Virtual Reality In Heavy-Equipment Operator Continuing Education

Heavy-Equipment Operator Continuing Education

Finding construction/development employment in the heavy equipment field is not difficult. There are a variety of entry-level construction jobs on the ground that allows almost anyone to get a foot in the door. On the other hand, finding a job as an operator, if a person does not have experience, is unlikely.

Traditionally, there were two means of acquiring operator experience: on-the-job construction/development training and attending a vocational school. Both are still sound means of getting the experience required to land an operator job and there are advantages to both strategies. There are also disadvantages to both of these career-path approaches.

Like everything related to diesel engines, the advantages, and disadvantages of gaining experience as an operator are related to time and money. Even for those who do have operator experience, but would like to add skills, the possibility of continuing education is also largely a matter of whether a person has the time and money to attend school.

On-the-Job Construction/Development Training

The majority of heavy equipment operators — aka operator engineers — acquire their training on the job. With respect to experience quantity, on-the-job heavy equipment training is the best option. A person typically gains more experience operating once they are promoted to an operator position.

But, gaining on-the-job heavy equipment training is a slow process.

Typically, heavy equipment operators start out their career on the ground with a shovel in hand, fitting pipe, and spotting for an operator. The next step toward becoming an operating engineer is manning a small, single-purpose machine like a roller packer and skid steers. From there, inexperienced heavy equipment operators move on to larger, more-complex heavy equipment like front-end loaders and backhoes. Finally, an operator engineer will graduate to excavators, road graders and cranes.

“Many workers learn their jobs by operating light equipment under the guidance of an experienced operator. Later, they may operate heavier equipment, such as bulldozers,” explains the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Other workers learn their trade through a 3- or 4-year [heavy equipment] apprenticeship. For each year of the program, apprentices must have at least 144 hours of technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. On the job, apprentices learn to maintain equipment, operate machinery, and use special technology, such as a Global Positioning System (GPS).”

The ascension of a heavy equipment operator from one machine to another — gaining experience on-the-job — can take years. While time-consuming, on-the-job training is still the only means of getting paid to learn.

Heavy Equipment Vocational Schools

Traditionally, attending a heavy equipment vocational school was the only other means of gaining experience on heavy equipment. Though gaining experience on heavy equipment at a vocational school means learning to operate much more quickly — within weeks in most cases, — heavy equipment vocational schools can be expensive. And typically, attending a heavy equipment vocational school means covering one’s own costs for an education in operating heavy equipment.

But again, attending a heavy equipment vocational school means getting on a machine within a matter of days and beginning to operate heavy equipment, something that can take a manual laborer years to get promoted too when trying to gain operating experience on the job.

Construction/Development Virtual Classrooms and Heavy Equipment Simulators

As a result of advances in education technologies, there is now a third option for those people hoping to gain heavy-equipment operator experience. No longer do on-the-job training and/or attending a heavy equipment vocational school the only options for those want to start a career in heavy equipment construction or add to their knowledge base.

With the advent of construction/development virtual classrooms and heavy equipment simulators, becoming familiar with the heavy equipment and construction and development is becoming considerably less expensive than in the past.

Traditionally, learning to operate heavy equipment at a vocational school meant the student was paying for an instructor, paying for the use of the facilities, for machine fuel costs; heavy equipment maintenance, etc. Though the expenses are spread out over a number of students, heavy-equipment operating costs are still high.

Education technology — online courses and heavy equipment simulators — allow schools to reduce expenses and pass those savings on to the students. Online classrooms and heavy equipment simulators make both introductory courses as well as continuing education a possibility for a larger number of people.

Today’s Heavy-Equipment Continuing Education: Less Expensive, Less Time Consuming

Heavy equipment owners are not opposed to operators and drivers continuing to gain theoretical and practical knowledge pertaining to heavy equipment and construction. But the expenses and scheduling conflicts associated with traditional heavy equipment continuing education limited what company owners and managers could provide.

Again, like everything else in construction, costs and time dictate the amount of training a company can provide its employees. Not only was traditional construction/development continuing education expensive, operator continuing education was time-consuming.

In the past, time employees spent on heavy-equipment continuing education was time they did not spend working.

Fortunately, the continuing education industry is taking steps to limit the amount of time lost at work as an employee continues their education.

Online Heavy Equipment Courses and Heavy-Equipment Virtual Machines

There are a number of companies that provide online heavy equipment courses for people interested in becoming heavy equipment operators and for operators who want to continue their heavy equipment/construction education. Online training allows students to take and complete the courses at their own pace and during their own time which means they do not need to take time off work or relocate to continue their heavy equipment training.

Examples of companies that offer online and virtual classroom learning for those people interested in pursuing a heavy equipment operator career as a heavy equipment operator and for those operators who would like to further their heavy equipment education are:

CAT Heavy Equipment Operator Training

CAT’s e-learning operator training is intended for operators and individuals who wish to improve their basic knowledge of heavy equipment controls, heavy equipment maintenance, heavy equipment inspection, heavy equipment operator safety, pre-operating and heavy equipment operating procedures. CAT offers three types of virtual classroom learning experiences: Cat eLearning CDs and Caterpillar Online Training.

In addition to its off-site educational programs, students can also take advantage of CAT Simulator Operator Training.

ConTech Academy

A company dedicated to the latest tech-trends, ConTech Academy is an online education provider that allows those new to construction and development and those who want to further their education to learn at their own pace.

So potential students can gain an understanding of what courses entail,  ConTech Academy offers four courses for free:

•Quality Management In The Digital Age

•Safety with Mobile

•Site Layout & QA with Robotic Total Stations

•Site Surveys with Drones


A provider of construction courses taught by industry pros, ConstructEd is designed for those people interested in the administrative components of the construction/development industry.

Other education institutions that offer online heavy equipment operating and safety courses include:

Interior Heavy Equipment

Lehigh Career and Technical Institute

Valencia College Continuing Education

Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

New Castle County Vo-Tec School District

Fleming College


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