Your guide to becoming a Civil Operative in the Fibre industry

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Your guide to becoming a Civil Operative in the Fibre industry

With more and more people keen to build careers within the Fibre industry, it’s time to look at another popular role.

In this blog, we’ll give you an overview of becoming a Civil Operative. What does it involve? What do you need to succeed? And how can you progress?

For the answers to this, and more, read on!

What does a Civil Operative do?

For starters, we should mention that this role can be referred to by various names on job adverts. These include:

·       Civil Engineer

·       Civil Operative or Civils Operative

·       Civil Works Operative

·       Civil Engineering Operatives

Regardless, this is an important position on any fibre project. Civil Operatives are usually the first people on any new build site, and one of the last to leave at the end of a project. They work across a combination of public highways and customer premises, assisting in the delivery of Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) or Fibre-to-the-home (FTTH).


Here are some of the general daily duties you’ll find:

  • Performing excavations in public highways

  • Repairs and reinstatements

  • Installing new duct work, chambers and street cabinets

  • Clearing blockages

  • Rod and Rope testing

  • Communicating with internal stakeholders and external customers

How much can a Civil Operative earn?

Salaries for Civil Operatives vary depending on location, but are usually between £27,000 and £40,000 per year. The average salary in the UK, as of 2022, is £36,700.

A lot of the work available to Civil Operatives is done on a day rate or “Price work” which provides an opportunity for these roles to make quite a lot of money.


What skills do you need?

This is a job where communication is critical. You’ll often be liaising with residents of premises, or members of the public, so you’ll need a professional manner and the ability to explain complex information in a simple way.

Being a Civil Operative requires a decent level of strength and stamina, and the physical nature of the role means you need to be self-motivated. For example, you may be spending hours excavating underground, so ensure you’re comfortable with this type of work.

Another important aspect is being safety focused. You should be fully aware of Health & Safety protocols and be able to follow each of them without skipping any steps.

Finally, like with many jobs, punctuality and reliability is an essential skill. You’ll be juggling multiple tasks, but as we mentioned earlier, this is a key role in any fibre installation. Being able to manage your time and completing tasks on schedule is a must-have for any Civil Operative.


What qualifications do you need?

In terms of certifications – or tickets as they’re commonly known – here are some of the most desirable ones.

  • The New Roads and Street Works Act Accreditation (NRSWA) – you might also hear this accreditation called something like “streetworks training”. NRSWA shows you’re qualified to carry out work that includes breaking up streets, or tunnelling under streets. Some of our Build Partners at CityFibre actually offer this training, so feel free to ask us for more information.

  • Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) – this is the leading skills certification scheme within the UK construction industry. Once this is completed, you’ll receive something called a CSCS Card, which shows you’ve received appropriate construction training. This includes things like cabling and excavations.

  • PIA Accreditation – this proves you’re cleared to safely work with and install PIA ducts and pole infrastructure. The key areas employers will want you to be trained in are duct blockages, duct laying and box building.

  • A full driving licence – while this isn’t an industry specific ticket as such, it’s often essential for Civil Operatives. If you’re also licenced to tow (category BE or above) then this will be an added bonus.

You may also find it useful to get a qualification from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), which is a globally recognised health and safety certification.


What experience and knowledge do you need?

Companies usually look for people who have experience in telecommunications and Fibre, especially Civils experience. If you’ve had a role such as Telecoms Project Manager, your CV will also be looked at closely.

At the same time, this isn’t essential. Anybody who has a full driving licence, as well as the NRSWA and CSCS tickets, could qualify for a Civil Operative role.

There are definitely opportunities for people with similar experience in other industries as well. Examples include Ground Workers within Construction, or anyone who’s been a Civil Works Operative in the railway industry. In jobs such as these, you may have been responsible for excavations, which is a key aspect of being a Civil Operative in Fibre, so it’s worth highlighting this.

You’ll also need to demonstrate a strong awareness of Health & Safety practices, risk assessments and identifying hazards. As mentioned earlier, this is a big part of the job, so being able to showcase these in your application will give you a great chance.


How can you progress?

Once you get in as a Civil Operative, there are several routes within the Fibre industry that you could take. The most natural step up is to become a Civil Team Leader/Supervisor, or a Site Supervisor. In these cases, you’ll often be overseeing teams of Civil Operatives – so if you can demonstrate good leadership and communication skills, this could be an option.

Other opportunities within Fibre include:

  • Project Manager – if this is something you’re interested in, you may wish to pick up some professional Project Management qualifications, with the most popular ones being Prince2 and Association for Project Management (APM).

  • Health & Safety Compliance Manager – this is sometimes known as Fibre Optics Safety Manager

  • Civils Trainer – at the rate the industry is growing, trainers are becoming more sought after, and this is a good way to utilise the skills and experience you’ve picked up.

  • Contracts Manager – this is where you could be responsible for the recruitment, coordination and discipline of various staff members, as well as potentially managing supplier negotiations.

We mentioned earlier that Ground Workers in Construction can get themselves a job as a Civil Operative. This also works the other way round, so if you want to switch industries after building up your experience, you can.

The key takeaway

If becoming a Civil Operative is something you were interested in, we hope this blog has answered some of your questions. It’s a great time to work in Fibre, and this is definitely a job which places you at the heart of an important nationwide initiative – getting communities better connected.

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