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DeKalb Tech Teaches Operators the Ropes

Wed October 18, 2000 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

The Covington-Newton Campus of DeKalb Technical College announced a new program of study — Heavy Equipment Operator (HEO) — at a ceremony held recently. Dr. Paul Starnes, president of DeKalb Technical College, welcomed representatives of the Georgia Utility Contractor Association (GUCA) and the Georgia Department of Adult and Technical Education (DTAE) who worked with the Covington-Newton Campus to develop the HEO program of study. Vicki Hayes, executive director of GUCA, noted that the need for trained operators of construction equipment is critical. According to Wayne Scott, vice president of operations for the campus, “The program is the first of its kind in Georgia and one of only several in the United States. We are excited to be working with GUCA and others in the construction trades to meet this training need, and we appreciate their support.”

Local vendors are providing equipment, including backhoes, excavators, loaders and bulldozers. They are also providing safety equipment and assisting with demonstrations to support the HEO curriculum. Georgia vendors include: Burch-Lowe of Mableton; Carlton Company of Pooler; Construction Safety Counts of Dunwoody; Georgia Boot — K&D Shoes of Conyers; Hilti Corp. of Norcross; Metrac of Atlanta; Morgan Corp. of Lithonia; Owsley & Sons Inc. of Morrow; Perimeter Bobcat of Atlanta; Sprint Network Fiberoptics of Atlanta; Stith Equipment of Forest Park; Trax Inc. of Atlanta; Utilities Protection Center of Duluth; Wacker Corporation of Norcross; and Yancey Bros. Co. of Austell. According to Dr. Scott, “James King, president of DeKalb Pipeline, has been most influential in the initiation of this program and assignment of equipment. His advice and assistance have been invaluable.”

Members of the first HEO class — 16 high school seniors from Newton County, Rockdale County and Social Circle schools — were also present at the ceremony. These students will attend HEO classes two afternoons each week during their senior year, and in May 2001 they will be awarded a Technical Certificate of Credit as Certified Construction Worker through DTAE. Students will also receive Carnegie credits toward high school graduation under the joint enrollment program. The HOPE Grant pays for program tuition, fees and books.

William Gohdes, assistant dean of instruction at the campus, noted, “The HEO program will infuse the profession with a core of young, skilled workers who are ready to make a career choice.” Gohdes reported that skilled operators command high salaries — earning in excess of $50,000 yearly. The DeKalb Tech program will maintain national recognition through the National Center for Construction Education Research.

According to Consuelo Godden, lead instructor, the two-semester HEO certificate program focuses on safety first and foremost. Students will study site grading and development, excavation, pipe laying and preventive maintenance of equipment. “This program will provide both the knowledge and hands-on training that will open the door to a well-paid, secure future as a skilled heavy equipment operator,” said Godden.

Following high school graduation, HEO students can continue training in the program and earn a diploma that certifies them to operate the full range of construction equipment.

“The HEO program of study is being piloted with high school students this year, and the full program will be available to local residents after January 2001,” said Gohdes.

The HEO program is the first step in the Covington-Newton Campus plans for a Construction Academy that offers training in a broad range of construction technologies, such as HEO, carpentry, plumbing and masonry.

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