(Scroll down to see the Full Length Episode)
Heavy Equipment Technician Talk with Roy Tymko
Roy Tymko was born and raised in St. Paul, Alberta, Canada on a small mixed farm operation raising purebred Black Angus cattle. He was involved in minor hockey from a young age. As well as raising both steer and heifer livestock projects with the local 4-H club in both St. Paul and Elk-Point. He graduated high school in 2015 followed by getting his class 1 licenses soon after graduation. When off shift from work Roy enjoys helping on the family farm, attending farm / heavy equipment auctions, building, and tinkering with computers and enjoying the outdoors.
Roy is an 4th year Heavy Equipment Tech. Apprentice with Finning Cat Based out of the D34 Facility in Calgary AB. His formal education would be his current 4-year Heavy Equipment Technician Apprenticeship and 2-year diploma with NWP on the ThinkBIG Program.
Prior to working with Finning Cat for just over 3 and a half years. Roy held multiple differing roles with different outfits as a labor, farmhand, truck driver and heavy equipment operator in the farming, oilfield, and general road construction and highway maintenance industries.
However, after dealing with a few fall layoffs with road construction due to freeze up. Followed by looking for work in either plowing snow for contractors working under Alberta Highways or driving truck in the oilfield. It was time to diversify his skillset and go for a journey-person ticket in the trades. Roy applied for a paid apprenticeship as an ThinkBIG apprentice heavy equipment technician for Finning Cat based out of western Canada. Starting his career with Finning in the fall of 2019.
ThinkBIG is a 20-month (80-week) heavy equipment service program created through a partnership between Northwestern Polytech, Caterpillar, and Finning. This globally recognized program that is designed to meet Alberta apprenticeship examination requirements and is only offered at one post-secondary institution in Canada. Over five 16-week blocks, you’ll learn advanced technical knowledge and develop skills through a hands-on approach, working on Cat equipment. Each block is divided into eight weeks of class and lab time on campus and eight weeks of paid practicum at a licensed Finning location.
Heavy-duty equipment mechanics repair, troubleshoot, adjust, overhaul and maintain mobile heavy-duty equipment used in construction, transportation, forestry, mining, oil and gas, material handling, landscaping, land clearing, farming and similar activities. They are employed by companies which own and operate heavy equipment, and by heavy equipment dealers, rental and service establishments, railway transport companies and urban transit systems. Apprentices are also included in this unit group.
The employment outlook will be good for Heavy-duty equipment mechanics.
This is what you typically need for the job.
Completion of a three- to five-year apprenticeship program or a combination of over four years of work experience and industry courses in heavy equipment repair is usually required to be eligible for trade certification.
Agricultural equipment technician trade certification is available, but voluntary, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.
Heavy-duty equipment technician trade certification is compulsory in Quebec (only in the construction industry) and Alberta and available, but voluntary, in all other provinces and the territories.
Check out our Career Crisis Interview Series:
Full Length Episode:
Complete Episode Transcript
Coming up next.
Like seeing how many of my classmates are graduating high school, we’re going for four year degrees and then seeing how much there was to offer in the job market for those degrees compared to a trade.
It was like maybe try something different.
Welcome to The Job Talk Podcast where we talk with people who love their jobs.
Our guests open up about their challenges, surprises and secrets to success in their industry.
Through conversation, we explore their careers, past work experiences and the education that got them to where they are now.
Today’s guest is Roy Tymko.
Here’s our Job Talk with a heavy equipment technician.
Roy, thank you so much for coming on the show today.
Your position as a heavy equipment technician with Finning is an important story to share with our listeners because I understand there’s going to be a lot of retirement in the coming years and there’s going to be a lot of opportunity for people who have skilled trades.
But before we get into your career and your day to day, I’m curious to know what you were doing when you graduated from grade 12.
So right after high school, I started kind of as a general labor and a bit of a equipment operator for the County of Saint Paul.
I’ve done it previously during high school as just a summer job and then went back and did one year in NAIT with the Diploma in Network Engineering.
there is a high saturation of people going into it, but there wasn’t much opportunity for work outside of it.
And so looking into that, I held back after the first year I held back, went back working for the county, and then instead of going back to school, I went and worked in the oil field and for EMCON plowing snow.
I found that paid more.
And after looking through that, maybe I should go for a trade instead of going for either a degree or two degree or diploma.
And that’s kind of where I found the Think Big program and joined as an apprentice tech with Finning, which would have been just over three and a half years ago.
So it’s it’s a program.
When I went to it, it was, ah, see now are Northwestern Polytechnic is what they changed their name I think last year.
And so the schooling is much more within a shorter time frame.
So you have like you start with your two months of school, then you do your two month work term followed by schooling right after.
And so then that way it accelerates getting basically apprentices into the workforce because that’s kind of the biggest thing we’re finding right now is a shortage of technicians both in on road and off road Roy, when you were in high school, did you ever approach a counselor for career and educational advice? I did.
And I found the biggest push from them was more into the post-secondary side of things within my class.
There was a heavy emphasis with going to either the UofA UFC, getting that four year degree and going for a higher form education.
I did ask a little bit about the trades, but it was kind of sloughed off to the side and it’s like, Yeah, you really don’t want to do that.
But it was just at that time it was kind of when we were starting to see the economic slowdown within the oil industry.
And so I understood the reasoning behind it.
However, with every slowdown there is an uptick.
And so I took the advice and that’s why I went with the first year, first year, the two year diploma within the network engineering.
But after seeing what opportunities are logged in the trades, I kind of kicked myself for not just giving it a try, even as an entry level, just to see what it was more like.
And so that’s kind of the biggest thing I found within our high school system is I find it really likes to push work smart, not hard, but sometimes you want to work smart and hard at the same time.
And there is, I find, a lot of opportunities that are within the blue collar work as well as white collar.
And both we we need both if we want to keep things kind of moving ahead.
I was thinking a little bit with either the other two would have been welding because I did do in high school a welding course and a little bit into carpentry because I was another course I was offered in high school.
I find some high schools offer some trades programs, which is really good because then it offers some other opportunities instead of your traditional four year degrees or two year diplomas I found it very I just enjoyed the general hands on approach to a lot of the schooling.
The biggest other portion, I guess, would be the option.
With our work terms, we could go to different shops.
Your traditional apprenticeship, you’d usually be stuck with one location.
The other portion was getting the schooling done sooner rather than later.
Because I find the further you spread out, the more you put it off and then you don’t really want to complete it as soon as you’d like.
And so that was another portion I enjoyed about it.
So that that was kind of the main things I enjoyed with the schooling.
Probably the biggest thing, the biggest challenge would be within the start of the program, we’d have one two month session followed by a work term session and then followed by another two month session.
However, the schooling from the first two months and third, third, two months combined into our first year exam.
And so trying to retain some of the knowledge from the first two months was a bit difficult.
But that’s kind of and just with the benefits of it being condensed also, the biggest downfall is always going back and forth between school and work.
Your traditional you do ten months on the job and then two months at school for finding somewhere to rent.
For both your work term and school terms can be a bit more challenging in that regard.
Yes, you would be, uh, basically as soon as you start schooling, you’d be an employee of FINNING it would have been in the summer of I want to say it was 2021.
And I was wondering like because I’ve seen other shops look for apprenticeship apprentices.
But the biggest thing I find in this industry is most shops either want a third year or fourth year, but you still need to get your first and second year.
And so I’m like, well, how do a of these locations get your their first and second years? the Think Big program, it was just a Google search the one day I did and I’m like, okay.
then I applied for it.
And that’s kind of where I started off with the general application, followed by interview and all that into the program.
And in your job, what types of heavy equipment are you typically working on? It really depends which location in which site you’re on.
anything from your skid steers all the way up to, I want to say like you’re 777 haul trucks to 395 excavator steel oven dozers.
And so it really there’s a lot of variety.
there’s also your component rebuild shops.
You’ll also have your power systems and your new equipment prep as well as like your traditional repair and rebuild portion of the shop.
And so within the shop there’s different sections that you can specialize in that you can kind of really gain a better skillset with.
And how do you stay up to date with with the latest trends and advancements in the industry? at the minimum do two training courses a year.
And so you’ll have like your fundamental basics of all your S levels, electrical hydraulics, engines and power train, and then that falls into like your MEC, which is mechanical electrician or electrical complications as well as your specific product line.
So then that’s when you get into like either excavators, dozers, haul trucks, paving equipment and once you fall within those product lines, that’s kind of how you get as basically as much up to date.
And the biggest, the other biggest option erm thing to help with it as well as just working on the equipment they have been really supportive.
What I found is they’re willing to move you around the shop.
And so like when I first started this because I’m with Calgary for just over a year and a half, I started on the new equipment prep, and so we did some base preps on dozers, excavators and haul trucks.
And then within about, I’d say a year after doing that, then I moved on towards the north shop and that’s where we’d get into the troubleshooting and rebuild the machines.
And so then that’s kind of where you further develop that skillset.
And then I guess the next option would be to go be going into the field and then doing field repairs and troubleshooting or getting into the component shop and then taking apart and rebuilding individual components like your transmission, your engines, your torque converters.
And then you get to know basically the fundamentals of how that individual component works within the machine.
And then when you have something that does fail, you got a good idea of what to look for and what not to look for.
When you’re troubleshooting and diagnosing a machine.
I think the biggest thing I love about my job is working in troubleshooting on a variety of different pieces within the Caterpillar line up.
I always like when I was working with the county operating equipment, I always love to just work with it as well as eventually just see like what’s the inner workings of that machine to see if this failed? What was the reason? What can I do to further basically have a better understanding of what’s going on behind the scenes of the machine as well as the ability to work with my hands? I, after seeing the year I did with the network engineering, um, I do enjoy working with computers, but I can’t stand sitting in the office all day.
And so having the option to either go in the field or in the shop, I really enjoy.
And the biggest thing that I really enjoy is the offering of a seven by seven shift.
I enjoy that much more over a five and two.
I like the freedom that the time off it offers and my dad’s worked shift for probably the past 15 years and it works really well hand in hand with the farm.
And I found it works very well because it gives you both time to work with equipment that you enjoy as well as doing things on your off time that you enjoy and basically working together as a team within the shop to overcome challenges is another thing I love about the job.
Whether it’s rebuilds or just general repairs.
And so that’s kind of the things I love about the job.
Some of the biggest challenges, probably the longer hours within the days.
So a shift, it’s a 12 hour day.
It takes a while to get used to, but it’s still sometimes can be a very difficult thing to deal with depending on what you’re doing, working in the elements and the weather.
If you’re working in the field, not every day is a sunny day.
There’s days that are rains, there’s days that it’s -30 and it’s blowing in the shop.
You don’t see it as much.
But like if you’re on field calls, you do see it.
Another thing to watch is probably the wear and tear on the body.
So being safe in the workplace as well as working within reason that you’re not pushing yourself too much to tear yourself apart, and sometimes just meeting the deadlines on a rebuild, a repair on a machine can be a bit of a challenge, but it can be overcome by asking the right questions.
If you need help, ask for help.
If you don’t know something I like, just basically use your support network as well as working and finding solutions to those problems.
A very safety focused culture but no, it’s definitely changing more so that we’re more safety focused while being efficient on the job and always putting the best foot forward in providing quality work for the customer.
You’ve mentioned your dad.
Is he a tradesman as well? Yes, he was an automotive technician originally before getting his heavy equipment technician.
He’s since kind of moved on from that and now runs pressure truck got his CLASS 1 and runs pressure truck and kind of switched careers I want to say in his mid-forties and but he was very surprised when I said I wanted to be a tech, but I it’s just it’s something that runs in the family and I find it really goes hand in hand with the farm.
And so I always it’s just a skill that I think is very much needed in today’s world and it is in very much demand.
So for a typical day, I’d probably get to the shop, put on the coveralls, open up the laptop, get a work order from either my service support reps, or assist our service supervisor, go over the scope of the job and what is needed.
What needs to be completed with with on within the machine completed.
So electronic job hazard assessment kind of get tooling set up.
If the machine’s outside, get it inside, that needs to be clean.
Take it to the wash bay, wash it prior to bringing it into the shop.
Um, then we would have like a morning safety meeting with our crew and service supervisor.
Once the machines brought in, kind of go over and start working.
Whether it’s a rebuild, we’d start a tear down if it was general repairs or diagnostics, complete the general repair diagnostic machine, find what’s wrong, and then eventually kind of fix the issues that it has.
Um, and that’s kind of just a general day.
Some days can be very repetitive, depending if you’re on a rebuild, you kind of get to you basically just build steps of what you’re doing on that machine.
Whereas like if you’re doing a general repair and it’s only like a two or three day job, like changing undercarriage on a dozer or changing out a cylinder because it needs to get resealed, then it’s a little bit more changes within the day to day.
And so it’s a it has a lot of variety, but sometimes it has a lot of similar similarities at the same time.
Um, it very much does allow me.
The biggest thing I enjoy doing is I guess helping on the farm with my parents.
There is when there is slow times.
We also do enjoy like going on holidays, visiting family as well as like, uh, going out for camping.
I enjoy personally to go out because I, with a enjoying equipment, going to auctions when I do get a chance, but it does offer that and I find that was a big selling point with choosing a career with fitting over some other shops is the option to have shift, Two that I would have is you don’t have to be very smart to be a technician.
Years ago I would say somewhat true, depending on what you’re doing nowadays, I would say definitely not.
There’s a lot of technical thinking and troubleshooting within the career and there’s a lot of changes within the industry that it’s happening so fast to keep up.
Like, the biggest things I’ve noticed is we’re starting to get into like up north with the 797.
We have autonomous haul trucks down south.
is grade control, like both 2D and 3D grade control.
As well as product link support on machines.
And so there’s a lot more mathematics involved.
There’s definitely a lot more troubleshooting with both electrical as well as software troubleshooting.
And so having a skillset to both work with computers as well as just having like a fine tuned experience with like working with wear and tear on components.
It’s not just a simple you take a component out and you put it in.
There’s a lot more to it.
And so and the other one would be you can make a good living with such, with how much of a shortage there has been with tradespeople within a lot of the trades, the wages have really gone up.
I find, if not double some of the diploma type programs for wages.
And so it’s it’s something that’s very much in demand and pays very well for what you do.
it does pay a decent amount.
And part of the reason why I was looking is because like seeing how many of my classmates are graduating high school, we’re going for four year degrees and then seeing how much there was to offer in the job market for those degrees compared to a trade.
It was like maybe try something different.
Oh, for sure.
There’s depending on kind of where you want to go within the next.
Like I usually try to put in 2 to 5 years within technicians like starting out in the shop or then working your way into the field and then eventually working as like either a foreman within the shop and then eventually two service supervisors, another kind of way of doing it.
And so I do see a lot of potential growth.
The biggest thing I would probably say is right after high school, don’t be pushed straight into going into a degree for school.
Maybe try a bunch of different entry level positions within either the trades or just working in general and see kind of the things you don’t like, the things you do like and things that you sort of enjoyed.
Just so then because it’s even myself, there’s no there’s always like what you think as a dream job, but until you actually try it and do it, then you got a better idea of what you’re kind of dealing with.
Another big reason behind that too, is I find once you go into post-secondary it, there is some very good options if you know exactly what you want to do.
But if you don’t know what you want to do and you’re taking out student loans, I find that can be a very much a setback because if you’re in a career that you really don’t enjoy, it’s it’s very hard to kind of do a U-turn and try a different path if you have some forms of debt.
And I find with the trades, especially now, a lot of them offer paid apprenticeships, they’ll pay you to go through school.
And that’s something that I find is very huge and something to take advantage of.
If you find that niche that you really enjoy.
E I would say very quickly every day but we’re starting to see it really, really accelerate.
I’d say within the past five years, grade control has really started to take over.
We’re starting to see a lot of the machines kind of go into that semi-autonomous mode.
also like another big thing we’re starting to see is remote controlled equipment, whether it’s from just a simple kind of joystick setup that you have in your lap and then you’re 50 feet from the machine or you’re set up in a trailer and you’re 250 kilometers away from a machine with it running a remote in kind of more hazardous environments.
And so now the technology is definitely being pushed a lot and it’s changing a lot of what we do.
Um, I guess the number of different specializations that you can do, like I always thought with a mechanic, you kind of do it all and you’re the run of the mill and there still is some of that, but there definitely is a lot of specializations within the trade, like with your hydraulic specialist, your specialist with troubleshooting electronics on a machine, rebuilding machines, technology specialists like dealing with grade control and site tech and remote control portions of the industry, as well as autonomous.
I find there’s just a lot of different options that you can do as a tech and different skill sets.
So you can learn that I thought wasn’t really available,