150-acre training center east of Reno offers avenue for skilled trades
Operating Engineers Local 3 is billed as the largest construction trades local union in the U.S., representing over 35,000 members across our four-state jurisdiction of California, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah. Visit www.oe3.org to learn more.
WADSWORTH, Nev. — On a remote area on the dusty hills south of the small Northern Nevada community of Wadsworth sits the Nevada Training Center.
The center’s apprenticeship program teaches prospective operator engineers about the nuances of heavy-duty construction equipment seen on a job site.
Once students complete the training program, they can start working as an entry-level journeyman operator engineer on a job site.
“It’s been a best-kept secret that we don’t want to be a secret anymore,” said Scott Fullerton, district representative for District 11 (Reno) of the Operators Engineers Local No. 3 union, which oversees operations on the training site.
A key piece of the center — which was established in 2001 and spreads across 150 acres — is a $100,000 full-motion simulator to show students several different equipment operations even before they begin work.
A feature of the simulator is it can be adjusted to present challenges to students, such as inclement weather or if a piece of equipment encounters a malfunction, so they can learn to handle such circumstances on a job site.
Once students are comfortable with operating a machine, they go outdoors to train on the real pieces of equipment you often see at a big construction site, such as trackhoes, loaders, cranes and heavy duty excavators.
A large section of land at the center is dedicated to an outdoor simulated housing subdivision to teach students skills like excavating and grading. After a class of a few students is completed, the simulated subdivision is refilled and cleared for the next class.
Another section is set aside to teach other trade skills, such as digging to install, or find, underground utilities or water and gas lines.
Students can also choose to train for a career as heavy-duty equipment repairman or lube technician, or even obtain a commercial drivers license through the program. Further, skills obtained at the training center can be applied to other occupations, such as mining or power plant operation.
All told, journeymen-level skills are acquired through on-the-job training with 6,000 hours in the grading and paving and crane operator classification; 8,000 hours in the heavy duty repairman classification; and 4,000 hours in the lubrication technician/survey technician.
Students are also afforded safety training in CPR and First Aid, as well as training in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) regulations and hazards.
In other words, the center’s flexibility allows it to train employees who can help with large regional projects that require specific skills, thus helping fill the great need for a construction workforce in the region, said Brian Prather, administrator at the Nevada Training Center.
The center markets itself to younger generations, he said, but it’s recently seen an influx of middle-aged individuals looking for a second career, or looking to brush up on certain skills. The average age range of students is 25-32 years old.
“We have been growing by leaps and bounds, getting a lot of applications,” Prather said. “We have been marketing ourselves by going to high school and college career fairs, but we do have a lot of people in the 40-50 age range.”
Prather not only serves as administrator, but also as an instructor at the center. Tyrel Koon serves as equipment mechanic instructor, and Tony Martin is an equipment instructor. Union retirees also come in from time to time to assist in training programs.