The largest job family within the upstream energy industry, Operator jobs typically involve the s

The largest job family within the upstream energy industry, Operator jobs typically involve the specialised operation of control systems and equipment related to plant and facilities, heavy equipment, rigs, wells and pipelines. Operators can work in both the upstream or downstream industry's.

Safety-sensitive positions have stringent requirements related to being drug and alcohol free. A willingness to work in remote locations and/or to be relocated is often required. Shift work is common. Common work functions usually include assembly and disassembly of equipment, operating, monitoring, assessing readings, troubleshooting and reacting to variable conditions.


To work in this area, individuals usually require a minimum of 4 years of secondary education; and

A minimum total of 32 credits, of which;

  • 8 or more credits are from standards in the English domain at NCEA Level 1 or above,
  • 12 or more credits are from standards in the Mathematics subfield at NCEA Level 2 or above, and
  • 12 or more credits are from standards at NCEA Level 2 or above from subjects and/or NQF framework areas relating to the following disciplines: Science; Computing; Mechanical Engineering; Electronic Engineering; Technology;

Equivalent NQF Unit Standards

This is usually combined with on-the-job training and selected technical course work. A post-secondary education in engineering technology (e.g. power, chemical, petroleum or mechanical) can help you advance your career. A strong mechanical aptitude, combined with an interest in working with things tangible versus theoretical, is crucial for many Operator roles.

Career Paths

Some companies offer opportunities for summer help or helpers/labourers to advance into Operator positions based on their job experience, demonstrated performance, interest and potential.

Advancement opportunities are possible within a particular classification by being moved or promoted through several steps, each with progressively more responsibility and increased pay. With experience and extensive formal on-the-job company training, individuals may move laterally within their company or vertically to a supervisory or managerial position.

Routine Work

Control centre operators are primarily office-based occupations. Most other sectors of this job family require shift or rotational work (two weeks on and one week off-site) outdoors at production sites, in sometimes remote locations. Opportunities for paid overtime can be very rewarding.

Classification of Operator occupations:

  • Gas or Petroleum Process Operator
  • Machinery operator
  • Power Generation Plant Operator
  • Chemical Plant operator

Process Operators

CHEMICAL, GAS, PETROLEUM AND POWER GENERATION PLANT OPERATORS control the operation of chemical production equipment, pump gas and oil from wellheads, refine and process petroleum products, and operate boilers, turbogenerators and associated plant to generate electrical power.

Tasks can include:

  • controlling equipment performing continuous and batch processes to process chemicals and natural gas, manufacture refined petroleum products, and blend petroleum base stocks to produce commercial fuels, lubricating oils and asphalt
  • controlling the preparation, measuring and feeding of raw material and processing agents such as catalysts and filtering media into plant
  • patrolling and inspecting equipment to ensure proper operation and setting operating controls on equipment
  • analysing samples and readings and recording test data
  • controlling records of production, quantities transferred and details of blending and pumping operations
  • checking equipment for malfunctions and arranging maintenance
  • operating power generation plant controls to produce required load
  • monitoring operation of power generation plant and interpreting instrument readings
  • authorising procedures to isolate high-voltage and low-voltage electrical apparatus and plant
  • writing reports and maintaining records on equipment performance, instrument readings and switching operations
  • carrying out routine operating tests

Skills required:

An operator generally needs to have a level 4 qualification to be fully productive in their role.  Many companies train operators in-house via the Industry training organisation
At least three years of relevant experience may substitute for formal qualifications above. In some instances relevant experience and/or on-the-job training may be required in addition to formal qualification.

Registration or licensing may be required.

Education / Qualification Options:

Pre-entry Process Operations National Certificate in Energy and chemical plant – Western Institute of Technology Taranaki

Industry Training Organisation (on the job training after employment) MITO

Energy Skills Association - Promoting and developing talent for the New Zealand energy industry

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Energy Skills Association - Promoting and developing talent for the New Zealand energy industry