What to Expect
Experience goes a long way in the field of heavy equipment operator training.
John Tessier lived on a farm all his life, so he knew something about operating
heavy equipment. "I wanted a good job," he says, "so I thought a union-operated
school was the way to go."
Tessier completed a 30-day course with the Operating Engineers Training
Institute. "I'll probably go back for some more courses -- probably the crane
apprentice course," he says.
He says it's always a good idea to make sure a school is credible before
you sign up. "Check out the school with employers, unions and even the
department of education," he says.
Tessier says his favorite part of the program was the hands-on stuff.
"But I know that the instruction in safety was important too," he adds.
Tessier was surprised to find out that the skills he learned on the farm
were useful to his training, and that his training will help him operate
other equipment. "I took a tractor, loader and backhoe course," he says,
"but I can use the stuff I learned here on other equipment."
Cindy Flood found a job in construction the summer following high school
and stayed with it. "I love being outside and I don't mind the traveling I
do with the job," she says. "My company bids on a lot of state jobs, so we
move around a bit."
When she decided she needed something a little different, she looked into
some of the heavy equipment operator courses but found them too expensive.
"I wasn't willing or able to spend the time and money on something like this
if I couldn't use it," she says.
Flood approached her employer. "I told him I would pay for half the course,
he could pay the other half and he would have a trained operator when I was
done." Since qualified operators were in demand in her area, her employer
Flood encountered some surprises in her training. "It's not just driving,"
she says. "You have to know how to maintain the equipment and you have
to know something about the material [such as soil] you are working with."
Flood has a couple suggestions for students looking at this for a career.
"Get a sponsor like I did," she advises. "Ask some of the local contractors
which school offers a good program. Some have good reputations, some don't."