Young men and women from the CNX Foundation Mentorship Academy attended a day of instruction and hands-on experience at the Western Pennsylvania Operating Engineers Joint Apprenticeship and Training Program facility in New Alexandria, PA. The site is anchored by a massive 33,000-square-foot training facility equipped with classrooms and shops, as well as an outdoor complex where budding operating engineers can practice on a full spectrum of heavy equipment ranging from cranes/hoists to earth-moving machinery such as backhoes and excavators.
The impressive facility and associated instruction are affiliated with Local 66 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, which covers most of western Pennsylvania and parts of eastern Ohio.
Local 66’s Marketing Representative Gary Breidegam kicked the day off with a presentation covering what operating engineers do, the training path to becoming a journeyman, and what it’s like working in the trade. Of course, like many of the building trades, the pay and benefits are excellent. The presentation’s combination of formal slides but genuine discussion provided the students a great feel for what the path to becoming an operating engineer would look like.
Next, it was time to head outside, navigate through some mud, and take a turn at operating a crane and an excavator.
We’ve noted this before in prior blog posts but it’s worth repeating: there is nothing that beats a hands-on experience to convey to a prospective worker what it’s like to be a professional in the specific field. The trainers at the Western Pennsylvania Operating Engineers Joint Apprenticeship & Training Program facility proved this universal truth once again. The excitement of the students was visible to say the least. As a bonus, they gained an experience that few other high school students can boast (we will be adding it to the resume, for sure).
A career in this field has an added, hidden advantage not understood until you sit in the seat of the machine. As one student put it, “I was having a bad week and was in a bad mood at the start of the day today. But when I got in that cab and started to focus on operating the excavator, I forgot all about the outside world and got locked-in to what I was doing. A job like this would be exciting.”
Meaningful work, great wages, and a therapeutic work environment. What more could you ask for in a career? Visit: https://www.wpaoperators.org/ to learn more about the Western Pennsylvania Operating Engineers.