Founded in 1896, the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) is a trade union that represents operating engineers who primarily focus on heavy equipment, as well as mechanics, surveyors, and health industry workers. IUOE Local 318 is led by Justin May and Noah Ridgway, who get through their busy days with the help of a fleet of Deere machines, including everything from dozers to articulated dump trucks. Without Deere, their day jobs would be much more difficult.

The Early Beginnings

After graduating from an apprentice program back in 2014, May worked as a part-time instructor before taking on full-time responsibilities three years later. With the strong bond he’s developed with Ridgway, the facility’s training coordinator, he can help provide more training to union members than ever before.

“Noah and I take the difficult experiences we’ve had out in the field and apply them here,” says May. “We’ll work out different scenarios — where to put a ditch, how much pipe to lay, what slopes we want to work, or how much dirt we want to move. We’ll talk to members about the things they’ve seen on job sites and simulate those environments. And we’ll talk to different companies about specific work they want done. Our goal is to prepare everybody, so when they go to work there aren’t too many surprises. They’re confident and comfortable on the machines they’re running.”

Training the Best in the Field

Both May and Ridgway operate their 48-acre training facility in Marion, Illinois. Local operators are encouraged to push their skills to the limit by cutting slopes, hauling dirt, and laying pipeline, all with Deere machinery.

“When I started my apprenticeship in 2010, we had 20 acres of land, one excavator, one backhoe, and a few other pieces of equipment,” says May, who is now the head instructor of the facility. “Everyone would race here to see who could train first. You’d run half a day, then you’d watch. We used to have to rent a GPS dozer for the month, just so everyone could get some training in.”

Now, trainees can work with Deere dozers, excavators, motor graders, articulated dump trucks, and more. May credits the union’s dealer partnership with for much of their success as well.

“Kevin Trader and Erb Equipment Co. provide everything we need,” he says. “We can’t have iron down very long because members come out here and want to run specific machines. They have particular tasks they need to train to do, so we don’t like equipment being down for more than a day. If a machine’s down and repairs are above my mechanic skills, there’s an Erb truck coming in no time. They have very skilled and personable mechanics who help us out. They’re all very knowledgeable, and that’s one of the big reasons we’re with Kevin and his team.”

To learn more about Deere machinery and how it can transform the way you work, you can contact your local John Deere dealer.

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