Welsh cy
Agricultural Machine Operator

What’s it all about then?

You’ll be working with a variety of types of agricultural machinery which help with soil preparation, planting of crops, harvesting and processing.

As well as operating the equipment you’ll be expected to maintain and clean everything to high standards of safety and hygiene; you may be required to undertake basic repairs as well.

You are likely to be employed either on a large farm or for an agricultural contractor.

What might I be doing?

You’ll be involved in a variety of farming processes which will include many of the following:

  • Operating or tending equipment used in agricultural production, such as tractors, combines, and irrigation equipment
  • Adjusting and repairing farm machinery and ensuring major malfunctions are reported promptly
  • Preparing power tools and other attachments for safe and effective use
  • Mixing specified materials and chemicals for application
  • Maintaining and operating harvesting operations
  • Ensuring optimal yields through accurate and precise operation of equipment
  • Working safely at all times and ensuring the safety of others

What will be expected of me?

You’ll have to be very physically fit to fulfil this job and be able to work safely and precisely at all times; the role requires a high degree of concentration over long periods of time and in weather which is not always perfect.

Naturally your driving skills will be excellent and you will need to be mechanically proficient with a wide variety of equipment.

You will also need to have a genuine interest in all things farming and a good working knowledge of techniques for planting, growing, and harvesting of food for consumption including crop rotation methods, animal husbandry, and food storage/handling techniques.

You should also be prepared to work as part of a team but also as a lone worker for periods of time as well.

What can I expect?

As much of farming is seasonal you can expect to be working for long hours during harvesting etc; you may also need to travel some distance between jobs if you are employed by an agricultural contractor who services a number of farms.

You will be operating and maintaining a wide variety of specialised equipment depending on the time of year and it’s vital that you make sure that everything is working to absolutely optimal levels.

Modern machines are highly technical and computerised and will have an enclosed cab with air conditioning for the operators comfort and safety, computers to drive and provide the operator with the information on the crops they are harvesting.

What about the pay?

The pay will vary from location to location and also your level of experience.

In the various UK nations Agricultural Wages Boards set minimum wage levels and you can check these levels online for correct information.

You might expect to earn from £14k to £19k per annum.

Supervisory staff will be paid in excess of £20k.

Please note figures are intended as a guideline.

You may be provided with free or low-rent accommodation as well.

What qualifications do I need to get in?

There is a large variety of qualifications that you can take which will assist with your career choice as an agricultural machine operator. For instance you could consider the Level 2 Diploma in Animal Care and Agriculture in the first instance; you could then consider a Level 3 Diploma in Agriculture.

Alternatively you might think about a City & Guilds Level 2 Award in Safe Working in Agriculture and Production Horticulture.

Depending on availability you could also consider an Apprenticeship and earn while you learn.

There are loads of qualifications for you to take!

Where would I get these qualifications?

You should look to your local agricultural college or Further Education College in the first instance and check out their prospectuses for details of what you can study in your own area after you have completed GCSEs.

What about further training?

There is no real limit other than time as to what further training you can undertake and you will find that there will be a course to match your interests and specialities.

So for instance, having started at Level 2, you might think about moving to Level 3 and then upwards to possible higher education – it’s entirely up to you.

Many equipment and chemical companies will also provide detailed training on the safe and effective use of their products and this is all useful as well.

With experience and seniority you may take on a supervisory or even management role and you might then consider qualifications to help you develop your skills in this area.

Have a look at the farm worker and farm manager roles for some more information.

Anything else I might need to know?

Yes, the huge variety of high tech equipment in existence means that you’re never going to be bored - if anything you’re going to be busier than ever.

Agricultural Machinery Operators will have often gained experience in operating machinery through working as a farm worker on an arable farm or through working for a contractor.

Experience of operation, the crops and sometimes mechanics may be required to operate this expensive machinery.