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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, grade checking and other job-related work tasks, 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. IUOE 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 IUOE 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 by its IUOE Local 12 members 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 once every two (2) years. Typically, when this occurs, we have a considerable amount of interest of those who wish to participate in our Apprenticeship Program. 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 one-year period between openings for new applications. Some applicants remain on the waiting list for the entire one-year period. After the one-year period, 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​ for our Apprenticeship Program. 

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

Answer: No. Applications for the Apprentice Program can be filled out online during our scheduled opening periods only.

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. It is not necessary to have prior experience in order to successfully participate in the apprenticeship program. Applicants who meet our eligibility criteria of passing our entrance examination will be placed on the Accepted Applicants List, with or without any related experience in the construction field. We bring Accepted Applicants into our program based entirely upon construction industry work demand and how it pertains to a specific classification selected at the time of application. Once you are selected for the apprenticeship program, any previous construction experience you have may help and/or be of some benefit in your initial safety training, including your progression as an apprentice in the construction work field.

Question: How old do I have to be to apply for the Apprenticeship Program?


Answer: 17 1/2 years of age at the time of application; but 18 years of age to be accepted into the Apprenticeship Program.

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/or 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 the 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 entrance examination cover? 

Answer: The entrance examination is designed to test basic verbal, math, and mechanical abilities that are essential for succeeding in the Apprenticeship Program. In order to pass this entrance examination, you will need to achieve a score of at least 70 percent overall. If your score is below 70 percent, you will NOT have achieved the minimum score to pass the examination. 

Question: How long does the entrance examination take? 

Answer: Applicants are allowed one (1) hour to complete the examination. The entire examination 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 or longer to be processed and mailed and/or emailed. 


Question: Is there any additional credit that may apply to the entrance exam? 


Answer: Yes. Applicants may qualify for extra credit if they possess a valid commercial driver's Class A license (not applicable to the Construction Building Inspector classification) will receive an additional ten (10) points on their overall score. Proof for the additional points requires a copy of the CDL A license for submission on the scheduled entrance examination date for review and consideration. The applicant must first pass the test with 70% or better score and then additional credit may be given for qualifying extra credit.

Question: Do veterans receive additional credit? 

Answer: Yes. Qualified veterans who submit a copy of their DD-214 form (those honorably discharged with at least 181 days of active service) on their examination date and who pass the entrance examination with a minimum score of 70 percent will receive an additional ten (10) points added to their entrance examination score.

Question: Can I retake the examination? 

Answer: Only if you are no longer current (removed) on the Accepted Applicants List. 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: In order to pass the entrance examination, you must achieve an overall score of at least 70 percent or greater. 

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 because of demand in the construction field, 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 and/or emailed 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.  It is important to keep your information current with the Operating Engineers Training Trust in order to receive important communications. 

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. Once you have obtained 6,000 hours working for a contractor(s), and have completed all of your related and supplemental classroom instruction, 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 IUOE Local 12 and begin paying union dues. The initiation fee to join IUOE 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 IUOE Local 12 is approximately $288 per year as an active apprentice. During your participation in the apprenticeship program, you are required to maintain an active membership in IUOE 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 your initial training, you must first obtain a negative substance abuse test scheduled by the Operating Engineers Training Trust. Many of the contractors in the industry also conduct substance abuse testing as part of their safety programs. 

Question: What are the wages? 

Answer: Apprentices start at 60 percent of the current negotiated Journeyperson's wage rate.

Question: Will I be paid during the initial training? 

Answer: No. The Training Trust does not compensate any member for training. 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 need to remain at the training site until you demonstrate a minimum level of safety for operating basic equipment and job-related tasks. You will be asked to attend the training site Tuesday through Friday from 7:00 am to 3:30 pm as often as possible. 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 as often as possible;

  • 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 One (1) apprentice wages.

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

Answer: Apprentices will receive their health/welfare benefits once they have completed the required work hours to become eligible. 

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


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

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