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how long do people stay in the heavy equipment career field

#construction #career-choice

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Matt’s Answer

I have a personal friend who has been in heavy equipment his entire career as an operator. In our state, New Jersey, the heavy equipment operators space is heavily unionized (at least for any public or major private construction projects). Simply put, small private operators do not compete for the big dig type jobs. My friend started out of high school in the union in an apprentice program . He is now 46 and, just about 2 years ago, he transitioned from operator to union administration (he quotes on, and manages union project sites and teams versus operating the equipment). He is planning to retire at 55, has 3 boys, and has paid off his first house (saving for the home he wants to build in the woods now). You can make a career of this but I think that you either need to be a very good entrepreneur (who can create a business that can compete with large unions), a union operator, or you need to be willing to work in the smaller jobs as a home contractor (which would likely be better for a general contractor vs just a heavy equipment operator.
I would also tell you that my friend has major back problems as a result of the hard labor. He doesn't just sit in the cab and run the machine. Many times he has to get out, go into the dig, and work with hand tools because he has to see what he is working with. He also has operated large cranes in NYC (which he says is the absolutely most stressful job in the world).
Hope this helps.
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David’s Answer

That’s really up to the worker and the company. Generally speaking there is a high turnover rate of employees in the construction industry. I would guess that on average, employees only last between two and three years before deciding to move on for various reasons including lack of job satisfaction, finding the work too laborious for the pay and feeling that the company only views its employees as numbers and not people.
There is a misconception that construction workers are uneducated and are only doing the work because they have no other choices. In reality a career in construction can be long and rewarding.
Find a company that fosters personal and professional development and has a training program in place for its employees that gives them the tools to help them advance their careers. Companies with a culture that places their employees in high regard are companies that someone would want to be with long-term.
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