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Heavy Equipment Operator Certificate

Heavy Equipment Operator

Learn while completing various industry standard projects to apply your operating skills.

In this full-time, Alberta Advanced Education approved, 12 week certificate you will learn in a cohesive work climate simulating real-life job sites. Seat time is maximized for students as online instruction supplements the real-life scenarios set out to give you industry-related project experience. Our instructors have experience in a variety of industry work environments and have significant expertise to share with students.

Heavy Equipment Operators are required for numerous industries and this program will prepare you for employment. Olds College’s Heavy Equipment Operator Certificate (HEO) is an Alberta Advanced Education PAPRS approved program. Our comprehensive program is developed with industry to keep up with the demands in the workforce. The mix of classroom theory and practical skills are a balance supported by industry.

The Heavy Equipment Operator program is constructed to ensure entry-level operators attain a professional standard in a twelve-week program, followed by a two-week practicum. Our program has a graduation requirement practicum of eighty (80) hours where students will further develop their skills in an industry-related work site position where they apply new skills from their education and training.

Some equipment you may learn on includes a skid steer, compactor, loader, dozer, grader, and excavator, and rubber-tired hoe.

The program is delivered as face-to-face, on-site practical instruction with an online component. This training takes place over a twelve week period from Monday to Friday with two groups to maximize seat time that students spend in equipment. Group 1 is scheduled from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Group 2 is scheduled from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m; this program observes Statutory Holidays. Some times may vary with prior notice. Keep in mind there are assignments and reading so use your time wisely.

HEO Program Outline

Program Intakes: 

  • Winter intake - March program start
  • Spring intake - May program start
  • Fall intake - September program start

Applications Open 11 months prior to the program start date.

  • First Wednesday of October (9 a.m.) for the Fall Intake
  • First Wednesday of February (9 a.m.) for the Winter Intake
  • First Wednesday of June (9 a.m.) for the Spring Intake


Upon successful completion of this program, you will receive a Certificate of Graduation for the Heavy Equipment Operator program.

    • High School Diploma or its equivalent

    • Minimum of 18 years of age upon completion of the program

    • Meet the English Language Proficiency Requirement

    • Personal Profile Submission (please use the link to electronically submit your profile)

    • Acknowledge the Student Commitment Contract

    • Answer three (3) questions for your personal profile:

      • Do you have any experience in relation to the program you have chosen, such as operating construction or agricultural equipment, construction worksite activities, mechanical duties, or utility installation? Please provide details.

      • Receiving your Certificate of Completion is only one step of becoming successful in the workforce. What are other attributes or qualities you possess that would be beneficial in assisting you in gaining employment?

      • What research have you done in relation to the program you have chosen; provide details? What are your plans after completing this course?

    • Class 5 Driver’s License

      • Please submit a copy of your Class 5 Driver’s License (GDL licenses are accepted). It is recommended that you have a full Class 5 License as it improves your employability, however it is not required for entrance into the program. Please note: restrictions such as a blow box on your license are not acceptable to enter into the program.

    • Driver’s Abstract

      • Please submit a recent copy of your Driver's Abstract (current within three months of the start of the program)

    Academic Upgrading and High School Applicants: Applicants currently in high school or who are completing academic upgrading must submit proof of enrollment and any available interim/midterm marks. Final marks must be submitted within one month following the completion of the course(s) and no later than one month prior to the program start date.

    Alternate Admission Option: Alternate Admission status may be offered to applicants who have not or will not complete one of the academic admission requirements. To be considered under Alternate Admission Status, applicants will be asked to provide the following:

    1. (Required) Transcript(s) showing any completed high school and post-secondary courses

    2. (Required) Letter of Introduction and Intent, outlining the following:

      • Introduce yourself

      • Indicate why you wish to enrol in the program

      • Elaborate on your career goals

      • Detail your experience relevant to this program and the industry

    3. (Required) A resume of your work history, extracurricular activities, volunteer service, etc. for the last 5 years

    4. (Optional) Include copies of any tickets and/or certificates you currently hold (e.g.: first aid, safety tickets, etc.)

    5. (Optional) Letter(s) of reference from current or past employers/coaches/etc. (maximum of two letters)

    Submitting Alternate Admission material does not guarantee admission

    Additional Information

    Important attributes of an operator includes mathematical ability, excellent vision, and a high degree of physical coordination as well as:

    • Full range of body motion; repetitive motions which specifically affect upper body use; 
    • Sitting for extensive periods of time on vibrating and/or bouncing machinery; 
    • Manual and finger dexterity as well as eye-hand and foot coordination; 
    • Excellent physical condition; occasional heavy and moderate physical labor required; 
    • Occasional lifting/carrying items up to 50 lbs / 22.5 kg; 
    • Corrected vision and hearing within normal range; and/or
    • Good oral and written communication skills.

    Please refer to the current Fee Schedule for complete details.

    Tuition, Fees & Payments

    Student Funding

    Are you eligible for the $10,000 Alberta-Canada Job Grant? If you are employed, then under the Canada-Alberta Job Grant, employers will cover a minimum of one third of direct training costs, with up to a maximum of $10,000 in government contributions. Find out more information on your eligibility! 

    As this program is approved by Alberta Education - then admitted students are eligible to receive student loans. Please note though, that student loans will not cover the full cost of the program. Please contact your provincial student aid office to determine your eligibility.

  • Olds College of Agriculture & Technology has a solid reputation working with employers in the industry! This directly translates into jobs for our graduates. Opportunities include, but are not limited to:

    • Landscaping design and maintenance
    • Golf Courses, Grounds keeping
    • Municipal Government road maintenance
    • Demolition
    • Forestry
    • Intensive Livestock Operations
    • Utility installations both commercial and residential
    • Road Building
    • Waste Management
    • Oil and Gas site preparation and reclamation

    Visit ALIS to find Occupational Profiles with current wages, industry trends and more!

    ALIS Occupational Profiles

  • Program Dates

    Find out when your term start and end dates are, so that you know when you are expected to be in attendance. For more information, please review the Program Dates & Fee Schedule.

    Class Registration

    You will be registered into your classes automatically. This will happen approximately 1 month prior to the start-date for your program. You will be notified once you have been timetabled into your courses. You will be able to see your class schedule in your My Olds College account. If you need to make any changes to your class registration, please contact the Office of the Registrar.

    Technology Recommendation

    We recommend that students bring a Windows laptop to complete the online portion of their training. Students will have access to computer labs on campus. If you need to sign out a laptop from the Service Desk, then please submit a request.

    As part of your student accounts, all students have access to Office 365 for the duration of their time with Olds College of Agriculture & Technology. To access this you just need to follow these steps:

    • Go to
    • Enter your Olds College email address and password
    • Once logged in there is a button on the right that says "Install Office Apps"

    This will give you access to the full Office suite on your computer, for both Windows and Mac based platforms.

    Materials & Supplies

    Personal protective equipment is required for all field components of the program and must be CSA approved, which includes:

    • Steel toe safety footwear (minimum 6” ankle height)
    • Safety glasses
    • Reflective vest or reflective marked coveralls
    • Hard hat (yellow preferred, NOT white)
    • Hearing protection
    • Work gloves
    • Grease gun

    Failure to wear this equipment when required will result in dismissal from class, as this is a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations of Olds College.

    A textbook is required for this program. Further details will be communicated with admitted students nearer to the program start date.

    Other Important Information

    • Time Requirements: This is a very intense 12 week program. Self study of the printed material is mandatory. Students must be willing to treat this program like a job. The field portion is very much like a work site. This program is heavily weighted in employability skills.  It is very important students commit to full attendance.

    • Additional Skills: Mechanical aptitude, good communication skills, exceptional employability skills (i.e. ability to show up on time, abide by worksite & OHS rules, etc).

    Required items before your program starts:

    • A new three year, standard driver's abstract must be sent to your Admission Officer before your program starts. It needs to be dated within three months of your program start date.

    • Typically, student loans cover only a portion of the tuition and fees. Please remember to plan accordingly for additional living expenses (accommodation, meals, travel) and the required equipment list.

    Training schedule:

    • Week 1: Mandatory safety training on campus (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Students complete safety training in their first week (HEO 6001). This is mandatory training and you are required to attend even if you have the tickets already.

    • Weeks 2-12: The gravel pit that training is held at is in the Olds area and students are responsible for driving themselves to the location. Training at the gravel pit takes place over a twelve week period from Monday to Friday with two groups to maximize seat time that students spend in equipment. Group 1 is scheduled from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Group 2 is scheduled from 12 p.m. to 5:30 p.m; this program observes Statutory Holidays. Section scheduling requests for training time can be accommodated and sign up forms will be sent approximately one month before your program starts.

“I found out about this program from an online search. I’m learning a lot here, plus it’s great to operate the equipment.”

Matt Downs

Industry Partners

We work closely with employers and industry and in many ways:

  • Industry advisory group - to help update curriculum as industry needs change
  • Industry guest speakers and field trips to connect our students to employers
  • Industry loaned equipment keeps the tuition costs affordable for our students while providing the employer early access to a pool of qualified new operators. In addition this affords the company a Gift in Kind tax deduction.

For more information regarding industry partnering opportunities, please contact

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Our program does not limit the hours in equipment as the curriculum is competency-based. So it may take a particular student a lot longer to meet competencies in a grader than it does a skid steer - or vice versa. As our classroom is at site, students meet with the field instructor and complete a toolbox/tailgate meeting and learn about the plan for the day. Each student is assigned to a piece of equipment. A significant portion of the program is hands-on learning time in the equipment. On average students spend 5-6 hours per day on equipment. 
  • We do not provide placements for students but there are plenty of opportunities to find placement during the program and we have provided a list of companies in the past for students to contact if they still haven't found a placement by the end of the program. We also have a number of employment supports at Olds College. Make sure to utilize the resume building workshops while you’re at Olds College!
  • There are multiple pieces of each type of equipment. We teach skills for Loader, Dozer, Excavator, Skid Steer, Rubber Tired Hoe. There are a variety of sizes and models to give students a well-rounded experience. It also offers the opportunity to explore multiple projects that represent various sectors of the industry. The equipment fleet is organized on a rotational basis for each student to give multiple opportunities on each machine.

    There are 10 students in each cohort. There is a morning and afternoon cohort. Each has a field instructor and lead instructor overseeing the class as a whole. Much of the program is hands-on - so again, as curriculum is competency-based, we do not have set 'hours' (maximum or minimum hours) that a student spends on each piece of equipment. Some machines require more time to learn, some individuals may require more time to gain the competencies.  As a rule of thumb students spend between 5-6 hours per day in hands-on learning.  All theory and readings are completed in our Learning Management System MOODLE. It is a great way to combine theory learning while doing real-life projects on our worksite to maximize time in the machine. 

  • Students complete WHMIS, Standard First Aid & CPR, Ground Disturbance Level 2, H2S Alive, Construction Safety Training System (CSTS), and Common Safety Orientation (CSO) training in their first week. If you do have tickets that are valid within the last 6 months, please provide these to the enrollment advisor and this information will be shared with the instructional staff who will determine if you do not have to re-take these 3rd party certifications. 
  • If you successfully complete the program, then you will receive a Certificate of Graduation - as it is a for-credit program and provincially approved credential that is reviewed annually by industry representatives. As the program is offered through an accredited post-secondary institution, then it will be recognized internationally.
  • Please contact your provincial student aid office to determine your eligibility. Please remember to plan accordingly for additional living expenses (accommodation, meals, travel) and the required equipment list. More information is available on Student Funding on our website. Don't forget to check out our Student Awards!

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Program at a Glance

Length: 12 Weeks

Delivery Method: On-Campus

Program Intake: Various Dates

Applications Open: October, February

Program Status: Open