A new TEEX 240-hour Heavy Equipment Operator Training program has graduated its first class, providing the graduates with hands-on skills training that can serve as a “stepping stone” to a job in the construction field.
The graduates learned to operate dozers, backhoes and excavators, while also earning their 10-Hour OSHA cards in construction and becoming qualified workzone flaggers.
The construction skills training program was the brainchild of Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Steve Scarmardo of the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS)- College Station Field Office. He and DARS colleague Janis East met with James Holt and Rick Lemon of TEEX’s Infrastructure Training & Safety Institute’s Construction Technology & Safety program a few months ago to map out a program to serve DARS customers.
“We needed some hands-on training (for our customers). We put our heads together (with TEEX), and I knew it could work. Rick did a fine job,” Scarmardo said at the graduation ceremony. “I want to commend TEEX and these young men and their families. I’m proud of these guys I know they are going to be successful. There will always be jobs in the state of Texas (for heavy equipment operators).”
Graduate Gordon Fisher, from Iredell, Texas, was pleased with the training he received: “I appreciate the opportunity to come here. I was looking to get back into the workforce. Now I have the ability to get a job and do well. TEEX has been a really good class.” He praised instructor Rick Lemon. “He kept it interesting, and I can’t say enough about his knowledge. He made sure you had a thorough understanding, and he focused on safety, effectiveness and efficiency. It’s intimidating to be on this equipment (when you start out), but he boosts your confidence and gets you to believe in yourself, and you learn the equipment. The small class allowed us to be on the equipment a lot and receive a lot of one-on-one.”
“It’s been a good experience,” Lemon said. “I’ve seen them all come a long way, and their confidence level has grown.”
Following the graduation ceremony, graduate Matthew Whitman demonstrated some of the precision skills he had learned in the class, completing an obstacle course exercise while operating a backhoe. In the audience were families of the graduates and DARS representatives from other field offices around the state, as well as TEEX officials. Two other graduates at the ceremony were Adam Wich and Seferino Hernandez III.
After the demonstration, Dan Gray of TEEX said other DARS field offices are interested in sending people through the TEEX training program. “We like doing these types of training programs where we help very deserving people get a job. We’re working with them (DARS) to customize programs for their needs.” The next class will begin Sept. 6.