Youth learn heavy equipment skills


Camp Florence participants got the chance to move dirt and debris around a City of Florence site on Quince Street as part of their training in heavy equipment operation.

Program gives Camp Florence hands-on construction equipment training

June 2, 2021 — Camp Florence Youth Transitional Facility is a work study program which provides education and training to youth who are preparing to transition into the community from state oversight. One of the main ways the students prepare to accomplish this often-daunting task is to educate themselves, either by learning a skilled trade or by returning to a more formal educational setting. 

Currently a number of Camp Florence residents are participating in classes which will train them to operate various types of heavy equipment used in construction. 

There is a great demand for technically trained people in many areas related to the construction industry and this opportunity to learn a highly paid profession, with nearly unlimited growth potential, has been embraced by a number of young men at the camp.

Kenny English, assistant director at Camp Florence, was on hand for a training session last week across from the Florence Events center, provided by the City of Florence for the training. He was encouraged by the session.

“Six young men from Camp Florence were selected to participate in a heavy equipment operation course brought to us by Baker Technical Institute,” he said. “Participants learned and practiced their skills using state-of-the-art CAT simulators. Upon successful completion of the simulation tests, the students moved to the field instructors for actual hands-on machine operation. For another week they practiced their skills in pre operation inspections, counterweight and positioning, trenching, loading, grading and more.”

The need for construction equipment operators has seen an increase in recent years. Locally, it has been seen as an obstacle for those wishing to build housing in the area. 

Funding for the instruction of Camp Florence residents has been split among a number of different entities, all involved in educating Oregon’s youth.

“A huge thank you to the City of Florence, for allowing the use of the land, to BTI for their professional instruction, to Oregon Youth Authority and Oregon Department of Education for their vision and support,” English stated. “And especially to Multnomah Educational Service District for the financial support. It is funded through a grant made possible by the CTE Revitalization Grant from ODE through grant funding.” 

Dawson Vanderwiele, Dave Frazey, Tres Tucker and Heath Paxton are instructors for the training sessions, and all have worked closely with the Camp Florence Youth.

During the training, the instructors monitored the youth and communicated about a number of different pieces of equipment. 

They all believe the skills learned will be a benefit not only to those they teach but the larger community as well.

“The young men gained valuable skills and certifications that will last a lifetime,” Tucker said. “This will provide real living-wage career opportunities and will help with construction in housing and commercial buildings, which will benefit everyone.” 

For more information on Camp Florence, go to