Heavy Equipment Operator Training boosted by Federal funding

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A Federal government investment of $230,000 will allow Great Plains College to purchase mobile simulation equipment to be used in their Heavy Equipment Operator training program.

During a media event on Tuesday, Cypress Hills Grasslands MP David Anderson announced the $230,000 in funding from Western Economic Diversification Canada which will create the mobile simulation lab.

Heavy equipment operators are in short supply across Saskatchewan, with heavy equipment operators employed in over 80 sectors including road and oil field construction, mining and manufacturing. The simulation equipment will help train new heavy equipment operators in how to use graders, excavators, loaders, bulldozers and scrapers.

"I really see this as a win-win-win. It's a win for students. It's a win for the institution here. It's a win for industry as well," MP Anderson explained during Tuesday's announcement. "It will result in the cutting of tuition costs in half for Heavy Equipment Operator students. It will decrease the course length by two weeks. It will increase the number of graduates from 12 to 24, and ultimately to 32 per year. And it's going to provide employers with an opportunity to actually enrol employees in courses on their job sites."

Dr. David Keast, President and CEO, Great Plains College, said this is an important course because of the high demand for well trained heavy equipment operators in Saskatchewan.

"The fact that it's mobile means that the equipment and the technology can be moved to where the training is needed. So we can, theoretically, go anywhere in the province to a Rural Municipality or other organization to offer the entire program or to offer upgrading for existing operators. So it's very much a step forward from stationary in-class instruction."

"Most important is reducing the cost of training to students. That's they key. Because the demand is so high in the province, and the demand is not being met because it's a very expensive program to run."

Devin Wallin, Marketing Manager, Kramer Ltd. said the high tech training tool is an important asset.

"It's an emerging area in the world of training for heavy equipment and again it's something that we think is cutting edge and we're excited to be a part of it."

As a partner in the mobile simulation lab, Kramer Ltd. will also have access to this shared resource. The simulators are housed in trailers, so when the course is not being offered by Great Plains College, Kramer Tractor will be able to use the simulators to do training with their customers.

The ultimate goal of the training equipment is to train better skilled operators when they begin to operate real equipment.

"It's not going to replace the actual seat time in an actual machine, but it really just tightens up that learning curve between completely new to an employer feeling confident he's going to know what he's doing."

Scott Lamb, who graduated from the Heavy Equipment Operator program in 2004 and now owns Coolees Excavating, said having better trained new employees is important to business owners.

"The problem I ran into was experienced operators wanted money and they had lots of places to be and job offers, really hard to keep them around," Lamb said. "Programs like this help curve that person going from no experience into experience. Hiring someone right out of this course is a great thing and I'm so excited to see this course is back."

"To me it really bridges the gap between no experience and a lot of experience."

Organizations: Great Plains College, Western Economic Diversification Canada

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Swift Current

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