Heavy equipment operator students learn to drive dump trucks, backhoes,
bulldozers and excavators. They may also specialize in crane, forklift or
boom truck operation. Experience is the best training in this field.
Each state has specific driver's license requirements for heavy
equipment operators. To find out the requirements for your region, contact
your local driver examination center.
This training is offered both at community and technical colleges and
by private vocational training centers. If you're thinking of going with
a private trainer, don't shell out any money until you check out its credentials.
Some types of training require an apprenticeship, which combines
on-the-job training with classroom study. For apprenticeship programs, you'll
need an employer to sponsor and train you.
During training, you won't be sitting in class all day. Stu Seiffert coordinates
the training program at a community college. He says students get "hands-on
experience with equipment on actual work sites."
Courses vary in length. If you have no experience, Seiffert recommends
you get at least 60 hours of training.
The National Center for Construction Education and Research in Florida
offers a similar program. "Coursework includes instruction in equipment
maintenance, safety and the specific uses of each machine," says former
center representative Tanya Fisher. "We also offer courses in soil types,
techniques and heating and cooling systems."
It's not difficult to get into a program, but it does depend on who you
are competing against for admission.
"We require a minimum of Grade 10 and applicants must be 19," says Seiffert,
who emphasizes that that is a minimum requirement. "Applicants with experience
or those who are upgrading skills or have a guaranteed job after graduation
are obviously taken first."
What can you do to prepare? "Get some experience," says Seiffert.
"Work on construction in the summer, especially with a company doing pipe-laying
or subdivision work."
A high school mechanics class might be useful, because many of the
training programs teach you some repair basics.
"Keep a clean driving record," advises Rosalie Edwards. She is co-owner
of CEO Training in Oregon, which offers heavy equipment operator training.
"Kids don't realize that it can take five to 10 years to clear a driving
record. Meanwhile, companies can't hire you to use their equipment because
their insurance companies will refuse to insure you."
Most programs offer modular training, where students can purchase what
they need or what they can afford. Training is expensive -- costs reflect
the expense of buying and maintaining the equipment. You may also have to
buy a hard hat, safety vest, gloves, hearing protection and steel-toed workboots,
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Material
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