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Piling operatives drive columns of wood, steel or concrete into the ground to provide support for structures such as buildings, bridges and piers.

Average salaries are in the region of £20,000.00 to £24,000.00. Salaries will vary depending on location / employer

Career Profile

Piling operatives drive columns of wood, steel or concrete into the ground to provide support for structures such as buildings, bridges and piers.

What they do

This job often involves some of the most impressive scenes on a building site as piling operatives get to work using power hammers and raising and lowering drophammers.

Operatives use pile drivers that are mounted on locomotive cranes or barges and monitor ground conditions. They drive piles to the right depth, taking into account factors such as soil conditions.

Types of piling

There are many types of piling and techniques, including driven, bored and minipiles:

  • Driven piling - where a heavy steel tube is driven to the right depth, filled with concrete and then removed
  • Another method is where a fully reinforced, pre-cast concrete pile driven into the ground
  • Rotary bore piling - using a temporary casing and auger to drill to the necessary depth. A reinforcement cage is then installed and concrete is poured into the hole before the casing is withdrawn 
  • Minipiles - installed using similar methods and can be made up of small-diameter piles or located where there space is limited

Like several other construction careers, the job of a piling operative involves checking over equipment before it’s used, analysing information and using hoisting equipment to position piling leads and hammers.

He or she operates machinery (either directly or via control mechanisms) and keeps a close eye on all equipment to identify problems and keep them maintained or repaired. Operatives are also responsible for keeping their workmates and supervisors up to date on the work.

Hours & Salary:

  • Trained with experience piling operatives can earn in the region of £20,000 - £28,000
  • Senior piling operatives can earn in the region of £28,000 - £40,000

Salaries depend on location, employer, level of responsibility and the amount of overtime worked.  Self-employed piling operatives set their own pay rates.


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Qualifications & Training

There are no set qualifications to be a piling operative but you must be at least 18 years old.

It is useful to have Standard Grades/National 4 or 5s, GCSE (grades at A*-C or equivalent) in maths and English because this helps with calculations on the job. You can do a SVQ/NVQ Level 2 in piling, which is a two-year training programme to learn skills such as driven or bored piling. 

A Specialist Apprenticeship Programme (Piling Operative) is also available.

If you have at least five years’ experience and don’t need more training, you can take the Experienced Worker Practical Assessment (EWPA). This involves a practical assessment, work-based evidence and employer endorsement – all completed within a specified time. Alternatively you can do On-Site Assessment and Training (OSAT).

Want to find out more?

Try our Matching Service for work experience opportunities in your local area, with new opportunities being added on a regular basis. 


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Career trends and forecasts

2460 additional staff needed

According to the latest Construction Skills Network research, the UK construction industry will need an additional 2460 Plant Operatives (which includes Piling Operatives) every year for the period 2017 - 2021.  The highest demand for these construction jobs in the UK will be in Yorkshire & Humber and Northern Ireland, followed by Greater London, Wales and Scotland

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