Georgia Approves Heavy Equipment Operator Coursework for High School Students

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Updated Jul 18, 2022
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In response to local demand, high school students in Georgia now have access to training on heavy equipment operation.

The State Board of Education approved the new courses recommended by State School Superintendent Richard Woods in December. Students began coursework during the spring semester and will begin the new school year with the second course for the career pathway.

The pathway is composed of three courses:

  • Industry Fundamentals and Occupational Safety: Prepares students for the basic knowledge to function safely on or around a construction site and in the industry in general.
  • Introduction to Heavy Equipment: Introduces students to the history and impact heavy equipment has had on construction and infrastructure projects, as well as terminology, operator responsibilities, career opportunities and applying basic principles of safety. Students will be introduced to and develop skills to prepare graded surfaces and execute basic earthmoving activities.
  • Operation of Heavy Equipment I: Builds on the concepts related to earthmoving as well as reading and using blueprints and specifications related to grading and grade calculations. The course provides specific knowledge and skills in operating and maintaining heavy equipment and includes exploration of the career opportunities and training available to heavy equipment operators.

By working directly with business and industry partners to develop the curriculum, the Georgia Department of Education’s Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) team was able to ensure that students have hands-on, up-to-date opportunities to gain high-demand career skills as part of their K-12 education.

The Toombs County School System contacted GaDOE to propose a pathway that would prepare students for entry-level careers in heavy equipment operations. The courses were developed with feedback from industry representatives from Flint Energy Company, McClendon Enterprises and others, as well as Southeastern Technical College, the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia (CEFGA), and Toombs County Schools.

“Here in Georgia, we have taken a new approach to developing our CTAE curriculum and standards,” says Tim Elliott, CTAE program specialist for architecture, construction, communications and transportation. “We go straight to the industry professionals in all our pathways to see what needs they have for incoming employees. We listen to those needs and design the curriculum around those needs in collaboration with our school systems, administrators, directors and teachers.”

Beyond technical career training, students will also receive training on softer skills, designed to make them better employees.

“The first standard in each and every one of our pathway courses is employability skills,” adds Elliott. “The industry stated that newly hired employees were needing additional instruction in teamwork, punctuality, communication, problem solving, etc. This initiated the implementation and adoption of the employability skills standard that was overwhelmingly requested by all areas of industry.” 

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The program is intended to act as a springboard for students to enter the local workforce or pursue additional training in heavy equipment operation.

“The heavy equipment operations pathway ensures another opportunity available in Georgia schools for students to gain skills to help them succeed in the future,” Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Our goal is that, when students graduate from a Georgia high school, they are prepared for their next step – whether that’s enrolling in a college or university, immediately entering the workforce or enlisting in the military.”

“The heavy equipment operations career pathway is an example of a locally developed pathway where the GaDOE CTAE staff worked with local business and education leaders to create a pathway that meets the needs of local industry,” GaDOE CTAE Director Dr. Barbara Wall said. “Once a locally developed pathway is approved by the Georgia Department of Education, it may be implemented in other local school systems and communities.”

Work is ongoing with the industry, CEFGA and GaDOE to implement the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) Level 1 Heavy Equipment Operator Certification.