If you’re like most people, over the past few months you’ve probably had time to think about what you want to do with the rest of your life. Summer is just around the corner, and it feels so good to be outside. What if you could work outside, make really good money, not have to take your job “home” with you, and know that your job is in demand? That’s life for a heavy equipment operator. If you’re saying, “That’s the life for me,” then you should read on to learn about heavy equipment certification.
Almost every construction project anywhere in the world needs people who can operate heavy equipment: backhoes, bulldozers, graders, loaders, pavers and cranes. This equipment pushes, pulls, pumps or lifts materials; flattens surfaces; and pretty much prepares job sites for construction.
Although each company and specific job may require different responsibilities, these are some common ones:
1. Operate machinery according to the company’s safety policies and procedures.
2. Suggest ways of operating equipment to improve environmental performance.
3. Load and unload equipment from trucks and trailers.
4. Maintain, service, clean and store the company’s heavy equipment safely and properly.
5. Adjust machine settings so that material flows and distributes properly.
6. Complete paperwork and documentation as required.
7. Remember that you can’t just get in a machine and do the job. It’s critical to be properly trained on safe operating procedures.
There are two main ways of learning to operate heavy duty equipment, as long as you are at least 18 years old and have earned a high school diploma or GED.
1. You can become a union apprentice. In three to four years you’ll be eligible for certification and can earn full salary. You’ll learn on the job from an experienced operator, but you’ll only earn 45-60 percent of a full journeyman’s wage; during your final year of apprenticeship, you could earn 80-90 percent of journeyman wages.
2. You can train at heavy equipment operator school. This can be a far better option because you can train in as little as three weeks and then go out on the job earning full wages. Going to school to operate heavy equipment teaches you the mechanics of the machines you’ll use.
Attending a school like Heavy Equipment Colleges of America can give you the hands-on training and the heavy machinery license employers across the country value. You can complete the first level of heavy equipment training in just three weeks. That could get you an entry-level position in earthmoving using the backhoe and front-end loader: digging, trenching and loading. By the time you finish, you should know construction site fundamentals, including blueprint reading.
To be eligible for licensing, you need to prove that you have the skills to operate heavy equipment, which you can learn at a construction operator school. At HEC, once you take and pass heavy equipment level 1 and 2 programs, you’ll have a Certificate of Heavy Equipment Operations and will get your operator’s card (license). If you want to operate cranes, you’ll need to take additional courses. At HEC, it requires 12 weeks of training to certify on the lattice boom, swing cab and fixed cab cranes. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requires the additional training.
In some cases, you may also be required to have a CDL (commercial driver’s license) if your equipment carries hazardous materials or weighs more than 26,0001 pounds when traveling on public roads.
Having the in-depth skills to operate heavy equipment is essential, but some other basic skills can help you be a better operator:
1. Hand and foot coordination so you can direct big equipment into tiny places
2. Equipment monitoring because you’ll need to read gauges and dials, and be able to adjust them as necessary
3. Interpersonal and communication ability because you’ll be working with a team of other workers
4. Troubleshooting ability to know how to find and fix problems
5. Critical thinking so you can solve problems in an efficient and cost-effective manner
HEC’s training offers a combination of classroom, hands-on and field training that prepares you for jobs in construction. Moreover, HEC training teaches you to be safe on the job and gives you extra knowledge that may set you apart from other job candidates. You’ll learn to:
1. Evaluate soil conditions
2. Read blueprints
3. Calculate weight and volume
4. Prepare construction sites
5. Excavate underground and for utilities
Additionally, HEC’s Career Services Department provide nationwide access to career opportunities and job search assistance to both students and program graduates.
HEC offers programs in several locations:
• Georgia – Stonecrest
• Oklahoma – Oklahoma City
• California – San Bernardino
• Washington – Lakewood*
Construction firms; specialty trade contractors; and city, state and municipal governments all need to hire heavy equipment operators who can work on their projects—and in any kind of weather or conditions (think enclosed spaces and tall heights). There’s no sign that construction in this country is going to stop—or even slow down—anytime soon. O*NETOnLine estimates job growth for heavy equipment operators to be faster than average for other professions. In 2018, the median wage was $22.98 an hour or almost $48,000 a year.
HEC can prepare you for an entry-level job as a heavy equipment operator that can lead to a satisfying, reliable career. Contact HEC for more information.
*Located on a military base and eligible to veterans only through the Career Skills Program (CSP). VA Education Benefits can be used in Washington.