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9 graduate Valencia’s 1st heavy equipment program

Posted on Friday, July 28, 2017 at 6:00 am

By Ken Jackson
Staff Writer
We can’t start calling Valencia College’s Osceola campus “Valencia Tech” yet, but some of its students looking to do something earth-shattering could soon be moving plenty of it.
In a small ceremony Tuesday, the first nine graduates of the college’s new heavy equipment operations course were honored with their portfolios, resumes and all they need to go to work in the construction industry.
The nine graduates — William Bostic, Michael Formenta, Jose Garcia, Devon Martinez, Omari Robinson,

News-Gazette Photo/Ken jackson
Above are the graduates and instructors of Valencia College’s first heavy equipment operations course.

Nathan Rodriguez, William Stephens, Nathaniel Sanchez and Gabriela Tapia — began the pilot program in May. The nine-week course includes three to four weeks of classroom study, 160 hours on simulators and job site field trips. They learned how to drive and maneuver bulldozers, front-end loaders, backhoes and excavators — skills needed on construction sites to move along infrastructure projects.
In addition, students studied civil engineering, soils, paving and blueprint reading.
According to school officials, starting pay for program graduates is $13 to $18 per hour, but those who continue advancing in experience can be making $50,000 annually within a few years. And with billions of dollars in construction projects slated all across the area, demand for heavy equipment operators will be high.
Several of the graduates had conversations with local businesses, who helped sponsor the course and develop the curriculum, about future employment, such as JR Davis Construction, Lane Construction, FDOT and Ring Power Corporation.
“There is a high demand for this workforce, and this is a new class of skilled workers,” Javier Rojas, the manager of the Valencia Construction Program, said Tuesday. “These graduates are trailblazers, true earth movers and shakers.”
Tapia said while she was working at a department store, she didn’t exactly just wake up one morning and want to drive a bulldozer. Her father is in construction, but not on the equipment side, and she saw the program as a way to get into the industry.
“It was intimidating at first being the only female in the class trying to get into a male-dominated field,” she said. “But I worked to earn their respect. My guy friends are impressed. I encourage other females interested in construction to follow their heart if this is what they really want to do.”
Formenta, who had been working as a “sign spinner,” said he decided to take a chance on the program.
“It was grueling, the 7:30 a.m. classes, but I’m glad I did it and am grateful for the opportunities joining this program has brought me,” he said.
Both were speaking with construction company representatives after the graduation ceremony.
The next heavy equipment course begins in October. The course costs $6,950, but financial aid is available through the school and trade groups.