KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Tennessee College of Applied Technology Knoxville is answering a call directly from the local construction industry. 

The college’s heavy equipment operator training program gives students hands-on training and practical field experience. 

“Right away they are aware, they are safe, they are not hitting equipment, they are not running over somebody or doing something very, very unsafe,” said Jose Miranda, TCAT Knoxville heavy equipment operator instructor. 

Miranda said they build muscle memory from repetitive motion on the college’s three Cat simulator systems. Students learn how to operate an articulated dump truck, an excavator and a dozer familiarizing themselves with the Cat controls. 

The six-week program is a mixture of curriculum covering workplace safety and maintenance, simulator training incorporating virtual reality learning and field training. 

“These simulators translate out in the field pretty close to the real pieces of equipment and no one really has any issues,” said Tim Blais, TCAT Knoxville operations specialist. 

TCAT Knoxville has partnerships with local construction companies to train students on equipment in the field. The college also works directly with companies or people who are out of work. 

“It gives them a little leg up because they have a certification, they know how to use the equipment, they know how to be safe. They also have OSHA 10 training,” said Blais. 

The simulator systems also provide a track report, which Blais says is helpful in an industry looking for qualified workers. 

“It gives you all that detailed information of how you actually used the piece of equipment and how good you were, your productivity on it and that right there equates to dollar amounts for employers of how much money they are going to save,” said Blais. 

The training program is taught at the Ruth and Steve Workforce Development Center on the Blount County campus of Pellissippi State. 

Several heavy equipment operator students have graduated from the program with jobs at Blount Excavating.