Mike Rowe has spent about two decades behind the controls of big machines.
He loves it. He loves using the equipment to move mounds of dirt, piles of rocks, loads of demolition debris.
"It's very rewarding work," Rowe said. "You can physically see the progress. You have that instant reward."
And, he admitted, operating heavy equipment is pretty fun. It's kind of like playing in the sandbox as a kid, only on a much larger scale.
"You're a bigger kid and your toys are bigger," he said.
This fall, Rowe will share his passion for heavy equipment with students at Berks Career and Technology Center. He's the instructor of the school's brand-new heavy equipment operations program at BCTC's east campus in Oley Township.
While BCTC has had a heavy equipment technology program since 2001 — where students learn to maintain and repair equipment — the operations program will open a whole new career pathway for students. And, Rowe said, it's a steady one.
"This job market is never going to go away," he said. "We're going to continue to build things."
And, he added, that job market is filled with well-paying gigs.
"With the pay scales that are out there, there's potential to make a lot of money," he said, adding that it's a viable career path for students not interested in attending college. "They can get to the job market right away. Not everybody is destined for a four-year school."
James Mack, BCTC's heavy equipment technology instructor, echoed that, saying the aim of the new operations program is simple.
"The goal is to get students ready for the entry level in the construction industry," he said.
Rowe said a good heavy equipment operator needs to master a lot of skills. They should have good hand-eye coordination, spacial relations ability, and understanding of angles, weights and stresses. They also need a good understanding of math.
The program at BCTC will be a half-day program, with about 25 students in the morning and afternoon sessions. Students will get hands-on experience with a variety of equipment.
And, thanks to a generous offer from New Enterprise Stone and Lime Co., students will get to use the equipment at a nearby quarry. School officials said New Enterprise is allowing the school to use the quarry at no cost.
For more information on BCTC's programs visit the school's website at www.berkscareer.com.