Heavy equipment operators are employed in many areas of the construction industry, some of which include both state and local government work, landscaping, road construction, logging, mining, underground utilities and housing developments. Graduates can expect above average earning potential when they are employed in the grading and excavating industry. The ability to operate various types of heavy equipment makes for a versatile employee which is essential to the construction industry. Knowledge of the maintenance of heavy equipment is critical in maintaining daily construction operations. Positions can be found in rural and metropolitan areas with both large and small companies nationwide. Today's construction includes updated equipment with joystick controls and the use of a global positioning system (GPS). Opportunities are available to progress in the industry to lead operator positions, site supervision or operating your own business. Contractors in all areas of the construction industry need trained employees to be successful.
The Heavy Equipment Operation and Maintenance Program at Central Lakes College, Staples Campus is a unique program offered in Minnesota. The 64-credit program includes courses in both maintenance and operation of heavy construction equipment. Incorporated into the program is the opportunity to “fast track,” which includes attending summer session and completing the program with a fourth semester internship in industry.
In the well-equipped West Campus maintenance shop students learn the skills necessary to service and maintain a fleet of heavy equipment. After completion of the maintenance courses, students are given real life projects in the operations field experiencing hands on training on dozers, scrapers, graders, backhoes, wheel loaders, excavators, skid steers and trucks. An opportunity to improve student skills is available on various simulators including truck driving, excavator, motor grader and wheel loader. Curriculum includes courses in construction survey, blueprint reading, and soils and compaction. Experienced faculty share their knowledge and experience from industry with the next generation of heavy equipment operators.
Training takes place at the 360-acre Staples West Campus operations training site with ample space for students to experience hands-on equipment operating. Additional areas are available for special operations such as excavating in water and muck, rock work and clearing and grubbing. The West Campus includes an up-to-date classroom facility and recently completed nine-bay maintenance shop with overhead cranes, welding bay and dedicated wash bays. The classroom facility includes a soils lab where students are instructed in various types of soil identification and testing.
The Heavy Equipment Operation and Maintenance Program encourages the development of teamwork and interpersonal communication skills required in the workforce. The program also stresses the importance of safety, a strong work ethic and the value of continuing education and lifelong learning. The Heavy Equipment Operation and Maintenance Program enables students to stay on top of technological advances in construction equipment, such as GPS, and other issues related to the industry’s needs. We are mindful of the needs of the industry, and strive to educate students to maintain the highest standards of quality and integrity to enhance economic growth in communities. Contractors seek competent people to fill the seats of the retiring generation to uphold a competitive business.
Program Learning Outcomes
Graduates will be able to:
1. Perform basic operations of earthmoving equipment related to grading and excavation needs
2. Perform basic heavy equipment maintenance and repairs
3. Demonstrate written and verbal comprehension of basic surveying techniques related to grades, elevations and blueprint reading
4. Identify and practice safe work habits as required by OSHA and industry standards
5. Obtain a current OSHA 10 hour Safety Card
6. Maintain a Class A Commercial Driver’s License
7. Maintain a Red Cross CPR/First Aid Certification
8. Demonstrate knowledge of the terms and responsibilities of a “competent person” as it pertains to OSHA, Subpart P
Special Program Requirements
Students entering the program will need a current CDL permit and are required to participate in mandatory drug testing. Students in the program must maintain a current driver’s license while attending. Random drug and alcohol screening of students in the program will be done throughout the year.
The Heavy Equipment Operation and Maintenance Program is offered as a full-time day program. New students are accepted into the program in August, December, and June.
Some common career titles of this field are heavy equipment operator, pipeline or crane oiler, snowplow operator, and haul truck driver.
With virtually 100% placement and above-average earning potential, graduates are employed in the grading and excavating industry. Job opportunities are available in all areas of the construction industry as well as mining and logging and also with state and local governments. Many former graduates of the program have become supervisors and some have started their own construction companies.