Heavy Equipment Operators: Constructing Alberta's Future Legacy
Industry Insight Heavy Equipment Operators break ground on legacies for the future of our province
Across Canada, numerous multibillion dollar infrastructure and excavation projects are underway and making good progress. At the forefront of these projects is a skilled set of committed heavy-equipment operators.
Demand across Canada
Without heavy-equipment operators, the projects that will define the future of Canada’s economy would simply come to a halt; progress would stop tomorrow. So, as more projects begin, and Alberta’s oil-sand reserves continue to expand, the demand for heavy-equipment operators continues to grow.
“We work very closely with companies to ensure the training is what they need.”
Canada desperately needs a new generation of talented heavy-equipment operators to fill the thousands of jobs that will be created over the next decade. Also, thousands of operators are expected to retire over the next decade, increasing the demand for young, ambitious operators even further.
That’s why the commitment being shown to provide high-level training to the next generation of operators is so important. Without the foundational understanding and education that training schools provide, Alberta’s forestry, mining, civil, road building, and oil and gas sectors would face a severe lack of skilled, local workers.
“There’s a sense of accomplishment that comes from creating something,” explains Mike Hansen, the General Manager of the Interior Heavy Equipment (IHE) Operator School. “They get to see what they build. A lot of people tell us it doesn’t feel like work. They get to play in the dirt every day and have fun doing it.”
Real world training
The private-run IHE Operator School, which has locations in Innisfail, Alberta and Winfield, British Columbia, provides students with real-world training on excavators, dozers, articulated rock trucks, graders, wheel loaders, and rubber-tire backhoes. Each day, students receive five hours of training on their own machine and two hours of classroom learning. Students also learn trenching techniques, road activation and deactivation, rock-wall building, backfilling, slope trenching, leveling, and laser-level use.
It’s practical, vocational learning and — most importantly — it’s fun. Training is geared towards equipping students with the skills that they will need to become valued employees. “We work very closely with companies to ensure the training is what they need,” says Hansen. “Many companies hire our students right out of our school because they know they have a greater success rate than green operators with no prior training.” As well as training students, IHE can also act as a resource for employers to call when they need to fill multiple, skilled operator position. With weekly Monday start-dates year round, IHE sees students of all ages and backgrounds (majority 25 to 45 years old) meet and work together just like a real-world construction site.
They also report a welcomed increase in the number of female students who are eager to enter one of Canada’s burgeoning and most exciting trades. “Our percentage of females has increased in the last three years significantly,” says Christine Bay, IHE’s Business Development Manager. “We’re seeing more female HR managers do the screenings and hiring at job fairs, too.”
It’s more than just the interesting and varied day-to-day work that makes heavy-equipment operation an attractive job, though. It’s a trade that offers substantial remuneration packages. According to the 2013 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, the average annual salary for heavy-equipment operators is $77,543.
Covering the costs
Yes, sometimes the cost of training and education can be a prohibitive barrier: it can just seem too expensive. But, in the case of heavy-equipment operator training compared to a traditional degree, not so. Alberta’s provincial government has decided to step in to cover some of the education costs. Alberta has recognized the need for skilled, high-demand trades training including local heavy-equipment operators and has acted accordingly. The Canada Alberta Job Grant covers two thirds of the training costs, with the other third being covered by an employer. This funding program is a huge boost for anybody eager to join the trade, or already employed and seeking further growth opportunities.
So, what are you waiting for? Escape your boring nine-to-five and do something worthwhile. Make a call today or sign up online and join Canada’s growing team of male and female heavy-equipment operators. “If people have the confidence to invest in themselves, the jobs are there,” says Hansen.