How hands-on training guaranteed a kick-start to Kelsey MacRae’s heavy-equipment operating career 

Kelsey MacRae grew up playing in the dirt and having a strong interest in cars and trucks.

After graduating high school, she worked at an automotive shop where her interest in heavy equipment was piqued. “I knew university wasn’t for me since I learn best by performing hands-on tasks. Couple that with my interest in heavy equipment and a desire to work outdoors…well, it led to the Heavy Equipment Operator Program offered by the Dexter Institute.”  

The Heavy Equipment Operator Program starts in February of each year and runs through mid-September. Students spend eight weeks in a classroom setting, learning all about the Heavy Civil Construction Industry. This includes courses in equipment theory, surveying principles, construction math and planning and estimating project timelines and costs. Students then move into a seven-week practical learning environment where they accumulate over 250 hours of seat time operating equipment. All students complete a three-and-a-half- month paid work placement with Dexter Construction; where students get to test out the skills they developed in the program while working on actual construction jobs.

“The best part of the program was getting to know my classmates and instructors— and getting lots of seat time!” Kelsey says,  “I was fortunate to learn the most efficient and proper way to operate equipment, which gave me a ton of confidence and really prepared me for the fast pace of my current work environment.” 

Since graduating from the program, Kelsey has worked on a variety of jobs while continuing to build her skills as an operator. “I worked on a water main installation project during my first season, and my second season consisted of grading for new roads and constructing site pads with a dozer. I also spent time loading trucks, digging ditches and trenches and grading— all of which required the skills I developed in the program.”

Kelsey has the unique perspective of being a female operator. “It’s rare that I see another female on the same job. However, I have been welcomed by my co-workers and encouraged to pursue my operating career.” Kelsey also appreciates the innovations that have been made in technology and gear, which has added precision and ease of operation. “Working as an operator with Dexter is made enjoyable by their newer, up-to-date equipment. Keeping up with advancing technology, almost all of Dexter’s heavy equipment has a grade control system, which helps me get more done. I love what I’m doing and I’m very proud to have graduated from the Dexter Institute Private Career College. The fact that it led to a career with Dexter Construction was a big factor in my decision.”

Located in Bedford, the Dexter Institute Private Career College inspires students to discover their passions, develop a unique skillset and build a lasting career. Programs are offered for jobs in heavy civil construction and commercial driving. Graduates are guaranteed an offer of employment with the Municipal Group of Companies, the parent company of Dexter Construction.