WCCC’s Heavy Equipment Students Attend Expo, Gain Hands-on Experience

May 2, 2016

The students of Washington County Community College’s heavy equipment programs had the benefit of attending a Construction Expo in Augusta as well as visiting the Lane construction site in Hermon, providing a fine complement to the students’ existing hands-on opportunities. The twenty-two students accompanied instructors Artie Mahar of the Heavy Equipment Operations program and Kevin Howland of the Heavy Equipment Maintenance program.

“The idea was to increase students’ exposure to what’s out there,” Howland explained. At the expo, hosted by the Maine Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction, students were able to visit the booths of 170 different vendors at no cost. The vendors showcased the newest parts and equipment available in the field of construction. “They’re very supportive of us,” Howland said, adding that the NAWC provides a scholarship for women to participate in the heavy equipment program at WCCC.

At the Lane Construction site, students visited a massive quarry and an asphalt production facility and saw some of the newest equipment available in operation. “We saw all kinds of big trucks,” student Riley Oullette said. Oullette was impressed with how clean and well-maintained the equipment was, and with the attitude of the workers. “They always work together and get along well. That’s important because you never know what can happen.”

One of the highlights of the visit to the Lane site was seeing a massive excavator in operation. The excavator rapidly filled multiple forty-ton dump trucks with ledge, which would later be processed into asphalt. “Seeing it made me wish I was in it,” Oullette said.

While the trip to the expo and the Lane facility was helpful for students to gain an understanding of working in the field of construction, it is only a small part of the full experience offered to students in the heavy equipment programs of the college. One of the major focuses at WCCC is providing students with “live work”, meaning they work hands-on with various pieces of equipment to complete community-oriented tasks.

During most semesters, students will spend the majority of their time in “The Pit”, an area in the Moosehorn refuge dedicated to hands-on training. “We aim to develop their work ethic and introduce them to the rigor of a construction job,” Howland said. Students bring their own provisions and punch a time card. “It’s just about as close to a construction environment as you can get.”

Outside of the pit, students work with the Moosehorn to address any number of issues that the refuge needs resolving, including removing beaver dams or resurfacing roads. This year, students will also be regrading Devil’s Head in addition to other road work in the fall. “It benefits the nonprofit and benefits the students,” Mahar said.