VGCC, NC DOT team up for Heavy Equipment Operator class

LaToya Caldwell of the N.C. Department of Transportation Office of Equal Opportunity & Workforce Services talks with attendees about careers and training opportunities at VGCC’s first-ever Construction & Logistics Job Expo, held in April on the college’s Main Campus. (VGCC photo)

LaToya Caldwell of the N.C. Department of Transportation Office of Equal Opportunity & Workforce Services talks with attendees about careers and training opportunities at VGCC’s first-ever Construction & Logistics Job Expo, held in April on the college’s Main Campus. (VGCC photo)

WARRENTON — Vance-Granville Community College has teamed with the N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) to offer a new training opportunity at VGCC’s Warren County Campus.

The first class of a nine-week course for Heavy Equipment Operators began on April 20 and runs through June 15.

“We are introducing students to a new career opportunity with training not previously available in our area,” said Jean Blaine, VGCC’s director of occupational extension. “Students are learning the operational techniques, safety aspects, types and functions of heavy equipment, as well as the terminology of the trade.”

With completion of the course, students will have the general understanding to secure a job for a company preparing a site for the construction of buildings, roadways and other structures, Blaine said. She added that the NC DOT will be helping course completers find jobs with the contractors who do business with the state.

DOT is partnering with Vance-Granville as part of an initiative to educate young people about future job opportunities in the transportation industry, said Melvin Williams, the On-the-Job Training Manager in DOT’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Workforce Services in Raleigh.

“The average age in highway construction right now is 53. Six or seven years from now, people will be retiring and moving on,” Williams said. With projects that have already been identified in the future, “we need more educated young people who know about our industry. We are starting at the high school and community college levels.”

Williams said his office, with funds disbursed through the state from the Federal Highway Administration, is working on three fronts to find jobs in particular for women, minorities and disadvantaged individuals: high school, community colleges and community-based initiatives.

“This is the first time ever at Vance-Granville that a course like this has been offered related to transportation,” said Dale Fey, VGCC’s dean of Continuing Education. “And we have a dedicated industry backing from the N.C. Department of Transportation for jobs and funding.”

The new course is just one of several opportunities for learning in heavy equipment operation planned by the VGCC Occupational Extension department. A course in Diesel Mechanics may follow as well as additional courses in Heavy Equipment Operator for other interested students as part of what Williams calls a Heavy Equipment Operators Diesel and Small Engines Mechanics Academy.

In addition, a federally-funded summer camp for high school students is being planned for June 22 through July 31 at the Warren Campus. “Students who attend the camp will be earning a stipend to demonstrate to them that the more educated you are, the better wages you can earn,” Blaine said.

An academy for high school students has already been started at Warren County High School, Williams added. The DOT official noted that more than 300 high school students, including those from Warren, Vance, Granville and Franklin counties, were invited to the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh on May 5 for a Career Expo on North Carolina DOT operations.

Many of the students enrolled in the current Heavy Equipment Operator class qualified for grant money to pay their tuition through the NCWorks Job-Driven Initiative Grant program, said Fey.

Covered in the class, among numerous topics, are utility tractors, earthmoving equipment, graded surfaces preparation, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certification and career opportunities.

Students will be using simulators being purchased by the DOT to give them training in operating machinery such as motor graders, backhoes and four-wheel-driver graders, Blaine said.

Williams added the software will give students the experience of operating the equipment as if they were actually on a work site.

“The main idea is for the student to be familiar with the piece of the equipment,” Williams said. “They will be able to go to the division office in Warren County for a field day for them to see the real piece of equipment, too.”

The class is being taught by Jason Jones with the North Carolina National Guard, who has 19 years of experience in the operation of heavy equipment.

Many of the first seven students in the class were among 230 who attended an Occupational Extension-sponsored Construction & Logistics Job Expo on the college’s Main Campus on April 8.

“We are reaching out to high school students and to adults who have an interest in this field because the job opportunities are available,” Fey said. “We were pleased to see so much interest in construction and logistics at our job fair, and we will be finding additional ways to serve those potential students.”

“We are excited about this partnership at VGCC,” Williams added. “The course adds a different curriculum to what the college already has, and it gives citizens in the area a chance to better themselves.”

Blaine can be reached at (252) 738-3423 and The Continuing Education division is available at (252) 738-3300. Williams is available through the DOT at (919) 508-1775 and