipment. This will allow you to work in different plants and positions.
Contact SB Skills Solutions
If the potential for career progression and the day-to-day duties of a construction plant operator seems like a
good fit for your skills and professional aspirations, why not get in touch with the knowledgeable team at SB
Skills Solutions to find out more about our plant operator course?
Our qualified team of experienced assessors can help you to obtain your NVQ Level 2 Plant Operations
qualification, and by extension, achieve your blue CPCS Competence Card.
Recognised by the Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS), this NVQ can increase your earning
potential while providing you with sought-after skills, experience, and competence in plant operation.
With the right support, we can ensure you learn the relevant skills and knowledge to become a plant operator. To
find out more about the contents of the plant operator course, our prices, or alternative construction training
courses, please don’t hesitate to contact our friendly team today.
To speak directly to a member of our team, simply give us a call on 01695 558420. We also welcome enquiries
submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. After receiving your plant operator course enquiry, we’ll ensure a
prompt response to your query or a schedule a call to learn more about your training requirements.