Free online classes for students interested in heavy equipment industry |

Free online classes for students interested in heavy equipment industry

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: September 14, 2020 06:18 PM

There's a new unique learning opportunity for Minnesota students interested in the heavy equipment industry. The International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 49 and Minnesota Virtual Academy have partnered together to offer online elective courses that are designed to introduce students into the industry.

The courses are available to any high school student enrolled in a Minnesota school district and will count toward high school elective classes, college credit, and will better prepare students interested in the Local 49 Apprenticeship Program.

"The modules are focused on exposing kids to equipment, being around equipment, what the equipment is like, how to take care of the equipment, so they know a little bit about what it's like to be an operating engineer in the industry. It kind of gets their feet wet and gives them information about the career," said Jason George, the business manager for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49.

This learning experience is a gateway into the heavy equipment industry for highschoolers.

"I thought it was just an incredibly smart thing to do. It's a great opportunity for young men or women to learn about a really great career in the trades," said George.

George said this opportunity is great for school districts doing distance learning this fall due to COVID. The online classes can be taken at any time at no cost to the student.

"It really provides that economy of scale where at a local school you might have one or two students that want to do this but it financially doesn't work out to provide a program for one or two students, but when you're pooling the students from across the state into one program, then you've got the critical mass to really make that program work well," said Krin Abraham, the Head of School for Minnesota Virtual Academy and superintendent for Houston Public Schools.

The program includes courses that give an overview of skills needed to be in the industry like construction exploration, basic grade and construction math, construction equipment fundamentals, and basic maintenance of mobile equipment. Students are eligible to receive college credit through North Hennepin Community College that will transfer anywhere throughout the MN State system.

In addition to doing the online classes, students will have opportunities to visit the IUOE Local 49 Training Center in Hinkley where they will be able to get hands on experience with heavy equipment simulators and speak with those already in the industry.

"We need to prepare students for whatever future they really see for themselves and college isn't in the plans of a lot of our students so we need to make sure that we're preparing students for the future they want," said Abraham.

To learn more about the program, visit or contact Sheena Shoemaker, the Career Readiness Education Assistant Coordinator at


Alejandra Palacios

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