ALTHA, Fla. (WMBB) — High schools across America have been offering driver’s ed for decades, but very few have heavy equipment operation as a class. Calhoun County high schoolers can now learn how to operate excavators, using state-of-the-art simulators.

Levi Anderson is a senior at Altha High School. He is one of the first to get his hands on the new Cat® simulators. “I felt like it opened up a lot of new opportunities for many different people, especially me as I want to go into the construction industry and I felt like I can get some practice on it, know how it feels, and all that,” Anderson said.

The $90,000 equipment is installed at Altha High School and Blountstown High School. The excavator simulators can teach students how to dig trenches, move dirt or pipes and even dig foundations for homes.

Richard Hall teaches agriculture at Altha High School. He went through the simulator training this summer and said it is very realistic. “I’m just very thankful that our district has taken the initiative to invest this in our kids and our schools,” Hall said.

School officials bought the simulators with grant money for career dual enrollment pathways. The hope is to increase student participation in workforce dual enrollment classes at Chipola College or Florida Panhandle Technical College in Chipley.

“What we want to do in our career technical education classes is give our students some employability skills,” Calhoun County School District Assistant Superintendent Debbie Williams said. “There’s a need for people to operate heavy equipment and with this simulator, we can give those kids some practice, some real practice on how to operate heavy equipment.”

Anderson said the new equipment is popular among his classmates. “Everybody thinks that it’ll be good for them because as you know we are a blue-collar community and most of us won’t go to college, we’ll end up going into the workforce or going to a trade school so yeah I think it’ll be good for us,” Anderson said.

The school district is partnering with Anderson Columbia construction. The company will send over the real heavy equipment for kids to check out, once they’ve trained on the simulator. That partnership works both ways. Anderson Columbia may very well hire some of these students once they graduate.