Plant Operator

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A career as a Plant Operator

Plant Operators on road and highways sites work with machinery and equipment that can be used to dig and move soil and dirt or level out areas or help move materials and create new road structures.

Plant Operators usually specialise in one type of equipment and need good spatial awareness to move the large machinery safely.

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You'll need:

  • knowledge of engineering science, maths, and technology

  • physical skills such as mobility and co-ordination, and a good level of fitness and stamina

  • good spatial awareness for moving the equipment

  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail

  • knowledge of building and construction

  • to work well on your own and with others

  • to operate and control equipment, and repair and maintain machines and tools

  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations

  • to use a computer and the main software packages

You will need a CSCS and CPCS card to work on the site. Most roles relating to Highways and Roads require a full driving licence.

Typical salaries
range from
Typical Hours

45-50 hours per week. This role could require evening and weekend working.

Day to Day
  • Competently use both 180 and 360-degree excavators

  • Move earth with bulldozers and dumper trucks

  • Operate a crane, under direction from a Banksman

  • Level out works areas with compactors

  • Operate piling rigs and concrete pumps

  • Use forklifts to unload and move building materials around the site

  • Change buckets, shovels and other attachments

  • Make safety checks on machines and keep them running properly and safely

Working Environment

You will be working outdoors in all weather conditions. The work can be physically demanding, dirty and noisy, and may be challenging, particularly during the winter months.

You will need to wear protective clothing (PPE) which will be provided.

Training Available

Training is an essential part of any job, giving you the skills and knowledge you need to do your job safely and correctly. It also helps to strengthen your current skill set and prepares you for the next stage in your career.


Apprenticeships help you build the experience and skills that employers want to see. No matter what stage you’re at, they’ll help set you up for a bright future. There are lots of ways to get involved.

Plant Operator opportunities and careers paths

You could move into plant hire and equipment sales. You could decide to specialise in plant training.

You might become a supervisor or co-ordinator which involves choosing the right machinery for jobs and assessing new equipment.


Plant Operator will usually work in one of the following industries. Click below to find out more about possible career paths.


The UK and Republic of Ireland’s highways don’t just keep people and goods moving safely and efficiently – they offer lots of interesting career opportunities too.

Building and maintaining the UK’s highways is a huge undertaking. According to the RAC, there over 32,000 miles of major roads in the UK, making up 13% of all roads. An efficient, effective highway network is an important part of our economy – roads connect people to employment, health care, education and leisure, particularly in rural communities who depend on roads for economic growth. Keeping our road network in good working order is vital and each nation has its own dedicated road management agency to plan, design, build and operate major roads.

In the Republic of Ireland, the primary and secondary road network is some 5,306km long and is made up of motorways, dual carriageways and single lane roads.

Hundreds of workers carry out road improvements every day, following a carefully planned programme of maintenance. There are also roles available in planning and building new roads, with a variety of career options to help make sure this vital work is carried out safely and efficiently.

  • There are almost 32,000 miles of major roads in the UK

  • Motorways have the highest average traffic flow with 62,000 vehicles for each mile of motorway per day in 2020

  • Public sector spending on roads in the UK reached nearly £11 billion in 2020/21, with the amount spent on roads by local authorities being consistently higher than that spent on national roads

  • In the Republic of Ireland, €35bn of funding has been allocated for transport projects until 2030

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Qualifications for a Plant Operator

These courses are perfect if you are starting out on your career but they are also great for people already in jobs who want to improve their skills.

To find out more about qualification levels in the Republic of Ireland, please visit National Framework of Qualifications for Ireland (NFQIE)

To find out more about qualification levels in Scotland please visit Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF).

Select level
Title Level
Training for a Plant Operator

These courses are perfect if you are starting out on your career but they are also great for people already in jobs who want to improve their skills.

About Apprenticeships

Work, earn and learn

Whether you’re just starting out in the workplace, want to upskill or are considering changing direction, Apprenticeships are a fantastic way to build your career. Apprenticeships combine work with on-the-job training, so if you want to earn as you learn, there’s an apprenticeship out there for you – you can even start an apprenticeship if you already have a degree.

Apprenticeships for a career as an Plant Operator

All about Apprenticeships

Work, earn and learn – no matter where you are in your career, an apprenticeship can set you up for a bright future.

Let’s get started!

Want to take on an apprentice? Employers start here.

What is an Apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a unique blend of work experience and study to help build the skills and knowledge you need for your career. Apprentices are employees – they have a contract, are paid and get the same benefits as everyone else. But the difference between an apprenticeship and a normal job is that apprentices are regularly released from work for training. Sometimes that’s a day a week, sometimes it’s for a longer block – it all depends on the job and the apprenticeship.

Apprentices work for all kinds of people at all kinds of stages in their lives. Most apprentices fall into one of three categories:

  • someone who is just starting their career
  • someone who already has a job and wants to move forward in their company
  • someone who already has a job and wants to retrain to make a career change.

Previously restricted to school leavers and young people, apprenticeships are now a dynamic way of retraining people of all ages - there’s no upper age limit. The minimum age to become an apprentice is 16 and candidates can’t be in full-time education.

Benefits of an Apprenticeship

Apprenticeships offer a unique combination of paid work and study. They’re an exciting option for anyone who wants to gain experience, upskill or change career while working.

They offer a chance to work, learn and earn:

  • workplace experience and skills development
  • a nationally recognised qualification
  • employee benefits and a wage
  • no student loans or tuition fees
  • contact with industry professionals.


Interested in becoming an apprentice? Search for current opportunities and apply here.

Find your apprenticeship

You can also check vacancies on employer websites or get in touch with your local careers service.

Apprenticeship Stories

What’s it like to work, earn and learn? Find out what apprentice life is really like.

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Alternatives to Apprenticeships

Useful Information

Useful Links

Institute of Highway Engineers (IHE)
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Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT)
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Transport Scotland
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National Highways
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Highways – Welsh Government
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Department of Infrastructure - Northern Ireland
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Funding Options

Thinking about your finances is important when you're looking at courses and training - different types of funding support is available depending on what type of course you're interested in and where you are located. We recommend you contact the training provider for more information on course costs and financing, but here are some links to connect you to support available:

Skills Hub Scotland

Skills Hub Scotland is an online skill sharing marketplace creating new opportunities to learn and share skills. Wherever you are located - if you have a skill to share, or a skill to learn, Skills Hub Scotland can help.

Initially founded as a response to the Scottish Government’s CivTech 5 programme in 2020 and aiming to offer a platform for those in rural or remote locations, Skills Hub Scotland has been developed into an important sectoral resource. If you have a skill to share with others or are a training provider, list your workshop or course (all skills from all sectors are welcome). If you are a learner, use Skills Hub Scotland to search for and book a course!


STEM is an approach to learning and development that incorporates the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Learning in STEM connects to Education for Sustainable Development/Learning for Sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals – this helps learners to understand that STEM plays a vital role in finding solutions to real world issues or challenges such as protecting biodiversity and tackling climate change. There are multiple pathways into a land-based STEM career including apprenticeships, further and higher education. This means that a career in STEM is open to everyone!

STEM Learning is the largest provider of STEM education and careers support in the UK. Their STEM Ambassadors programme sees volunteers representing a vast range of STEM-related jobs work with young people to bring STEM subjects alive through real life experiences. They help to open the doors to a world of opportunities and possibilities which come from pursuing STEM subjects and careers. To become a STEM Ambassador, you can register via the STEM Learning website:

Lantra have worked in collaboration with STEM Ambassadors in Scotland to create two specific UK-wide Ambassadors schemes - Forestry and Aquaculture. Through these schemes, we want to make sure that those working in forestry and aquaculture have the support materials they need to take part in STEM activities. To find out more and register for the schemes, please follow the links below:

Smart Futures helps young people in Ireland discover the STEM subjects and careers that might be right for them. Co-ordinated and managed by Science Foundation Ireland, their programme allows young people to connect with people that are working in STEM, the organisations they’re working in and what their interests and skills are.

Not sure what you want to do?

Why not take a look at the Industries Explorer as an introduction to the different areas you could work in.

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