Operating in the Aldine Independent School District (ISD) in Houston, Texas, the Dr. Archie L. Blanson Career and Technical Education High School is a modern, state-of-the-art facility offering 17 different career and technical education programs teaching skills needed in Houston and across Texas.
“The programs at Blanson CTE High School evolved from industry research,” said Principal Ben Ibarra. “The goal of our school is to train future workers who will close the skills gap in industry.”
Preparing for a construction boom
Like many other major cities, Houston’s economy is expanding—and the city’s growing list of commercial and residential construction projects require a substantial amount of skilled labor to meet its demand.
Providing students with practical experience was important to administrators, but the school district did not have regular access to heavy equipment for operator training. This meant that students could not count on seat time, and administrators could not establish a hands-on training program.
Over the years, students would attend events like the annual Construction Career Expo in Pasadena, Texas, where heavy equipment and simulators were set up for students to try, but their availability and use were limited.
With technology now a major part of the construction industry, administrators decided to take a more modern approach.
“We knew there was a need for simulators,” says Greg Harper, program director of career and technical education for the Aldine ISD.
“When we started revamping the construction program at Blanson CTE High School, we thought we could incorporate modern simulation-based training.”
CM Labs and their Vortex simulators came recommended by one of the school’s industry partners as a way to enhance student engagement in equipment operation.
In short order, the Aldine ISD acquired and installed Vortex simulators equipped with excavator training software at a learning lab in the high school.
“The realism of the Vortex simulators was an important element for us,” said Harper. “They are really one of the school’s showcase teaching tools.”
Vortex simulators helping students develop both practical skills and soft skills
On the simulators, students work through and complete the different training modules to develop their operating skills. “I would think an employer would be very interested in what applications the students have done and how well they’ve done on certain skills test,” Harper said.
Using a simulator that is as realistic as possible will help make the transition to actual equipment easier, for students.
Another advantage of the Vortex simulators is that their built-in curriculum focuses on teaching trainees good safety attitudes and habits, which is the kind of soft skills that employers typically look for in industry.
Students in the program will be first introduced to simulators midway through their freshman year, where they will learn to operate basic controls.
As students progress through the construction technology courses, their utilization of the simulators will gradually increase until their senior year, where they will be required to proficiently operate an excavator on the simulator.
Vortex simulators providing competitive skills for students
Down the road, Harper envisions going beyond excavator training with the simulators. “Crane operators are also in demand in the Houston area,” he said.
“I can see us expanding again, developing relationships with local business partners, and helping meet their needs with students who are well prepared for workforce requirements right out of the gate.”
With swappable controls, one Vortex simulator can train for many equipment types, including Boom Truck, Crawler Crane, Mobile Crane, Overhead Crane, and Tower Crane, as well as earth moving equipment such as backhoe, excavator, motor grader, wheel loader, and more.
Administrators for Blanson CTE High School are focusing on the cutting edge of education, in order to ensure that students have a competitive advantage after they graduate.
“Our graduates will be able to compete for those in-demand jobs,” Ibarra said. “Vortex simulators are helping these students stay safe, current, and competitive.”