Plant Operator / Career

Overview of Occupation

Income Bracket: $60,000 – $120,000+

Plant operators on civil construction project sites operate large, powerful earthmoving equipment. By way of example, plant operators may dig trenches and excavate bulk earthworks in an excavator, place and trim earthworks and gravels in a grader, or rip rock and push dirt in a dozer. Some operators over a period of years will acquire the skills to operate many and varied types of equipment, while some may specialise in a particular class or type.

As the work is mainly outdoors, working conditions are governed by the weather to some extent. Civil construction plant operators work on a variety of sites with modern earthmoving equipment having soundproofed and air-conditioned cabs and using computer technology.

Alternative Titles: Backhoe Operator, Bulldozer Operator, Construction Worker (Plant Operations), Driver (Mobile Plant), Earthmover, Excavator Operator, Front-end Loader Operator, Grader Operator, Hydraulic Rock breaker Operator, Loader Operator, Mobile Plant Operator, Operator (Mobile Plant), Paving Plant Operator, Road Roller Operator, Scraper Operator, Skid Steer Operator, Trench Digging Machine Operator, Water Cart Operator, Water Truck Operator, Pipe Layer Operator, Mobile Construction Plant Operator

Education and Training: The path you select to become a skilled plant operator will depend on your individual circumstances and the outcome that is required. If you are employed you can get a plant operator qualification through on the job training and assessment in an individual item of plant. You can also become a plant operator with all of the underpinning civil construction skills through a traineeship or apprenticeship (also known as Australian Apprenticeship).Traineeships/apprenticeships involve a combination of on and off the job training. At this stage there is no educational pre-requisite required to enter into a traineeship/apprenticeship but usually you will have completed a minimum of Year 10.The formal qualification upon completion is Certificate III in Civil Construction (Plant Operations). This is a nationally recognized qualification. For more information on training and job pathways click here. If you are not employed in the industry you could undertake a course in plant operation and be assessed to meet any regulatory requirement. There are special rules and regulations for plant operation and age limits apply. As the requirements vary from state to state you will need to seek further information on the regulations that apply in your state or territory.

Employment Opportunities: There are job opportunities for Plant Operators on projects of varying sizes around the country – in cities, rural and sometimes remote areas. Major employers include civil contracting firms, mining companies and state and local government authorities. With more training and experience, you could be in line for promotion into a supervisory position such as leading hand.

Range of tasks performed in the occupation:

Plant operators are responsible for the safe and efficient operation of their machine. Tasks may include:

  • Preparing machines for operation
  • Working from drawings and specifications under the direction of supervisors
  • Operating the machines and all attachments
  • Driving machines to and from work sites
  • Cleaning, lubricating and re-fuelling machines and performing minor repairs and adjustments when necessary

Personal Requirements

To be successful in this occupation you should:

  • Enjoy practical and manual work
  • Be physically fit
  • Have good eyesight and coordination skills
  • Enjoy working outdoors
  • Have good communication skills
  • Be able to work in a team environment
  • Be alert and observant
  • Be safety conscious
  • Be self-motivated