Prineville is partnering with the Baker Technical Institute (BTI) out of Baker City to address the nationwide shortage of heavy equipment operators.
BTI offers a hands-on, five week training course for aspiring heavy equipment operators. The course has expanded to Prineville, offering the training to Central Oregonians.
“They’re learning the operation skills of the machine. They’re learning its quirks, its screws, what the toughest parts of it are. You know, ‘how much dirt can you pick up or dig?’ and the movements and the placements of buckets and the implements that are on the machines,” BTI student Rocky Wilson said.
BTI says nearly 42,300 heavy equipment operator positions are left open each year.
Students are given the opportunity to operate a range of different tractors — from excavators to front loaders — at a gravel pit in Prineville.
Friday was graduation day for the most recent five-week training session. Twenty-five students completed the Heavy Equipment Operator class.
“For someone who has no experience, if you come into this program you now have a chance to get in with the big guys. You can get all sorts of jobs with the certifications this program offers,” class instructor Harrison Holt said.
Holt says the program is extremely popular.
“Most people who work in this industry will spend about 2 years or so working before they have an opportunity to be in a machine. With this program, they can potentially be stuck straight in the machine, and be making twice more. Sometimes three times more,” Holt said.
BTI says the City of Prineville reached out with interest in their training program. The two have been partners for nearly four years.
The course is completely funded through the Bureau of Labor and Industry Grant, making the class itself free to take. However, students must pay for their own living accommodations and food.