Pulp & paper

Pulp and paper mills use complex machinery so operators need high levels of skill and are supported by teams of chemical and process engineers.

Careers information

What does it involve?

Pulp and paper operators use machinery and equipment to make pulp and paper. They understand both manual and computer-controlled systems and processes and monitor, maintain and make minor repairs to ensure a consistent quality of output throughout the production process.

For more information about careers in pulp and paper processing click here to visit the Competenz Wood Careers website.

Typical day

Typically, an 8-hour day or shift work. A typical day involves,monitoring and operating waste treatment plants to ensure environmental compliance, operating chemical plants, set and operate wood-chip machinery, operate refiners, boilers and large complex dryers and pulp converting machinery.

How could I get into the industry?

There are no specific entry requirements to become a pulp and paper mill operator as skills are usually gained on the job. Useful experience for pulp and paper workers includes working using machinery and computers and some engineering experience. A forklift license is useful.

Does this sound like you?

Study areas

• English or Media Studies or History

• Maths or Accounting or Economics 

• Sciences or Workshop Technology

• Computing / ICT / Information


• Reasonable strength and fitness

• Good organisation skills

• Good work habits / time management

• Good at problem solving / creative

Helpful experience

• Customer service or helping people

• Making or fixing things

• Selling or persuading people

• Working with machinery

Preferred work environments

• Inside (retail/shop/etc...)

• One place every day

How much could I earn?

Icn Money


$45k - $80k

Career Pathway

School Entry level jobs Advancing jobs Senior jobs

NCEA Level 2 is ideal

Pulp and Paper Operator

Team Leader


Business Manager
Unit/Achievement standards in schools Traineeship or Apprenticeship Higher learning Higher learning

What do we offer?

  • We partner with industry associations and members of your industry to help recruit and build talented employees. This support includes promoting careers in your industry, identifying potential learners, and encouraging work placements.
  • We also ensure your industry’s qualifications continue to meet needs, support industry events like conferences and regularly celebrate your learners’ success.
  • When apprentices enrol, we assign them a Competenz account manager. Our account managers understand the industry and the skills learners and businesses need to gain.

What's changing?

New Zealand Certificates are replacing National Certificates. The industry and New Zealand Qualifications Authority will recognise all New Zealand and National Certificates as valid, relevant qualifications. Our Competenz account managers will work with companies and learners to help learners complete the appropriate qualifications.

• The content from the former Level 2 National Certificate is now part of the level 3 New Zealand Certificate.
• The level 3 New Zealand Certificate is now the entry point for new employees.
• All the strands (options) are now in the level 4 New Zealand Certificate. These strands cover both wet end and dry end in the production process.
• There are no changes to unit standards, except levels and credits.

How has the industry been involved?

Members of the industry have recommended the structure and content of the new qualifications.

The New Zealand Certificates are now available for learners to study towards. They will replace the National Certificates over the next few years.

If learners...


Are part way through a National Certificate

Our Competenz account managers will review learners’ progress and confirm the appropriate way forward for each learner.

Have not yet started their qualification 

They will enrol in the New Zealand Certificate.

Have completed  a National Certificate 

They will not need to enrol in the new qualification. The industry continues to recognise National Certificates as valid, relevant qualifications.

 Our Competenz account managers will work with companies and learners to help them understand what they need to do to complete the appropriate qualification.

New Zealand Certificates

Pulp and paper handbookThe programme handbook summarises the New Zealand Certificates and how to work towards them.


70 credits

12 months

About this qualification
This qualification provides the pulp and paper industry with people who have the skills and knowledge needed to work in entry level operational roles under limited supervision. Graduates will gain introductory knowledge of pulp and paper processes, relevant environmental issues, health and safety requirements, and quality systems.

All learners must complete a set of core skills.

Who this qualification is intended for
New entrants to the pulp and paper industry.

View the NZQA qualification overview.


24 months

About this qualification
This qualification provides the pulp and paper industry with people who have the advanced skills and knowledge needed to operate safely and efficiently the plant and equipment used in pulp and paper manufacturing. Graduates will be able to work without supervision or under broad guidance.

The qualification is stranded to recognise the specialist skills and knowledge needed to work in specific areas of the industry. These are the four strands:
• Mechanical pulping
• Dry end
• Wet end
• Pulp and paper forming.

Graduates will understand the science and technology behind manufacturing processes used to make pulp and paper. They will be able to:
• apply their knowledge of processes to improve productivity and quality
• control plant and equipment safely and efficiently in their specialist area.

Learners must complete a set of core skills plus some elective skills.

Who this qualification is intended for
Employees who have already mastered entry level skills and knowledge.

View the NZQA qualification overview.