New heavy equipment operator school graduates first class

Local 49 and Summit Academy OIC graduate first joint class.

19 Students to Take Part in Historic Graduation on July 9

The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49 and Summit Academy OIC are excited to graduate the first class of students to participate in their groundbreaking joint heavy equipment operator training program. This milestone event comes after two years of negotiating, planning and countless hours of hard work by administrators and students.
The program is designed to provide more targeted opportunities for women and minorities to become operating engineers through Local 49’s apprenticeship program.This inaugural class of students started in the spring and on July 9 will have completed 20 weeks of rigorous curriculum designed to get them ready to safely and skillfully operate heavy equipment for union contractors. 
To join this heavy equipment operator program, interested students had to meet requirements that the State of Minnesota has put in place to become a Local 49 registered apprentice, including a high school diploma or GED, and a passing score on the Ramsay Skills Test, which evaluates basic math proficiency. 
“Our doors have always been open wide to women and minority community members, but we wanted to go the extra mile to ensure more people knew how to enter Local 49’s apprenticeship program,” said Glen Johnson, Local 49 business manager. “While many people talk about inclusion and a diverse workplace, we have gone beyond talking, and are taking real action to address this issue in a responsible manner that will benefit the union, the contractors, and members of the community.” 
Students spent the first 15 weeks of this program at Summit Academy where they learned about the highway construction industry, union values, and the basics of heavy equipment via instruction and time on computer simulators. 
The last five weeks of the program have been spent at the Local 49’s state of the art Training Center in Hinckley. Students have spent 80 hours of this time operating the equipment that apprentices typically operate when they first enter the industry. 
“Local 49 members have given up part of their wage to pay for this 400 acre training center because they recognize that to be safe on the job, and to be competitive in the industry, you need to be highly skilled,” said Local 49 Business Manager Glen Johnson. 
“Becoming an operator requires a lot more than showing up on a job site willing to work,” said Gary Lindblad director of training for Local 49. “Operators must have proper training and certification to get in the seat of a dozer, backhoe or crane and work safely and effectively.”
The first graduation ceremony will take place at 10:30 A.M. on Friday, July 9 at the IUOE Local 49 Training Center at 40276 Fish Tail Road in Hinckley. Numerous lawmakers and political representatives are scheduled to participate in a brief program.
Johnson added: “This type of program was long overdue; traditionally men and women raised on the family farm joined Local 49 for a more secure future with better health care and pension benefits. As our state’s landscape has changed, we have had to find new ways to recruit new workers interested in a career in our industry.”
Said Louis King, CEO of Summit Academy: “This training is like no other being offered locally, and it gives our students – many with difficult backgrounds and upbringings – the tools they need to succeed. We are pleased to have partnered with Local 49 to fulfill our mission of teaching our students to be self-sufficient, regardless of background, economic status or ethnicity.”
Local 49 is a labor union 13,000 members strong, representing Engineers who operate cranes and heavy equipment used in highway and building construction. Forty-niners work in Minnesota, North and South Dakota. For more information about the 49ers, please visit
Summit Academy OIC (SAOIC) is a nonprofit educational and vocational training center that empowers adults residing in the most economically depressed neighborhoods in the Twin Cities to become educated, employed, contributing members of the community. Focused on high-demand, high-growth industries, Summit’s results-oriented programs effect long-term change. Summit graduates are skilled and motivated workers who can stop drawing public assistance and start caring for their families, paying taxes and helping to stabilize and vitalize their communities. For more information, visit