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Working in the dirt

Heavy Equipment College offers crane and heavy equipment courses

Heavy Equipment Colleges of America offers transitioning service members and civilians to begin a career in crane operations. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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For individuals looking to get some dirt on their hands and keep their minds sharp, they might want to consider attending the Heavy Equipment Colleges of America (HEC).

HEC offers an education that focuses on the skilled trades involved in heavy equipment and crane operations that serves their students well and results in a satisfying career.

"We are hard to beat when it comes to providing the most effective learning environment which is tailored to the needs of our students," Bill Keever, HEC's West Region's president, said in an email.

"At our locations, you will get your hands dirty and your mind working."

HEC will appear at the Dream Big! Military Career and Education Fair Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon in Spanaway's Marymount Event Center.

Opening its first school house in 2006, HEC has expanded to seven locations across the nation. At these campuses, transitioning service members and civilians are provided with the opportunity to learn a valuable skilled trade.

"We are committed to being a leading educational institution which offers effective training while maintaining a high standard of quality and integrity," Keever stated. "Our commitment is to you and your future; our mission is to help people provide for themselves and their families through training entry-level heavy equipment operators."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of crane operations will grow by as much as 10 percent between 2014 to 2024.

"We are committed to providing the opportunity to find meaningful employment," Keever added.

Five of the HEC's campuses are located in North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and California -- San Bernardino.

The remaining two are situated at Fort Irwin, California and Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) near Lakewood.

Both campuses are part of the Army's Career Skills Program, or CSP. This endeavor helps soldiers prepare for civilian employment through apprenticeships, on-the-job training, job shadowing, internships and employment skills training.

"The JBLM campus was established to meet the needs of our transitioning service members interested in this kind of employment," explained Keever.

At the Lakewood campus, located at 4701 McChord Dr. SW, students earn a Certificate of Heavy Equipment Operations -- Mobile Crane Program. 

The coursework includes swing cab as well as fixed-cab hydraulic cranes while learning about crane set-up, lift planning, rigging and signaling, and load dynamics.

Experienced instructors guide and ensure that all students receive the experience, knowledge and skills required to succeed in crane operations.

Approximately 60 percent of the student body at HEC campuses nationwide is veteran connected; however, at the Fort Irwin and JBLM locations, it is 100 percent due to the CSP designation.

"Veterans are perfectly positioned to be successful in our program because of their dedication to the mission," Keever continued.

The curriculum utilizes an outcome-based assessment approach that provides an objective evaluation which meets industry and regulatory standards and prepares HEC students with entry-level skills.

"Our approach has resulted in a 96 percent graduation rate from May 2018 through May 2019," he added.

Matching its commitment to provide an opportunity to work in crane operations, HEC also offers lifetime job placement assistance to its graduates.

"Once you come to school with HEC ... you are a member of our family," concluded Keever, "and coupled with the dedication to one's family is an unwavering loyalty to ensure that every member of the family is successful."

A three-week program with a bucket full of practical experience offered at the JBLM campus, as well as six other locations nationwide, sounds like a smart way to build a good paying career in the dirt.

For more information about Heavy Equipment Colleges of America, visit:

Military Dream Big! Career and Education Fair, 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Oct. 12, Marymount Event Center, 325 152nd St. E, Tacoma, Free

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