Realizing My Dream of Working with Equipment

Workforce Development

By: Jeff Wheeler, Residential Gravel Department

Some kids dream of becoming doctors, teachers or police officers. But I dreamed of learning and working with heavy equipment as far back as I can remember. I guess you could say mud and engine oil have been in my blood for a very long time.

When I was six, I preferred to spend my time watching videos that featured construction, farm or transportation equipment. I repeatedly watched these videos and, after a while, I learned how to identify the different pieces of equipment. By the time I was seven, I could describe to my family and friends what an articulating dump truck was and how the hydraulics worked. I was so fascinated by the equipment that I started collecting models. I always asked for a specific “toy” for each birthday or holiday to help build my fleet.

As I grew older, I found myself reading magazines and books about heavy machinery. I wanted to be able to describe and identify each piece of equipment that I could—I wanted to be an expert. I longed for the day when I would have the opportunity to work on equipment to make a living. I thought that everything I learned about a piece of machinery back when I was in school would help me later in finding a job.

During high school, I became even more convinced that college was not in the cards for me. I was interested in all the shop classes that my school offered. I learned construction trades, logistics, CAD design, 3D modeling and transportation. I attended after school speeches by trade groups and many field trips to area companies to see how they operated. I soon realized that learning a skilled trade would present the best opportunity for me to find a job right out of high school. It was through these classes and the many conversations with my teachers that led me to my current job.

I have been extremely fortunate that my current employer, Custom Concrete, found out about my desire to learn how to operate heavy equipment. I was offered a job to help dig foundations for new homes and businesses. I’m now working alongside an experienced operator and he has been a tremendous aid in training me to run an excavator. Each day I learn something new and I’ve developed a sense of pride and accomplishment in my work. I look forward to work each day and I’m looking forward to my future with heavy equipment.