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Students complete training valued in construction industry

Gadsden, Ala. — The demand for construction equipment operators is increasing faster than the average with a median pay of almost $50,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because of the demand, Gadsden State Community College offers a free training for operating skid steers. The first class of 12 completed training on April 29.

“Now that they have completed the training, they can work on any construction site,” said Alan Smith, dean of Workforce Development. “They’re fully qualified.”

The free training program is a part of the Alabama Community College System’s Skills for Success, a rapid training program introduced last year. Since it’s launch over 1,500 Alabamians have registered for training in high-demand jobs in industries such as construction, trucking and food and beverage.

A skid steer is a small, versatile piece of construction equipment primarily used for digging. Part of the skid steer training is offered online with interactive learning that is self-paced. It opened on March 20 and students had a month to complete it. Upon completion of the online portion, students then participated in a two-day, 16-hour hands-on training using two skid steers. The training was conducted by James R. Mackey, a trucking instructor at Gadsden State.

“During the training, they get to do what they’ve learned online,” said Baisha Woody, director of the Skills Training Division at Gadsden State. “They do pre-trip checks and safety checks. They get into the skid steers and actually operate them. They have to complete a number of obstacles before they are awarded a completion certificate.”

Raymond Gardner, a junior at Alexandria High School, joined students from Gadsden Job Corps, Gadsden State and Jacksonville State University. He took the course at the suggestion of his supervisor at Calhoun County company that maintains and repairs right-of-way equipment.

“I think it’s going to be very beneficial for me to have experience and a certification in equipment operating before I graduate from high school,” he said.

Gardner said he plans to enroll in Gadsden State’s Diesel Technology Program as a dual-enrollment student in the fall. He would also like to eventually earn a commercial driver’s license.

“The more certifications I have, the more valuable I am to my employer,” he said. “This training program was really interesting, too. It gave me a lot of information about what we need to know about operating equipment on construction sites.”

Gadsden State will offer the skid steer training again this summer. The online modules open May 22 with the hands-on training taking place June 23-24. Plans are in the works to pilot a new construction helper course developed by Smith. More information will be forthcoming.

To register for the next skid steer training, contact Woody at or call 256-549-8640. More information about Skills Training courses can be found at

Skid Steer training

Students in the skid steer training at Gadsden State Community College observe the operation of the piece of equipment used primarily for digging. The free training program is through Alabama Community College System’s Skills for Success.