Simulators add realistic and safe training experience for apprentices and journeyman operators

IUOE Local 178 trades in older technology for CM Labs’ Vortex simulators

CM Labs Simulations, developer of Vortex training simulators, has enhanced the education experience for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 178’s apprentices and journeyman operators with its next generation Vortex simulators.

Last year, Local 178 replaced a 10-year-old training simulator at its Fort Worth, Texas-based union hall with an immersive Vortex Advantage five-screen simulator, where members and apprentices learn and practice backhoe, rough-terrain crane, tower crane and crawler crane operation.

For marketing and recruitment purposes, Local 178 also purchased a three-screen Vortex Advantage simulator. Housed in a trailer, the unit can be towed to colleges and career fairs to demonstrate the system’s rough-terrain and crawler crane training software.

“One of the biggest selling points for me was the immersiveness of the five screens,” said Mack Bennett, business manager for Local 178, noting that the upgraded model has a realistic feel with interactive features and highly detailed graphics.

Even more important is the controlled environment the Vortex Advantage provides operators in training. “Instead of putting first-year apprentices on live equipment and talking to them through a radio, we can stand beside them and explain the situations,” he said. With the Vortex Advantage, the progress of the apprentice is captured, and instructors can gauge whether they have improved or need more training on specific functions.

Local 178 not only trains its apprentices with the Vortex Advantage simulators, but even some journeyman operators will sharpen their skills with the simulator and use it for crossover training. “We may have a crawler crane operator run a tower crane to see if he likes it,” he said.

Seat time in the simulator also has helped Local 178 operators prepare for the NCCCO practical exams. Bennett said the Vortex Advantage makes the operators more proficient when they take the practical, reducing the amount of times they take the exam and providing a cost savings for the union.

“Vortex Advantage simulators are well-equipped to teach realistic heavy equipment operation,” said Arnold Free, CM Labs’ Chief Commercial Officer. “The IUOE Local 178 is ensuring its apprentices and journeyman operators receive active seat time in a safe environment.”

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