Contractors have been talking about the labor shortage for years, but one Ohio company is doing something about it. Performance Training Solutions (PTS) in Reynoldsburg has been training new heavy equipment operators and crane operators since 2011.
PTS offers three-week class sessions for students who want to get into the construction industry. Students spend about 40% of their time in the classroom and the other 60% getting hands-on experience in the equipment, according to Matt Foor, president.
Two levels of heavy equipment training are offered. In Level 1, students learn basics like earthmoving and soils, while Level 2 goes more in depth on skills like grades, civil drawings and construction math. At the onsite work area, known as the Big Sandbox, students get experience digging footers with a backhoe, cutting a road in, and similar tasks.
The heavy equipment curriculum meets the standards of NCCER—the National Center for Construction Education and Research—and students earn credentials to operate up to 10 types of equipment. More than 700 students have attended classes and the school has a 90% placement rate, Foor said.
Since the beginning, PTS has counted on Columbus Equipment Company for the equipment students learn on, including Kubota equipment. Recently the company acquired several new Kubota pieces.
The purchase was driven by a couple of considerations. The school wanted to replace some older skid steers, and on the advice of friends Foor tried out a Kubota compact track loader. “It was a smoother machine than the skid steers we owned, and it had more space in the cab,” he said. “I liked the controls and the visibility.”
Kubota was offering 0% interest, and Foor found he could trade in an older Kubota KX080 and the two skid steers and buy a new KX080 and two SVL65-2 loaders for less than he’d been paying on the older equipment. “It was a smart business decision. The process of financing through Columbus Equipment Company was easy and seamless. The Kubota credit process was a simple credit application. Josh Stivison and Jon St. Julian [used equipment manager] were extremely fair with our trade-ins,” he said.
“Kubotas are excellent machines. Students have to feel confident in the machines. The Kubotas offer good visibility, and they are not too big or cumbersome,” Foor said. “They fit the bill, and we can tell students enjoy the machines. Our instructors like them too.”
“Powerwise, weightwise, the Kubotas work well for what we are doing. The cycle times we see are good, and the 65s are good for loading a dump truck,” he added.
PTS has been a Columbus Equipment Company customer “since day one,” Foor said. “We have a great relationship. Josh Stivison has been awesome with us. I don’t know if we’d be in business if they hadn’t been so willing to work with us.”
The school started with rental equipment, then switched to purchasing. “We don’t look too far outside of Columbus Equipment Company unless we need a piece that they don’t sell.”
Along with compact Kubota equipment, PTS has also purchased multiple pieces of Komatsu equipment from Columbus Equipment Company, and Foor believes he has always been fairly treated. “When you work with Columbus Equipment a couple of times, you don’t second guess,” he said. “I am comfortable that they are giving me the best prices.”
Excellent service has strengthened the relationship. “Service is fantastic and the parts department is great,” Foor said. “They are fast to react to our needs. They understand we are different than a construction company. If a motor grader goes down and someone needs to get trained, we need to get that grader back up. normal construction company could use a different machine, but we don’t have that luxury. People are here to get trained and earn credentials, and Columbus Equipment is very responsive to our needs. If something breaks down it’s just a quick text or phone call, and they get someone out here. There’s no BS.”
Foor, who has been in excavation his entire career, and his PTS co-founders had a simple goal. They knew helping students get basic skills would ease the way to a construction job. Students who complete the program “know how to take care of equipment, how to grease it, and they are comfortable operating it,” Foor said. Contractors who hire a PTS graduate may “spend a couple of weeks showing a guy your way of laying pipe or whatever” but after that they’ll have a competent employee, he added.
Students from ages 18 into their 50s have attended PTS, and the company frequently fields calls from contractors looking for recent graduates in their area.
“On average, our graduates are making in the mid-$60s, with some making six figures and up,” Foor said. “When we started this, we knew that college was not for everyone. We just want to help people who want to get into an industry that is core to the country’s future development, and can be a lot of fun.”