HCTC’s heavy equipment operation program allows the college to ‘move mountains’ | HCTC

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HCTC’s heavy equipment operation program allows the college to ‘move mountains’

Hazard Community & Technical College leaders and learners gathered on May 20 at the college's Technical Campus to admire its new heavy equipment. The college purchased the equipment using grant dollars provided by the Appalachian Regional Commission through the Kentucky Department for Local Government. 

The grant totals $999,919, and HCTC matched the funds with $250,000. A significant portion of the more than $1 million went toward equipment purchases. A D2 Dozer, 255 Compact Track Loader, 308 Mini Excavator and 926 Wheel Loader are among the yellow equipment brought to the college in partnership with Boyd Caterpillar. 

The machinery increases comfortability and confidence

"I like it," Alex Anderson, a student in her final semester of the program, said, referencing the new equipment. "This machinery is good for students with no background. It's given me comfortability." 

The new equipment has helped Anderson overcome the anxiety she once felt about using heavy machinery. 

"The first time I got into it, I melted down," Anderson said. "I had a panic attack. But the people here in the program supported me through it. And now, it doesn't scare me as much." 

The program’s expansion relates to the passage of federal legislation in 2022, which vested the Kentucky Division of Abandoned Mine Lands with $74.25 million per year for the next 15 years. Over the next several years, these funds will be used to reclaim historic mining hazards across the eastern and western coalfields in Kentucky. 

This expansion of reclamation efforts has led to an increased need for heavy equipment operators. The program's expansion, supported by the grant dollars, is part of the college's efforts to meet regional workforce needs.

"At HCTC, we're focused on meeting our region's needs and reclaiming its future through opportunities," Dr. Jennifer Lindon, HCTC president and chief executive officer, said. "Training is necessary as industries have expanded, and we're excited for the opportunity to be part of this regional reclamation effort." 

The machinery allows people to combine their lived experiences with cutting-edge equipment

Randy Noble enjoys learning about heavy equipment operation, expanding a skillset he has begun to develop through life experience. 

"I own a backhoe at home. I like playing in the dirt, moving it from here to there. I thought I'd like to do this for work," Noble said. "I'm a mountain man — and I like to move mountains." 

According to Heavy Equipment Program Coordinator Willie Cornett, the expansion will benefit all parties adjacent to and directly involved with it. 

"We're generating revenue for the college. Our students are learning with their hands by moving dirt for the Abandoned Mine Lands, and that group is getting labor they wouldn't otherwise get," Cornett said. "Making money back on the equipment we bought, giving our students opportunities ... it's a win-win-win." 

HCTC's heavy equipment program is the only one of its kind in Kentucky, offering five certifications for operators. 

A photo gallery of the heavy equipment can be accessed via the 05.20.2024 Heavy Equipment Photos album. To learn more about the college, visit the Hazard Community & Technical College webpage. To learn more about the program, visit the Heavy Equipment Operation webpage, contact Cornett by phone at (606) 487-3328 or email wcornett0004@kctcs.edu