Health & Education

TERO holds on-campus heavy equipment operator training

11.13.2018 Danielle Frost Education, Tribal Employees

By Danielle Frost

The Tribal Employment Rights Office’s newest offering might remind some of a simulated high school driving course.

It is an onsite heavy equipment operator training in a portable classroom on the Tribal campus. The Tribe is partnering with Baker Technical Institute to bring the training, designed for beginners or experienced operators who want to train on graders, bulldozers, excavators and wheel loaders.

Participants spend 15 days learning on high-tech CAT simulators before testing their skills on real equipment for five days.

TERO Compliance Officer Duke Kimsey learned about the program through his contacts with the Umatilla Tribe.

“We have 11 road construction projects and need people who know how to operate heavy equipment,” he said. “I picked eight people who have been with TERO for a few years and want to move up in the ranks, and whom it would benefit most.”

Kimsey works with hundreds of contractors and sends out regular reports, so he sees where construction crews are lacking personnel.

“Knowing how to operate heavy equipment is a good tool for them to have in their belt in order to move up to a higher position,” he said.

TERO was formed to provide quality services for the Grand Ronde Reservation and surrounding region to employ Indian people. It achieves this through increasing and enhancing employment opportunities, and promoting Tribal and Indian preference in contracting and subcontracting.

Baker Technical Institute is based in the eastern Oregon town of Baker City and offers students the training needed to learn job skills such as welding, engineering, nursing and construction.

“This training gets the students familiar with all four pieces of equipment, so when they complete the class they are more than ready to go into the field and run it,” Kimsey said. “It would be beneficial to have this training every year. My goal is to get them on a piece of machinery, which is much better than digging ditches and has great pay.”

Richard Nevarez, Walker River Paiute, decided to participate in the class to increase his employment opportunities.

“If I have these skills in my toolbox, I could hop on a piece of equipment if needed and work my way into a job,” he said.

The Portland resident commutes up to four hours per day to attend the training, but feels it is well worth the drive.

“I am very thankful and appreciative to TERO for providing this opportunity to better my skills and excel in the workforce,” he said.

Collins Hinch, Inuit, said he has been interested in learning how to operate heavy equipment for some time.

“I always knew there was more to it, but didn’t realize they had classes like this,” he said.

Hinch, of Oregon City, also has a long commute to the classes, but like Nevarez feels it is worth it.

“I am learning there is a lot of detail to this,” he said. “But it is also a lot of fun. The most fun part so far is actually using the simulator after the safety checks. It is great training.”