There is strong demand for heavy equipment operators at present but what does a heavy equipment career offer for new operators? In the short term, there is plenty of work available and there are opportunities for all new operators to not only gain a start in the industry, but to also bring home a healthy pay check. The long term outlook is much harder to predict.
When it comes to the future, there are never any guarantees. We don’t know where the economy is headed, whether or not the bleak conditions in Europe will affect us, or how fast we can bounce back to a healthy economy. We can however look at history and what has happened in the past.
History shows that economies are always bouncing around going from highs to lows before climbing back to highs again. There is one other factor that needs to be considered when looking at any career, particularly those in construction and heavy equipment. This is the aging of our population. To some, there is real concern that, rather than having an over supply of operators, we will be left with severe shortages.
If you look around most building sites, the one thing you will rarely see is sixty year olds at work, even in the cab of heavy equipment. Most construction workers seem to get to around fifty, perhaps fifty-five and then give the game away and look for employment that is a little less physical, a little less dependent on young fit bodies. Heavy equipment careers are a little different in that age is not a strong factor when it comes to being capable – but after 30 or more years as an operator, many are still ready to call it quits when they hit their fifties.
This exodus of labor from the industry is already starting to take affect. Many employers are trying hard to retain experienced operators well into their fifties, or using them to pass on their skills and knowledge to the next generation. Is there a bright future for heavy equipment operators? The next twenty years will undoubtedly see highs and lows, but if we don’t have an increase in the number of young people graduating from heavy equipment training programs, there is a real risk that we will have severe shortages in numbers, not an excess. Heavy equipment careers can still offer a reasonably stable future for new operators – we just need to encourage more into the industry.