As the northern Nevada population continues to rise, so does the need for construction workers.

According to the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, the need for heavy equipment operators is going to grow by nearly 1,300 jobs in the next seven years.

Companies like the Nevada Chapter of Associated General Contractors have seen the growth first hand.

"We've seen about a 50 percent increase in construction employment state wide in the last 5 years,” says Craig Madole, CEO of AGC.

He says in order to maintain that type of growth, a new wave of young people needs to find an interest and learn how to do construction jobs.

“I think we're competing with other industries that we haven't historically competed with like advanced manufacturing, and other technologies,” says Madole.

Not only is there competition, but the current workers in the construction industry aren't getting any younger.

“The average age of a heavy equipment operator is probably late 40's or even 50's so we need to develop the next generation now so we have a highly skilled workforce into the future,” says Madole.

The AGC is doing what they can to add to the workforce by recruiting seniors from ACE High School for their Construction Access Program.

“It's like an arcade basically for construction workers,” says Trey Henry, a senior at ACE.

Trey and some of his classmates are learning how to operate heavy machinery, without needing to take a step outside.

The AGC purchased $80,000 Caterpillar simulators that work just like an actual loader or excavator would. The inputs and controls mirror what you'd find inside the machine.

The biggest difference is the students are getting a feel for how it all works from the safety of their classroom.

“This helps us train and qualify a workforce without actually having to take a machine out of service,” says Madole. “Being able to teach someone to operate this piece of equipment in safe environments is favorable for employees.”

The goal of the program is also to provide the students with marketable skills that will help them get a job right out of high school.

“Once I graduate, I want to be able to operate heavy equipment and take the steps to proceed in that career,” says Henry.

Each student learns the basics of the equipment from a trained professional in the construction industry.  Once the kids fulfill the 20 to 30 hour training requirements from the class, they should come out of the program feeling more prepared and ready to operate the real thing.

"That enables them to move to the real world scenario a little easier and a little more confident, says Jeremy Lage, Head Operator at SNC.

The AGC says it's also fighting the public perception that certain construction jobs don't pay well since you don't need a college degree.

The Nevada department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation says in 2016, the average heavy equipment operator in Nevada earned about $60,000.