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What is Operating Engineering and why is it important?

Operators that have control over boiler, fired heaters, and other equipment that produce or utilize steam are required to be certified Operating Engineers in the province of Ontario. This certification is granted by the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) in the province of Ontario. Further information about the TSSA and the Operating Engineers Act can be found at Often you will find that the name Power Engineer is used for this title as well, due to the relationship of the careers to power generating facilities. There is a move in the province desiring to change the name to this, but it still is currently Operating Engineer.

There are 4 levels of Operating Engineers, with 4th Class being the lowest and 1st Class being the highest. Depending on the MW rating of the plant, the level of Operating Engineers is determined. For example, a large power plant facility that uses combustion to produce steam would typically require a First Class Operating Engineer as Chief Operating Engineer, and the shift operators would require Second Class certification. Even chemical plants and refineries often require certified operators if they run fired equipment. Most require their operators to have 4th Class certification upon hire and to achieve 3rd Class certification as a minimum for their career.

Lambton College’s Chemical Production and Power Engineering Technology program is a hybrid program. It combines the Operating Engineering required knowledge with the additional knowledge of how to operate chemical plants, refineries, and other processing types of plants, in addition to the power plants, due to the certification. This maximizes career opportunities.

How do I become an Operating Engineer?

To become an Operating Engineer 4th Class, during the time spent at Lambton College, students are expected to register to write the two exams for the 4th class; Part A and Part B. This is done by contacting the TSSA to register for the test facility in your area. The learning materials, which are also used for the Operating Engineering courses in the CPET program, are available via the college bookstore (a deposit is required) or the web site or also by a link from the TSSA web site. The materials are covered during the first 4 academic terms of the CPET program, but students must realize that they will need to study this material in advance of these exams due to the volume of material on each exam. These two exams form the first requirement for the certification, with practical time being the next component.

How do I gain the practical time experience required for Operating Engineering?

Students must also gain practical time. The current requirement for practical time is 12 months of full-time working time in a registered plant. The co-op work experience can count towards this if in a TSSA registered plant. For each job obtained that counts towards the practical time, the students must get a testimonial form completed and signed by the chief operator to attest to the time achieved and the type of plant where employment occurred.

The on-ground (regular day time) program is approved for a 9-month practical time reduction for the 4th class, but the online program does not receive this reduction.

What does a career with a CPET diploma involve?

As a CPET graduate, you would be entering a career as a process operator/Operating Engineer. These positions are almost always shift work positions, with most plants now utilizing 12-hour shifts. In any given month, you will work certain day shifts and night shifts and be part of a shift “team.” The following is a brief description of the types of duties you would be expected to perform on the job:

Work Safety

Of primary importance in industry is the need to perform each action in a safe and rational manner. The college and the plants provide safety training and the proper use of personal protective equipment.

Environmental Protection

All operators are trained to control their units to minimize environmental impact. Graduates are familiar with the laws with respect to the environment, and plants strive to perform at levels that produce emissions levels far less than the government standards.

Start and stop process equipment as required.

This involves lining out pipe lines from source to destination, opening and closing appropriate valves, checking equipment for proper lubrication levels and other system checks, and then starting the equipment or introducing flow through the equipment

Routine checks on equipment

Every shift there will be certain required routine readings and checks through the unit that must be performed, but operators are expected to make more frequent checks, particularly if an area of the plant requires some additional attention due to operating changes or problems. Due to the nature of process units, operators must occasionally climb ladders on towers and be capable of walking high platforms with open steel grate floors.

Collection of Process Samples

Operators will collect liquid and vapor samples to be analyzed by the plant lab and, most often, also run some routine tests in a small lab adjacent to the control room to ensure that the products they are making are on specification.

Preparation of Unit Equipment for Safe Work

Operators on shift are responsible to isolate the fluids and electrical streams to plant equipment and clean and flush process fluids from it so that it is safe for maintenance personnel to work on it. The operators sign a permit that verifies that the equipment is safe for work. When the work is completed, they then restore the equipment to operations as required.

Control Panel Operations

Everyone likely has a view of what a control room with control panels looks like. The operators control the operations of the plant from this control center by making the necessary control changes on a computer keyboard, while viewing graphics of the actual process on screens. Keep in mind that for operations in the control room, operators typically must go out into the unit to open and close valves etc. to facilitate the changes and to check that things are working properly.

Liaison with other shifts

At the end of each shift, the operators meet briefly with the shift leaving to explain how the plant is performing, and keep continuity of information. Operators must also document all changes made in a plant log book to have written communications.

Skill Demands

Students are required to have both fine and gross motor control to operate various pieces of equipment. Students should possess adequate vision in order to read instruments and take measurements, and must be capable of climbing vertical ladders and walking platforms with open gratings. Some students with disabilities may require academic accommodations to equalize opportunities to meet the academic demands of this program or a course within it.

Post-Graduate Employment for International Students

International students who successfully complete their program of study at Lambton College may be eligible to apply for a Post Graduate Work Permit Program (PGWPP). The PGWPP allows students to gain valuable Canadian work experience.

A work permit under the PGWPP may be issued for the length of the study program, up to a maximum of three years. A post-graduation work permit cannot be valid for longer than the student's study program, and the study program must be a minimum of eight months in length. The length and approval of the PGWPP is determined solely by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

Students must meet the eligibility requirements to apply for a Post-Graduate Work Permit.

More information about the PGWPP.

Please note: Immigration regulations are legislated by the Federal Government of Canada and are subject to change at any time without notice. Students are responsible for ensuring that they are in compliance with all Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada regulations at all times during their studies and while in Canada. Lambton College staff are not authorized to provide advice or guidance on immigration-related matters. Prospective applicants and current students should consult the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website or contact the IRCC Call Centre at 1-888-242-2100 to answer or clarify any immigration-related questions and/or information.

Student Responsibilities

  • Course and program delivery schedules are proposed and subject to change for each intake. Students are required to bring their own laptop with wireless capability.
  • Students are advised to bring an official copy of their most recent police clearance, driver's license and vaccination record from their home country.

Laptop Requirements

It is required that students purchase a laptop with a Windows operating system.

Internet Speed Requirements

For best performance for students learning remotely, an internet connection with a minimum of 40 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload speed is recommended in order to effectively use video conferencing and remote lecture deliver software as well as, other online resources remotely. Due to the large area over which students may be dispersed, we are unable to recommend a specific provider, so you will need to inquire around your area to find one that best suits your needs.

Minimum Laptop Requirements

In order to access the internet and virtually-delivered software and courseware, student laptops should include the following at a minimum. By meeting the following specifications, students will be equipped to access software and courseware on their laptop through the internet:

  • Intel i3 Processor or equivalent
  • 4 GB of RAM or more
  • 100 GD HDD or more
  • HD Graphics
  • Webcam with a microphone
  • Wireless 802.11n/ac 5ghz capable
  • Windows Operating System (Windows 10)


To ensure students are getting the most out of their classroom experience, some software will be required.

Lambton College has made this software easily accessible online. Students can leverage our Microsoft Office 365 software packages and services. In addition, much of the software you require for your courses will be available on demand for use on any device – on or off campus.

For more information, please contact the appropriate campus:

Sarnia/Main Campus
905-890-7833 x 222
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