Students at Kearney High School will be able to take a “Heavy Equipment Operator” class beginning in 2014 thanks to a collaborative effort between the school, Central Community College, and area businesses.

Kearney High School principal Dr. Jay Dostal said the local construction industry approached the Kearney Public Schools Foundation with concerns about a lack of skilled young potential employees in central Nebraska.

“They told that their workforce is aging in this area, and there weren’t any opportunities for students to be trained for this kind of work. I think the closest one is in Wyoming, and Central Community College in Hastings offers a two week course,” Dostal said.

Cat Heavy Equipment

He continued that after consulting with the businesses and the community college, KHS decided a heavy equipment class could be worked into their existing transportation program. Dostal said the partnership with businesses allowed for the purchase of heavy equipment simulators.

“It’s a seat that you might find in some of these machines, with a joystick and everything like that and a large flat-screen in front of you. The curriculum is built into the simulation model, so if you go over a rough patch the seat will actually rumble like you were sitting in the machine,” Dostal explained.

Dostal said the simulation grades the students on their performance while documenting it, so instructors can examine it as well. The heavy equipment program fits right in with Dostal’s philosophy on education.

“I’m a big believer in preparing kids for college and career readiness, not college or career readiness, because I don’t think the skills for each are mutually exclusive,” he said.

In a statement, Kearney Public Schools said Central Community College’s Kelly Christensen and Steve Hoyt identified and adopted curriculum which incorporates Caterpillar (CAT) modules that are included with the simulators. “The simulation technology available today is exceptional, and with the generosity of these businesses and individuals, students will now have access to heavy equipment operator training that is extremely realistic with real-world scenarios,” Christensen said. “This is a very exciting opportunity for the students at KHS. These businesses and individuals have joined with KHS and CCC to make a serious commitment to providing a skilled workforce in the future by investing in the KHS/CCC Industrial Technology programs and students of today. Students will learn not only the skills required to operate heavy equipment, but related skills necessary on construction projects such as plan reading, surveying and safety requirements,” Hoyt said.

Over $150,000 has been donated by Midlands Contracting, Blessing Construction, Nebraska Machinery Company/Caterpillar and the Beryl Claar Memorial Fund to make the program possible.