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Do Heavy Equipment Operators Need Soft Skills?

Mention the word heavy equipment operator and most people think of a big barreled hairy chest male, probably wearing a hard hat and a singlet. Soft skills – there’s nothing soft about a heavy equipment operator. Right? These days, that image is far from the truth – in fact, there are many women operating heavy equipment, but soft skills have nothing to do with being soft. Soft skills are those areas relating to how you interact with others.

In the workplace, soft skills include how you frame job applications and resumes, how you conduct yourself during interviews, how you work as part of a team and your interaction in that team, and can even include leadership skills. Do heavy equipment operators need these skills? If you’re new to the industry then they certainly won’t hurt. An old-but-still-relevant report from the University of Minnesota puts it quite clearly when it comes to work in general:

While jobs in today’s economy require that employees be able to solve problems, use technology, and be proficient in reading, writing, math, and speaking skills, it is the soft skills that seem to make the difference in whether or not an employer hires and keeps someone on the job (Bremer & Madzar, 1995; Rentner, 2001)

Research over the years has demonstrated that soft skills can improve job seeking success rates by anything up to 85%, which is understandable given the emphasis placed on training people how to apply for job vacancies to their best advantage. When it comes heavy equipment training, the core training is on operating heavy equipment and heavy equipment safety, however, if a training organization also offers soft skills training, don’t snub that training – it could make the difference between a successful heavy equipment career, and being on the wrong end of job application reject letters.

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