The program will help close the age gap in skilled heavy equipment operations technicians locally.
Flagler Technical Institute is working to fill the age gap in skilled heavy equipment operators in Flagler County and the surrounding areas. The adult-education school plans to launch the Heavy Equipment Operations Technician program in August that will provide hands-on curriculum for 20 interested students.
“It was 4C’s Construction that came to us and said that it was a need here, that heavy equipment operators are all aging out and there’s no young people to take their place,” FTI Director Renee Stauffacher said.
The 1,200-hour course will run 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday, from August to July at FTI’s Education Way location off of US 1. There will be one full-time instructor and one part-time instructor. FTI is still looking for the right people for those positions. Stauffacher encourages certified heavy machine technicians with at least six years of experience to contact FTI at 447-4345 or visit https://fti.flaglerschools.com.
Local businesses that expressed similar concerns as 4C’s Trucking and Excavation in Bunnell now make up an advisory council for the program, Stauffacher said. The businesses in the council are Cline Construction Inc., 4C’s Trucking and Excavation, JD Weber Construction Co., Halifax Paving Inc. and P&S Paving Inc.
The course will also be offered as a post-secondary dual enrollment option for Flagler County high school students. Stauffacher said FTI presented the course information to construction tech classes and power and energy classes at Matanzas and Flagler Palm Coast high schools.
“This is going to provide a direct link to the pipeline that serves the needs of Flagler County,” Stauffacher said. “So, this is going to directly increase the workforce right here locally and meet the needs of the industry and the growing demand for skilled trader workers that have credentials and certifications.”
There will be financial aid, Pell Grants and scholarships available if the need is there.
“This will allow them to go directly to work as soon as they finish high school,” she said. “Anyone who is interested in the construction trades at all, this is a great start to it. Or, it could also be an end point and you could earn a meaningful wage and be a heavy machinery operator your whole life. So, it just depends on what your goals are. But if you want to go into management, starting on the ground is the best place to do that. We know that stackable credentials and gaining industry experience while you’re going to school for something else is the way to maximize your earning potential, as well as the best way to be a good manager once you get there.”
Stauffacher is already thinking long-term for the program. She hopes to acquire a grant or funding to buy simulators, so that students can go from classroom instruction, to teacher demonstration, to simulator, to actual machinery.
The machinery for the program will be rented at half price from Ring Power, she said, as not all equipment will be needed at once.
“This is the perfect private-public partnership to get something like this off the ground and running,” Stauffacher said.