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Operating Engineers

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Operating Engineers

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.


Salary & Benefits
The current wage for journeyman operating engineers is $33.53 to $38.12 per hour.
In addition, the current benefit package is worth $17.68. Benefits include:
   • Family health insurance
• Pension and Annuity
• Disability Insurance

Working Conditions & Career Outlook
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.

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 favorable opportunities.”

Apprenticeship
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 each machine.

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.


Apprentice Requirements
The minimum requirements for admission into the operating engineers training program are:
   • At least 18 years of age
• 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.

Skill Areas
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.


Earthmoving Equipment/Cranes
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.

Cranes
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.

Hazardous Material
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.


Profile
Students who have the following characteristics, are ideal candidates for the operating
engineers profession:
   • 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

Where to Go:

Operating Engineer:
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
  (973) 921-2900