Not Your Typical Classroom Experience: High School Seniors Will Soon Shift from Simulators to the Real Thing!


Heavy machinery experience shows how businesses are getting creative to address nationwide skills gap


HASTINGS, Minn. (May 7, 2018) – Students in a Workplace Development Program are about to cap off their simulated stick time by operating REAL heavy machinery. And that includes a 26-ton excavator.


On May 9th, twelfth graders in the Legacy I-3 Program will head to Extreme Sandbox’s 10-acre facility in Hastings, Minn., to drive the very machines they’ve been learning about. Students from Harding High School, Burnsville Alternative High School, Como Park High School and Patrick Henry High School are nearing the end of the year-long program designed to provide employment opportunities upon graduation and teach some valuable life-skills along the way.


Extreme Sandbox and TCI Solutions partnered to make this first-of-its kind, hands-on training experience possible and it isn’t just for fun, though you may think so. The two companies are addressing a nationwide problem the need for trained heavy equipment operators, diesel mechanics and other skilled workers in the construction trades. Similar visions put it in gear.


It started back in 2014 when Extreme Sandbox recognized a lack of trained workers in the construction industry and began offering Heavy Equipment Camps for students who may not otherwise have access to hands-on vocational training. Extreme Sandbox appears to still be about the only place where high school students can get hands-on exposure to construction trades. In fact, in 2017, 40 high school students from Warrenton, NC traveled 20 hours across the country to experience the camp.


For TCI Solutions, LLC, a passion to connect students in underserved communities with career opportunities led to the creation of the Legacy I-3 Workforce Program. It’s not only making a difference for businesses looking for quality employees, it’s also changing the lives of students. Legacy provides a low-cost, sustainable method of developing local, diverse talent into viable candidates for employment. Legacy is currently a workforce development provider for companies including the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), Xcel Energy, Thomson Reuters, and several manufactures in Anoka County.


Extreme Sandbox and TCI work together to provide clients, such as MAC, a pipeline to certified, competent, ready-to-hire employees and helps prepare graduates for great opportunities.


“MAC is not alone in its struggle to find qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds,” says Anita Bellant, Diversity Manager, Metropolitan Airports Commission. “With Legacy, we now have a pipeline to qualified, local candidates who are specifically seeking career-based, maintenance positions. The candidates they bring to us for interviews have already participated in a 16-week heavy machinery training — both in simulator and hands-on, real-life situations — as well as had additional life-skills training. That’s before they’ve even started.”


Students must apply for the Legacy Program. As part of the year-long program, TCI provides training on core fundamentals, character development, financial literacy, health and wellness and college/career prep. Extreme Sandbox focuses on the heavy machinery training and provides 16-weeks of weekly training for its portion of the program. Students who complete Legacy also receive an industry certification through TCI. The goal of both companies is to expose young adults to trades that are in high demand and to great careers that students may not have previously considered.


The hands-on training, certification and additional workplace readiness training are game changers, adds Bellant. Not only for companies, but for the students participating in the program.





Extreme Sandbox

Extreme Sandbox’s Hastings location is a top-rated Minnesota adventure attraction that provides guests with a truly unique opportunity to fulfill their childhood dreams of operating construction rigs, including a wheel loader, bulldozer, excavator and other “toys.” The adventure takes place in a 10-acre “sandbox,” with supervision from highly trained expert instructors who help guests learn and master the machines, ensure safety and provide a fun and memorable experience that can include “golfing” with an excavator, crushing a car, completing challenge tasks, and more. Extreme Sandbox–Texas is located at the Tanglewood Resort and Conference Center in Pottsboro. In 2017, Stenger opened its first Extreme Sandbox Mini, a fully interactive construction experience to complement its existing sites. The 5,700 sq. ft. space is equipped with smaller electric mini-excavators and state-of-the-art, full motion, surround screen simulators. In addition to entertainment, the experiential retail location offers meeting and training space. For more information, visit



TCI Solutions, LLC

TCI Solutions, LLC assists organizations with the design and development of talent pipeline programs. Its customers are able to attract, engage, develop, and recruit high quality and diverse local talent for their workplace needs. Additional business solutions include Corporate Diversity & Community Engagement Strategies, Teacher and Staff Professional Development Services, and Student Development Services. Deon Clark is the owner and CEO of TCI Solutions, LLC. Clark served over eight years in the United States Navy training military members in Nuclear Engineering and Nuclear Power Operations. After his service, he obtained his Senior Nuclear Reactor Operator Instructor Certification, and trained hundreds of professionals in commercial nuclear power operations. Deon went on to teach in higher education and served as a residential professor and Program Director of the Energy Institute at Estrella Mountain Community College. For more information, visit