AlbertaDo you want a rewarding career operating bulldozers, excavators, backhoes, or other similar machines? I bet you do. And before you get your hands dirty, training is required.

The training provides the way for beginners to learn the hands-on and real-life scenarios in the operation of heavy equipment. This is where you gain the practical skills needed to get the competitive edge to land a job.

Completion of training opens varied opportunities in different industries assuring you that you have a job all-year-round. And the pay is great as well.

If you are interested or finally made the decision that you want to be a heavy equipment operator in Alberta, we’ve made this guide for you.

Below are what you need to take the training, the schools where you can enroll and some hints in choosing the right training provider.

How to Become a Heavy Equipment Operator

Gone are the days trying to learn to operate equipment on the site while everyone is on a break – there are better ways.

The first option you could take by enrolling in a training program offered by a school in Alberta, please refer below. When enrolled, you will take the instructor-led of classroom and simulation training and hands-on exercises in the field. You will have the best opportunity to learn the operation of many pieces of heavy equipment such as backhoes, excavators, graders, dozers, dump/trailer trucks and other machines. The school will train you hands-on.

The next route you can take is going through an apprenticeship program. It consisted of on-the-job training and in-school training. The apprenticeship program usually takes about two-three years to complete. IUEO Local 955 is a good place to take the apprenticeship program, please refer below for their contact info.

How you can be an apprentice? You will find a sponsor willing to absorb and provide you the training. A sponsor maybe a contractor, an employer, an entity of even an individual capable of providing you the chance to learn the practical skills to perform the work as a heavy equipment operator.

Now, if you opted to take the first option, here are schools in Alberta that offer courses in heavy equipment operation.

Training Schools in Alberta

  • Leavitt Machinery Operator Training
    11015 - 186th Street, Edmonton, AB T5S 2V5
    Ph: (780) 451-7200, Fx: (780) 451-7224
    10 - 55 Technology Way SE, Calgary, AB T3S 0B3
    Ph: (403) 723-7555, Fx: (403) 723-7575
    275 MacAlpine Crescent, Fort McMurray, AB T9H 4Y4
    Ph: (780) 790-9387, Fx: (780) 790-9413
    11205-98 Avenue. Grande Prairie, AB T8V 5A5
    Ph: (780) 513-6205, Fx: (780) 513-1370
    83 Queens Drive, Red Deer, AB T4P 0R8
    Ph: (403) 347-7978

  • Portage College
    Box 417 9531-94 Ave, Lac La Biche, AB T0A 2C0
    780-623-5551, 1-866-623-5551
    Cold Lake Energy Centre, 101-7825 51 Street, Cold Lake, AB T9M 0B6
    Box 14715205-50 Ave, St. Paul, AB T0A 3A0

  • Interior Heavy Equipment Operator School
    9650 199th ST NW, Edmonton, Alberta T5T 6E8
    Innisfail, Alberta, T4G 1T8
    Phone: 250-766-3853, Toll Free: 1-866-399-3853, Toll Free Fax: 1-877-347-6384

  • Government of Alberta
    4th Fl Oxbridge Place, 9820 106 Street NW Edmonton, AB T5K 2J6
    Toll-free in Alberta: 1-877-644-9992

  • Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
    1301-16 Avenue NW, Calgary AB, T2M 0L4
    General inquiries: 1.877.284.7248

  • AIP Safety Ltd.
    5716 Burbank Road SE., Calgary, AB T2H 1Z4
    Phone: (403) 202-2477 | Fax: (403) 264-2470

  • Keyano College
    8115 Franklin Avenue, Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada T9H 2H7
    T. 780-791-4800, Toll Free: 1-800-251-1408

  • High Velocity Equipment Training College
    P: 1.866.963.IRON (4766), Admissions: 780.678.6288

  • Chase Operator Training
    1-800-317-3612, 403-466-6948, 1-800-317-3612

  • International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local No. 955
    17603 – 114 Avenue, Edmonton, AB T5S 2R9
    (780) 483-0955

How Much is the Tuition and Other Fees

The tuition for taking heavy equipment programs is somewhere in the ballpark figure of $8,000 and $12,000 depending on some factors such as the length and comprehensive of the training and the quality of the school where you are taking the program from.

Other fees that you have to shoulder are books and supplies, administrative fees, and deposit upon registration. You can ask the school about the other fees that they may require you to pay.

Now that you know how much you would expend, you may now be thinking how can you pay for it? Well, the school may offer students flexible payment options, provide financial aid and if students are presently employer, they may avail the Canada-Alberta Job Grant, refer to this page to see how to apply. 

Some Tips in Picking the Right School

  • You learn the skill not just by theory but also by learning in the field. So make sure the school has vast land available to use in the practical training.

  • Practice makes perfect as the saying goes. The students should never share equipment so that each one can have ample time doing hands-on exercises.

  • The school should have a modern training facility and equipment. I bet you would not want to put your hands on a rusty piece of equipment, so make sure the school has up-to-date and well-maintained machines.

  • Find a class with a small number of participants. The ideal number is 15 maximum. Ask the school how many they’re accepting in a particular class.

  • The instructor should have sufficient experience and significant expertise in the heavy equipment operation. You may ask the school about the instructor’s background, they would not have a second thought of telling their instructor’s profile.

  • If you’re an employer, find a school that offers on-site training as this the preferred way to train workers. On-site training can be customized to match up with the present workplace condition and workers’ behavior to address the concerns.

  • Would it be nice to have employment after the training? The school may offer job assistance to their graduates, so when choosing a school, opt for the one that provides job placement.

  • Paying for school isn’t cheap. Where you can get the money to pay the tuition? Glad, grants and other payment options are given by the schools. If you are looking to avail of the Canada-Alberta Job Grant, find a school that provides such a grant. Only those presently employed can apply for this grant.

  • Transporting to and from the school may be convenient if you select the school that is closest to you, but be sure you are also taking note of the other criteria above.

What Do You Need to Get Admitted in the Training

  • Participants must be in good physical condition, free from any ailments
  • Participants should be at least 18 years old upon completion of the training.
  • Must have a high school diploma or any equipment certificate
  • Participants are required to submit a personal profile
  • Must meet the English Language Proficiency Requirement
  • Recent driver’s abstract
  • Unrestricted driver’s license
  • Provide your own PPE such as steel-toed boots, hats, and eye protection, etc.

Salary of Heavy Equipment Operator in Alberta

The salary of heavy equipment operators in Alberta varies by city. In Calgary, the average yearly salary is C$74,941, in Edmonton it’s C$67,240, Fort McMurray it’s C$79,643, in Lethbridge it’s C$61,247 and in Red Deer it’s C$69,585.

Those figures are based on the latest July 27, 2020 report of 

The location where you are employed plays a vital role in how much you would receive. Other factors that affect the salary are the extent of experience and the qualifying certifications you have.

If you are an operator who is proficient in operating many different machines, you are more likely to get better offer and at a better standing in getting employed.

The construction is the industry where you are more likely to get employment. This industry is expected to grow in the coming years due to the increased spending to develop more roads, bridges, buildings, apartments, homes, etc.

With that, more operators are needed to keep up with the demand. Both the private and public are in need of qualified candidates. Those factors could make you feel a sense of job security.

To Make a Finalization

The need for heavy equipment operators has never been greater. As more and more baby boomers retire and as more and more infrastructure projects being put up so as the growth for the demand for skilled operators like you.

Getting professionally trained is the first important step in getting into this career. Alberta has a number of schools where you take the program from.

You will spend some investment, but you can easily recuperate it because operators are well-paid.

Now is the right time to act, take the first step, and be a heavy equipment operator. We wish you good luck on your chosen career.

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