News & Media  »  Big Machines, Big Opportunities

A partnership with Baker Technical Institute allows OYA youth to get certified to operate heavy equipment.

March 4, 2021


Ask Mason J. about the recent training program he completed at Camp Tillamook and be prepared to hear some terms you might not know: track system, carrier position, grader.

These are common terms for people who work with heavy equipment. Now, they’re also common words for Mason and five other Camp Tillamook youth who participated in the heavy equipment operator training program run by Baker Technical Institute (BTI).

At the end, all six students will have a Level 1 Operator license, creating opportunities for well-paying jobs when they leave custody.

“It’s exciting to be part of the class and be able to get the certificate,” Mason says. “But in addition, I appreciate having the comfort of knowing that I’ll be able to get a better job right off the bat because of that certificate.”

This is the first time BTI has brought the program to Camp Tillamook, but it’s not the first time OYA youth have experienced it. In the past, the program has visited Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility and the Young Women’s Transition Program, Camp Florence, and Eastern Oregon Youth Correctional Facility.

The students start by completing about 80 hours of training using a high-tech simulator called a mobile operator training platform. The simulator lets them learn the controls for machines like bulldozers, loaders, and excavators in a virtual setting before they try the real thing.

At Camp Tillamook, the youth followed up the simulation by getting behind the controls of real machines to dig trenches and move dirt for an additional 40 hours.

Mason was happy to have the real practice, since he found that the actual controls responded a bit differently than in the simulation.

Greg English, principal of Trask River High School at Camp Tillamook, said the program is a game-changer for these students.

“It provides the opportunity for our young men to learn the skills, and earn the certifications, that quality them for family-wage employment upon release from our program,” he said.