Volvo Construction Equipment is donating an articulated haul truck, used on Discovery Channel’s “Gold Rush” television series, to train future equipment operators at Lehigh Career and Technical Institute in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania.
“High school students enrolled in the Heavy Equipment Operations and Preventive Maintenance program will use the Volvo A35D hauler across the full curriculum,” says instructor Jim Wabals.
“In addition to basic truck operation, it will be a support piece for students who are learning loading techniques with wheel loaders and excavators. The hauler will also give them experience on preventive maintenance and understand the value it adds to reducing operating costs and increasing productivity over the machine’s lifetime,” he says.
The Heavy Equipment Operations & Preventive Maintenance program teaches machine operation skills for a range of equipment, basic machine maintenance, surveying/grades, and erosion and sediment control techniques. Since its inception in 2005, the program has maintained a 90% placement rate of graduates directly hired into construction equipment-related positions.
The 2006 Volvo hauler, with over 15,000 hours, is valued at $80,000. It was used by “Gold Rush” star Tony Beets at his Yukon mine. He added his signature to the front fender as a personal touch-point for the students. Fellow “Gold Rush” miner Juan Ibarra assisted with the truck handover at the school. Juan also spent classroom time with the students, sharing his career experiences and exploring where the construction equipment field can take them.
Heavy equipment operators are among the most in-demand employees, with a projected growth rate of 12 percent, faster than any other jobs in the construction sector, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Median annual wage is $46,000, but can easily climb to over $77,000.
Closing this operator gap is vitally important to Volvo as an advocate for the construction industry and as an equipment manufacturer. Says Stephen Roy, president of Volvo CE Americas, “Opportunities like this exemplify how business can partner with education. The availability of the Volvo hauler intersected with a need the heavy equipment program had to broaden its training. Giving students practical experience in the seat and under the hood will give them a strong advantage when they enter the workforce, where Volvo haulers are a mainstay on many job sites.”
Volvo has a history of investing in programs that encourage youth to pursue careers related to equipment, manufacturing and engineering. This involves being an official partner with SkillsUSA and Skills Canada, national organizations that develops technical and leadership abilities. Volvo also sponsors the PA SkillsUSA Heavy Equipment Operation competition each spring, which draws top student operators from across the state, including from Lehigh’s program.
Lehigh Career & Technical Institute (LCTI) is the largest career tech school in Pennsylvania, and one of the largest of its type in the United States. It offers more than 45 skills-based programs of study, as well as academic instruction for 2,700 students each year.