GETAWAY, Ohio — Collins Career Center has secured a $350,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to start a heavy equipment program.

The program will be for Lawrence County high school students this year and be available for adult students starting next year, according to Steve Dodgion, superintendent of the vocational school program.

The money was used to buy two simulators to teach students to operate heavy equipment with the help of virtual reality, Dodgion said.

The two-year program will give graduates advanced status in the field of heavy equipment operators, Dodgion said. "We're really excited about it," he said.

Two labs at the career center that formerly housed the diesel mechanics program have been set aside for the new heavy equipment program, Dodgion said.

"We have 10 students signed up right now for the heavy equipment program," he said. "We have room for five more students.

"They can make really good money," Dodgion said. "With all the construction going on, there's a huge need for operators."

The class is designed to teach students how to operate heavy equipment as well as how to do maintenance on the equipment, Dodgion said.

Members of the operating engineers union are involved in the instruction program, he said.

The two simulators are being delivered to Collins this week, Dodgion said.

Classes at the vocational school begin Wednesday, Aug. 14, he said.

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