With a combined construction boom and skilled labor shortage affecting the petrochemical and oil & gas industries near Corpus Christi, Texas, Del Mar College’s Division of Workforce and Economic Development is busy establishing customized training programs for local energy providers. Heavy equipment operators are essential for these companies to maintain their busy production schedules, but workers may not always have the expertise to complete the tasks.
“Our goal is to educate students in the community,” said Dara Betz, program manager, Workforce Programs – Corporate Services. “For the heavy construction industry, it can be expensive and challenging, and there are liabilities.”
Two years ago, the college wanted to enhance its training programs. “We already had a safety program in place, and within that program, we taught the principles of heavy equipment operation,” she said. While they were able to teach the main ideas using PowerPoint presentations and textbooks, the Corporate Services team decided that using a heavy equipment simulator would have a much greater impact on the students’ ability to grasp the concepts.
“Simulators allow the trainees to purposefully undertake the hardest activities and procedural tasks in a safe environment without dangerous implications,” Betz said. In addition to reducing the risk and liability of using a live machine for training, simulators eliminate maintenance, upkeep, fuel, and inspection costs, she added.