Midlands Technical College has added another program in response to ongoing labor shortages.
With the help of a $700,000 donation from Truist and the Truist Foundation, Midlands Tech announced a new Heavy Equipment Operator program, adding two simulators to aid in the training. The school says it is the first program of its kind in South Carolina.
The simulators will help students learn how to operate bulldozers, motor graders, excavators, and backhoe loaders.
According to Mike Ross, the new program’s director, each student will train for 60 hours on each piece of machinery, saving about 150 gallons of gas and reducing the number of operational hours that have to be put on the actual equipment.
“Our mission is workforce development.” Midlands Tech President Ronald Rhames told the Chronicle. “That is why we are here to help employers of all sectors to find the workers that they need.”
Christy Hall, the state's secretary of transportation, was on hand for a rollout event for the program held March 9 at Midlands Tech’s Airport Campus in West Columbia. She said the need for heavy equipment operators in the state has never been greater, adding that knowing how to run and operate this equipment is critical in response and recovery operations.
A press release about the program emphasizes that workers trained on heavy equipment are vital for key infrastructure projects in the state.
The idea for the program began about a year ago when Chris Zimmer, Truist’s senior vice president and market president, and Nancy McKinney, CEO of the Midlands Technical College Foundation, began talking about the need for such training..
“Granted, we didn't have to wear hard hats,” Zimmer said. “We didn't have to get our hands dirty, but we for sure were working smart and hard, and it's really exciting to be here today.”
McKinney said the money given by Truist funded the two simulators as well as faculty and software costs, adding that the simulators provide a high-tech training experience that can happen regardless of weather conditions and regardless of the time of day.
The simulators are also portable, which she said will make training more accessible to those looking to build successful careers in the high-demand field.
Per a press release, participants in the program will be eligible for a QuickJob scholarship that would fully cover the cost of the program.
Ross explained that trainees will spend 80% of their time on the simulator, with the other 20% being hands-on experience with the equipment. Training on the simulator will allow students in the program to learn about safety and control operations before working with the actual machines.
Program courses are set to take place on the Airport Campus, with the school flexing the simulators’ mobile capabilities to offer customized, on-site corporate training.
“As much as you work on a simulator, and you get that muscle memory, it still doesn't quite replace what it's like to actually dig in the dirt.” Ross said.