I am a custom software designer. Not long ago a friend of mine who was working as a heavy equipment operator, was telling me about an opportunity he had to apply for a job working with a new type of earthmoving equipment. He was excited at the prospect of a new and better job, but scared to death that he had no experience with this type of work. In an off-hand way one day, he commented that he wished that there was a simulator that he could use to learn this type of equipment. I was intrigued.

I happen to enjoy flight simulators, and since I create software programs every day, the idea of meeting his need with what I enjoy doing excited me. Soon, with another friend who knew something about the type of equipment he wanted to work with, I went about creating a simple software program that he could use. And since I used a similar program as a backbone, the process wasn’t long before I was able to hand him a product.

The tool I came up with was simple but very effective. Even the graphics that the program was able to create were very rudimentary, but certain aspects of the program were able to show him when he did something right as well as the results of showing him his errors. Eventually, I was even able to modify the program to give him warning signals when something he was doing was out of kilter, which prevented an accident/error. This included having loads that were balanced incorrectly, driving on surfaces that were too steep, and other obstacles that are common in most work areas.

The final result was a tool that gave him not only a feel for the real work environment with this piece of equipment, but a training tool that showed him how to prevent problems and watch for situations that needed to be avoided. Most important of all, my friend not only passed the test that eventually got him the job, but he earned the top score of the candidate pool, far above many candidates who had direct experience using the actual equipment.

It’s important to remember that using simulation software is not the same as the real thing, but in cases where using the real thing is not possible or too dangerous for an inexperienced operator to use, a program can be worth its weight in gold.