This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Plastics workers operate the machinery that makes and repairs plastic, composite and rubber products.
Plastics workers with up to four years' experience usually earn
$16-$18 per hour
Plastics workers with more than four years' experience usually earn
$18-$23 per hour
Pay for plastics workers varies depending on experience.
- Apprentice plastics workers usually start on the training or adult minimum wage.
- Unskilled workers usually earn the minimum wage or a little more.
- After three or four years, plastics workers usually earn between $18 and $23 an hour, depending on skills and qualifications.
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Plastics workers may do some or all of the following:
- build full-size models and create moulds
- apply materials such as resins or fiberglass to moulds
- fit moulds into machines, and remove them when a production run has finished
- separate, trim and shape the final products
- maintain and repair moulds
- fix basic mechanical and process problems
- conduct quality control tests and check products for defects
- pack, label and weigh products.
Skills and knowledge
Plastics workers need to have:
- knowledge of how to work safely with engineering tools and machinery
- understanding of the processes used to make products, and the ability to diagnose production problems
- knowledge of different chemicals, compounds and metals
- knowledge of the heats and speeds needed for mechanical tasks such as welding
- understanding of product standards and safety regulations.
- either work in shifts or regular business hours. They may be required to work longer hours or weekends to meet deadlines
- work in factories, processing plants and workshops
- may work in smelly, noisy and dusty conditions. They may also work with toxic materials, which require the use of safety equipment
- may travel locally to clients' workplaces to install or repair products.
What's the job really like?
Angela Maclean works as a plastics machine operator, helping to produce control panels for washing machines and dryers.
When Angela started work as a plastics machine operator, she was surprised at the range of products being produced. "I didn't really know what to expect. I hadn't heard much about the plastics industry at school and I wondered what else could be made apart from things like plastic bottles. But there are loads of things produced and there's a lot going on."
Checking for quality
Angela contributes to the quality of products that end up in homes both in New Zealand and the USA. "I am in charge of the quality control of what the machine produces. I have to check for defects like smudges or dust marks appearing on the panels. If there are serious problems with the machinery working, I refer to a die setter who works on the machinery settings."
"No news is good news"
The reward for Angela is knowing that she has done a good job. This means 'no news is good news' as far as she's concerned. "When we label the products the boxes have our names on them. So we know we have done a good job if we aren't getting our boxes returned to us!"
There are no specific requirements to become a plastics worker as most skills are gained on the job. Some plastics workers begin as apprentices and work towards a National Certificate in Plastics Processing Technology or a National Certificate in Plastics Processing (Production).
Three years of secondary education is recommended, and NCEA Level 1 may be required by some employers. Useful subjects include maths, English, science and technology subjects.
Plastics workers need to be:
- skilled in interpreting plans and drawings
- good at problem-solving
- accurate and methodical
- able to follow instructions
- able to work independently and in a team
- responsible and safety-conscious.
Useful experience includes:
- work with basic engineering equipment such as welders, lathes and power tools
- any work in the plastics, rubber or composites industry
- work as a mechanic
- other creative or hands-on trade work
- work in other factory jobs, particularly shift work.
Find out more about training
- Composites Association of NZ (CANZ)
- (09) 267 1106 - email@example.com - www.composites.org.nz/
- 0800 526 1800 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.competenz.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Plastics industry picking up after the recession
The plastics industry makes products for a variety of industries, such as the dairy, food and beverage, and building and construction industries, all of which are growth areas for plastics.
Chances of getting a job as a plastics worker are best in the plastics 'hubs'
Most plastics processing is done in companies based in Auckland, Hamilton and Christchurch. There is also some manufacturing in Tauranga, Dunedin and Hawkes Bay. Shift work is involved in this work and this can lead to higher turnover so there are opportunities for new people to the industry. Employers are keen to hear from people who have a technical aptitude and who can follow instructions.
Types of employers varied
Plastics workers work for companies that produce plastic, rubber and composite products. Employers can range from large multi-national corporations to smaller local firms, working across a range of industries.
- Henderson, K, industry manager, Competenz, Careers New Zealand interview, November 2014.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MOBIE), 'Likely Areas of Growth in Employment Opportunities, Employment Forecasts for 2010-2015', accessed November 2014, (www.dol.govt.nz).
- Plastics NZ, 'Industry Design Awards', 2014, (www.plastics.org.nz).
- Statistics New Zealand, 'Economic Survey of Manufacturing: June 2014 quarter', (www.stats.govt.nz).
Progression and specialisations
With further training, plastics workers can progress to become plastics technicians. They can also move into quality management and quality control.
Plastics workers can transfer their skills to other manufacturing sectors such as building, food processing, and metal and steel.
Plastics workers may specialise as a:
- Plastics Die Setter
- Plastics die setters prepare, maintain and repair dies (moulds) used to produce plastic products.
- Plastics Machine Operator
- Plastics machine operators operate the machinery that makes plastic products, and package the finished products.
- Rubber Machine Operator
- Rubber machine operators operate the machinery that makes rubber products, and package the finished products.
Last updated 6 June 2017