Handling the bulldozers, cranes and other large machines,
operating engineers take care of the heavy lifting and excavation.
Operating engineers run the iron behemoths that excavate the terrain
and transport heavy material around building sites. They are behind
the controls of the cranes that raise and move large steel beams.
They operate the machines that are used in every stage of road,
tunnel and bridge construction – from flattening and grading
to paving and sealing.
Bulldozers, cranes, front-end loaders, pile drivers and other large
machines are the tools of their profession.
Operating engineers don’t only know how to control the equipment,
they must learn how it works so that they know its capabilities.
Operating engineers must also maintain and repair their equipment.
When a piece of machinery breaks down, the operating engineer has
to get it working again quickly so work can continue.
The current wage for journeyman operating engineers is $33.53 to $38.12
In addition, the current benefit package is worth $17.68.
Most work is performed outdoors in all climates and weather
conditions. Working with heavy machinery can be hazardous but safety
training ensures that skilled engineers can prevent accidents and
avoid injury. Operating engineers often get dirty, greasy or muddy,
and sometimes must work in dusty conditions.
||• Family health insurance
• Pension and Annuity
• Disability Insurance
Apprentice opportunities are more limited than other trades. An
incoming class totals only about 40 apprentices.
Employment of construction equipment operators is expected to increase
at a rate between three and nine percent, according to the federal
Occupational Outlook Handbook. Employment is expected to increase
as population and business growth create a need for new houses,
industrial facilities, schools, hospitals, offices, and other structures.
Also stimulating demand is the expected growth in highway, bridge,
and street construction. Bridge construction is expected to grow
the fastest, due to the need to repair or replace structures before
they become unsafe.
According to the OOH, “Well-trained workers will have especially
Operating engineer apprentices learn their craft at the International
Union of Operating Engineers Training Center in Dayton, Middlesex
County. The training center covers 38 acres and has more than 30
pieces of heavy equipment on which apprentices learn all aspects
of the profession.
The training program consists of four sections – called training
slots – that each entail 120 hours of classroom training and
1,000 hours of on-the-job training with an approved contractor.
The total training period takes between 30 months to 48 months,
depending on how much opportunity for on-the-job training is available.
The more work an apprentice performs, the faster he or she accumulates
the necessary hours to complete the program.
Apprentices start in the classroom, learning basic elements of
the profession and essential safety skills. In this first training
slot, apprentices receive the 10-hour OSHA Safety Course, the 40-hour
Hazardous Material Course, and forklift and excavation safety courses.
After completing the initial 120 hours in the classroom, apprentices
are sent on the job for 1000 hours, for which they receive 60 percent
of the journeyman wage rate.
After each training slot is completed, the apprentice receives
a 10 percent wage increase so that they are earning 90 percent of
the journeyman wage rate when they complete the final training slot.
During their training, apprentices learn how to maintain and fix
At the end of the fourth training slot, apprentices are tested
on their proficiency on five pieces of equipment: two types of back
hoe, track hoe, front-end loader and bulldozer.
Apprentices may also learn how to operate a crane and other machines
like pile drivers, though it is common for training on these advanced
pieces of equipment to be completed at the journeyman level. All
apprentices graduate from the program with a commercial driver’s
license, which allows them to drive tractor trailers.
The minimum requirements for admission into the operating engineers
training program are:
||• At least 18 years of
• High school education is not required but desired
• Physically able to perform moderately strenuous work
Candidates are given an exam that tests math, reading comprehension
and locating skills.
Operating engineers often commute as much as 90 minutes to a job site
and must have their own transportation.
Admission into the training program is highly competitive because
of the limited number of apprentice slots.
Operating engineers are trained to be proficient in all areas
of the trade including operating earth moving equipment and cranes,
maintaining equipment and handling hazardous materials.
Operating engineers control excavation and loading machines equipped
with scoops, shovels or buckets that dig sand, gravel, earth and
load it into trucks or onto conveyors to facilitate removal from
the job site. Operating earth moving equipment is a tremendous responsibility.
Those handling bulldozers and other large, mobile machines must
learn all proper safety procedures to ensure the well being of themselves
and their colleagues.
Record breaking skyscrapers, modern stadiums and other large structures
could not be completed without the large cranes that make moving
heavy materials around a job site.
Operating engineer apprentices and journeymen have the opportunity
to learn how to handle cranes. The South Brunswick Training Center
offers practical “hands-on” training on various crane
types, as well as a state-of-the-art crane simulator.
Operating engineers are taught to fully understand the effects of
specific hazardous materials and toxins, how to properly use protective
equipment and the dangers of explosives and other reactive substances.
Through this training, they not only are able to protect themselves
but also can play a vital role in cleaning up contaminated sites
and removing hazardous materials.
Students who have the following characteristics, are ideal candidates
for the operating
||• Mechanically inclined;
experience in mechanics is very helpful
• Good driver
• Ability to understand and follow directions
Physically fit and able to climb onboard large equipment
• Applicants with good eye-hand coordination do well
• Operating engineers must be able to follow directions
and good people skills also help in job environment
|Students interested in being an operating engineer
should contact the following training center:
||Len Hull, Training Coordinator
||International Union of Operating Engineers
Local 825 Training Center
338 Deans Roade Hall Road
Dayton, NJ 08818