MARTINSVILLE, Va. (WFXR) — Patrick Henry Community College got a large delivery on Monday.

The college received two new Heavy Equipment Caterpillar Simulators and a Caterpillar Trailer. These installments were purchased with assistance from the Higher Education Equipment Trust Fund, and the equipment will be used to pave the way for a new Heavy Equipment Operator program which is slated to start on January 19, 2021.

The Caterpillar Simulators feature rotating motion platforms and offer a 3-D virtual reality experience that replicates real-life operating scenarios. Through a hybrid of online classwork and in-person training on the simulator, students will learn heavy equipment safety, basic operational techniques, the basics of earthmoving, and how to interpret civil drawings.

The program prepares students to operate excavators, wheel loader equipment, and more.

Locally, employers are advertising $18–28 per hour starting salaries for full-time heavy equipment operators. Local employers, such as Prillaman & Pace and Henry County Public Service Authority, have guaranteed job interviews to anyone who successfully completes the new program at PHCC. The college is also partnering with the Virginia Heavy Construction Contractors Association to help connect graduates with even more employment opportunities.

Tuition for the new program is $4,500, but funding sources are available that may cover up to 100% of tuition.

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