STAPLES -- Central Lakes College in Staples has begun training individuals employed in an important public safety occupation.
The students come from all across the country.
They are learning to inspect concrete boom trucks used in construction projects with zero tolerance for error. Lives depend upon the safe operation of properly functioning equipment.
The first boom inspection course filled quickly with students from Florida, California and six other states. They spent a week on the Staples campus, where large concrete pumping rigs offered various mechanical devices and functions on which to be tested.
Students from eight states are intent upon acquiring certification as inspectors for the safe operation of concrete pump booms. They spent one week and $2,000 each to be trained at Central Lakes College in Staples. (Photos by Steve Waller)
Here's how the course works:
Instructors Jerry Jackson and Rick Anderson of CLC work with Chuck Witte and Jim Mielke, trainers from Schwing America, manufacturer of concrete pumping trucks. They provide theory and practical instruction using audio-visual aids, demonstrations, class discussion and hands-on exercises. There is plenty of daily homework.
"The idea is to improve equipment condition and standards in the industry," said Jackson, who has taught concrete pumping at CLC for three years and is licensed in diesel repair, welding and heavy equipment maintenance and repair.
Anderson, a veteran of 25 years instructing students in the CLC Diesel and Heavy Equipment Technician program, worked for nine years as a mechanic.
Jackson and Anderson, after finishing the presentation of materials, put students to the test.
As the long booms unfold, their tentacles span half a football field, arching above the roofline at CLC. With clipboards and pens in hand, the students circle the rigs, crouch, lean closer at critical locations. They make notes, jotting inspection-form information that determines the extent of their observation and interpretation skills.
When the observations are complete, the instructors huddle with students beside, below, atop and even inside the trucks.
"Everyone must be on the same page," said Anderson.
Students are expected to participate in all course activities, said Jackson. And they must have perfect attendance. Test scores below 75 percent mean you didn't pass. Those who make it receive a certificate and the annually renewable, certified concrete pump boom inspector's photo identification card.
It's $2,000 well spent, said student Michael Cross of Melvinville, Mich.
"We've been busy from 8 to 5, even on those hottest days," said Bryan Baird, originally from Scotland but now a resident of Florida. He said the differences in types of trucks provided some challenge.
One truck is new, using rack and pinion technology to move the boom. It was built in Brazil.
The other truck, part of the CLC fleet, uses a ring and pinion rotational system to extend and retrieve the boom. Older trucks can be found throughout the country, so boom inspectors can be assured of encountering rigs that have many hours of service behind them.
"This course includes topics that are difficult or impossible to learn on the job," said Jackson. "Training materials are based off Schwing America's standards and procedures."
Officials at CLC said more training of this sort is scheduled for the spring and probably will continue during the summer as various licensure requirements force inspectors to refresh their skills and remain current. Without certification, one's career as an inspector doesn't advance.
The Staples campus at CLC emerged for consideration as a training site as an option for those who previously were required to travel to Canada.
For information, call Customized Training at Staples at (218) 894-5302.
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