Simulating the Life of an Operator: World-class Morrisburg Training Centre Preps Students For What’s to Come

Campus life at the Operating Engineers Training Institute of Ontario (OETIO) is designed to give students a preview of the real thing. Getting familiar with long work hours and living in a dormitory for several months at a time is the life of many heavy-equipment training operators.

As graduation approaches, 33-year- old Angie Linklater will be diving into that world. In a industry dominated by men (98.6 per cent of workers are male), Linklater is a trailblazer for women and an inspiration.

AngieShe takes it all in stride. “It’s cool,” she said. “I can take jokes, talk with the guys.” She is one tough, strong person who has already overcome a lot. “When I was growing up, I was in three car accidents and it took me a long time to get into a car.”

Needless to say, a heavy- equipment operator was an unlikely career choice for her, but it has helped her overcome her fears.

If things go as planned, Linklater will be flying to the Snap Lake Diamond mind, north east of Yellowknife, on a regular basis to work for De Beers.

ChrisStudents at OETIO vary in age and life stages. While a few come straight from high school, others are starting a new career. Thirty-seven- year-old Chris Carleton worked as a pool installer for several years in Owen Sound, before he made his move to the Morrisburg campus.

“I knew how to run a shovel,” he joked, “but I don’t want to be a labourer for the rest of my life.”

Carleton had some hesitation about being in a classroom again.

“I’ve tried college before, but I am not a classroom learner.”

Heavy equipment training is proving to be the right post-secondary fit for Carleton, as he is now excelling as a top student.

For both Carleton and Linklater, upgrading their skills was made easier through government funding programs. Unlike many post- secondary commitments, it is still possible to pursue a trade without incurring a massive student debt.

In their short 10-week programs, Carleton and Linklater will have clocked 324 hours operating heavy equipment, not to mention time spent in one of three OETIO’s training simulators that are open to students 24/7.

Richard Coulas, OETIO’s Director of Training and Operations, says students have this kind of limitless access to these indoor excavator simulators to help hone their skills. These miniature excavators look somewhat like toys, equipped with two joysticks, but they operate just like the real thing and help students master the continuous motion shoveling technique, a crucial practice that saves companies time and money.

“The simulators are an integral part of how we achieve the best operators in the industry today,” he explained.

Keeping high standards has made the OETIO a world-class training institute for more than 30 years. Making after- hour training available to students, ensuring a ratio of one instructor for every six students in the field, and requiring all operating instructors to have a minimum of ten years’ experience are just a few of these standards that set the OETIO apart.

Graduating from OETIO, apprentices then look forward to completing another 2000 to 2500 hours of seat time, and –in all likelihood– working away from home and living in residences much like the one they just came from.

It is not right for everyone, but enrolling at OETIO should let you know quickly if a career as a heavy equipment operator is right for you.

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