Frequently Asked Questions

Please read through all of the questions before Applying

Question: Who are the Operating Engineers? 

Answer: Operating Engineers are the people who operate, maintain, and repair heavy construction equipment. You will find Operating Engineers working on the freeways and other construction sites operating cranes and earthmoving equipment such as dozers, scrapers, compactors, backhoes, motor graders, etc. Operating Engineers also perform work as plant operators for rock plants, dredging equipment, and act as special inspectors verifying the quality of construction work. Operating Engineers are members of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), an AFL-CIO affiliated union that is comprised of independent Locals throughout the country. Local 12--whose territory includes Southern California--is one of the largest and most influential locals in the IUOE. 

Question: What is the Operating Engineers Training Trust? 

Answer: The Operating Engineers Training Trust is a non-profit entity created by Local 12 and its signatory contractors to provide training resources. Monies managed by the Training Trust are used to purchase training equipment, to hire instructors, and to provide a host of other educational resources that are used by both apprentices and journeypersons alike. The Apprenticeship Program is completely funded and managed by the Training Trust. 

Question: Are you accepting applications at this time? 

Answer: We only accept applications at specific times. Those interested in applying can go HERE to determine when we will be open for applications.  

Question: Why are you not open all the time? 

Answer: State law requires us to accept applications at least every two (2) years. Typically, when this occurs, we receive and test over 5,000 applications. Applicants that meet the eligibility requirements, which includes passing the written entrance examination, are placed on the Accepted Applicants List (a waiting list). We can only bring people into our program when contractors need additional operators. Usually, there will be more applicants on this waiting list than we can bring into our program in the two year period between openings for new applications. Some applicants remain on the waiting list for the entire two year period. After two years, we open the program again, test new applicants, and create a new Accepted Applicants List. Anyone still on the previous list will need to both reapply, and retest, to again become eligible for the program. Placement on the new Accepted Applicants List is totally dependent on one’s most recent examination score. No credit is given for having been on the previous list. 

Question: Can you mail me an application? 

Answer: No. Applications are NOT available to be mailed. When we open, you can fill out the application online HERE​ or there will be designated locations where you may obtain them. 

Question: Do I personally have to pick up the application, or can someone else pick up the application for me? 

Answer: Anyone can pick up an application for you. Or you can fill out an application online.

Question: Do I need experience to apply? 

Answer: No. The Apprenticeship Program includes training to bring you up to a minimum level of safety before you are placed on a job. 


Question: If I have related experience, will it help me? 

Answer: Yes and no. You will still need to pass our entrance examination. We place all those applicants who meet our eligibility criteria, which includes passing our entrance examination, on the Accepted Applicants List. We bring people into our program based entirely upon their score plus the qualifying extra credit such as: a valid commercial driver's license, 2 years of documented experience in similar trade or veteran with 181 days or more and honorably discharged, will receive an additional ten (10) points for each on their overall score. The applicant must first pass the test with 70% or better score and then additional credit may be given for qualifying extra credit. Once you are selected for the program though, any experience you have may help in your initial training--perhaps shortening the initial training time period before you actually begin working for a contractor. 


Question: If I am currently working for a signatory contractor (as a laborer, etc.) can I be “sponsored” by this contractor? 

Answer: Yes and No. Provided you meet eligibility requirements, including completing the entrance examination just like any other applicant. However, this method is considered a direct entry and is entirely at the discretion of the Director of Training. 

Question: Where can I obtain information about obtaining a General Education Development (GED) certificate? 

Answer: Contact your local, public library for information and/or search the internet for organizations that provide such education. 

Question: When selecting desired job classifications on my application, are there some classifications that will provide more opportunities for work than others? 

Answer: Although it is difficult to predict which particular job classifications will be more needed than others, typically the Equipment Operator classification provides the greatest opportunity for employment. 

Question: Once my application is accepted, what happens next? 

Answer: If your application is complete, you will be scheduled for an entrance examination. We will contact you by mail and email (referred to as a notification letter) identifying the date, time, and location for your examination. These examinations will occur after we stop accepting applications. 

Question: How soon after my application is accepted will I be scheduled for an entrance examination? 

Answer: Entrance examinations are conducted only after the application period closes. Typically, examinations are scheduled four (4) to six (6) weeks following this closure date. All applicants that submit complete applications, and who meet the published eligibility requirements, will be sent a notification letter as to the exact date, time, and location of their examination.

Question: What will the test cover? 

Answer: You will take a three-part examination: Verbal Expression, Mathematical, and Mechanical. In order to pass this entrance examination, you will need to score at least 70 percent in each of the three parts. If your score is below 70 percent in any one of the three parts, you will NOT have achieved the minimum score to pass the examination. 


Question: How long does the test take? 

Answer: Applicants are allowed one (1) hour to complete the examination. The entire testing process (includes check-in, briefings, testing, etc.) typically takes about two hours. 

Question: How long before I receive my results? 

Answer: Because of the large numbers of individuals testing, examination results may take up to five (5) weeks to be processed and mailed. 

Question: Do veterans get any preference? 

Answer: Yes. Qualified veterans (those honorably discharged with at least 181 days of active service) get an additional ten (10) points added to their entrance examination scores. These points will be distributed to the three sections of the examination in the following amounts: Verbal Expression Section - four (4) points; Mathematical Section - two (2) points; Mechanical Section - four (4) points. 

Question: Can I retake the examination? 

Answer: Yes. You will have to wait for the next application period to again apply for the program. You will be re-ranked on the applicants list based on your most recent score. 

Question: What happens if I pass the examination? 

Answer: If you pass the entrance examination, you will be placed on the Accepted Applicants List. Note: To pass the written examination, you must score at least 70 percent or greater on each of the three sections on the examination. 

Question: How do you select the applicants to begin your program once they are placed on the Accepted Applicants List? 

Answer: All accepted applicants are ranked according to their examination score. When a need arises, the applicant with the highest score will be called first. We work down the list from highest passing score to lowest passing score. 

Question: How do I determine my position on the Accepted Applicants List? 

Answer: Following your participation in the entrance examination, you will be mailed a test result letter with your examination scores. The letter will state whether you have passed or failed the examination. If you pass the examination, the letter will also list the name and telephone number of your assigned Apprentice Coordinator. You can contact your Apprentice Coordinator with any questions you may have about the program, including your position on the Accepted Applicants List. 

Question: If I am on the Accepted Applicants List, or once indentured as an apprentice, can I search for work by soliciting contractors? 

Answer: No. You are not allowed to solicit your own work. It is a violation of the labor contract we have signed with our union contractors for persons associated with our program to individually solicit work. Finding you employment is the responsibility of your assigned Apprentice Coordinator. 

Question: If I am accepted into your program, how long will I be an apprentice? 

Answer: The program consists of 6,000 hours of on-the-job training and six (6) semesters of related and supplemental classroom instruction. The related and supplemental instruction occurs at our training sites--approximately 2-3 Saturdays a month, although some of our apprentices attend class during the week or in the evenings instead. Once you have obtained 6,000 hours working for a contractor(s), and have completed all of your related and supplemental classroom instruction (see page 17), you will have completed the Apprenticeship Program and be classified as a journeyperson. Most of our apprentices complete the program in three (3) to four (4) years. 

Question: How much does the program cost? 

Answer: There is no cost to you for our program. However, once you start work, you will be expected to join Local 12 and begin paying union dues. The initiation fee to join Local 12 is approximately $800. You will be given a five (5) month period of time to pay this initiation fee once you are dispatched to your first contractor and indentured into our program. After the initiation fee, the annual fee to remain an active member in Local 12 is approximately $288 per year. You are required to maintain an active membership in Local 12. 

Question: Can I draw Veteran Benefits while going through the program? 

Answer: Yes. We are a state approved apprenticeship program recognized by the Veterans Administration. If you are a veteran, we encourage you to provide us a copy of your DD-214 upon taking your drug test. 

Question: Do you drug test? 

Answer: Yes. Before we allow you to begin training, we will drug test you. Many of the contractors in the industry also conduct drug testing as part of their safety programs. 

Question: What are the wages? 

Answer: Our program is composed of six (6) steps. Once you are indentured and placed on a job you are at Step 1. A Step 1 apprentice starts at approximately $29.00+ per hour. Every 1,000 hours of on-the-job training (work experience) gives a wage increase of approximately $1.90 per hour (5 percent of the journeyperson scale). After completing the program, you will graduate to journeyperson level where the wage rate is approximately $43.00+ per hour (plus health/welfare and pension benefits). 

Question: Will I be paid during the training? 

Answer: Yes and no. The first time you are called off the Accepted Applicants List, you will be required to attend a training site for initial safety training. We cannot place you on a job without you first acquiring basic safety skills for working on a construction site. You will NOT be paid during this time. You will need to remain at the training site until you demonstrate a minimum level of safety for operating basic equipment. You will be asked to attend the training site Tuesday through Friday from 7:00 am to 3:30 pm. The length of time you spend at the training site can be anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Some of the factors that affect how long you will be at the training site for this initial training period include:

·         Your ability to learn;

·         Your discipline to attend the training site on a regular basis;

·         Weather (work tends to slow down during the rainy season);

·         Economy (we cannot place you on a job if the contractors do not have work). When work becomes available that you can safely perform, you will be indentured into our program, dispatched to a union contractor, and will begin to earn Step 1 apprentice wages

Question: Does an apprentice receive heath/welfare and pension benefits? 

Answer: Yes. Apprentices receive the same health/welfare benefits as a journeypersons. Apprentices begin building pension benefits after they have met the minimum hourly requirements. 

Question: I'm already an Operating Engineer Apprentice with another Local. Can I transfer programs?


Answer: We have a procedure to follow, but it does not guarantee the acceptance of the request. You can find out the process here. Transfer Request Information