Ever since he was four-years old, Dargaville man Kyle Vincent has been going to the Northland Field Days and visiting the Doug the Digger roadshow to get his excavator operating fix, which he credits with inspiring his love of heavy machinery.

The roadshow, run by Alistair McIntyre, has been touring New Zealand and motivating young people to take up the tools of the civil trades for more than 20 years, using a 1.5-tonne excavator in a mini worksite set up to offer an on-the-job excavator experience.

Kyle is now 19 and he estimates he’s attended more than 10 Northland Field Day events, each time seizing the opportunity to brush up his excavator skills.

“Every year that I could go to Northland Field Days I would make a beeline for Doug the Digger.”

The skills he gained through his digger operating experiences at the road show have been put to use in some of his first jobs since leaving school. He operated an excavator as part of a landscaping project on a relative’s kumara farm, used machinery in the yard of Spreading Northland, and is currently focussing on getting his Class Two Heavy Vehicle Licence so he can become a long-range truck driver and see more of New Zealand.

A career is civil construction is still on the cards too, and Kyle says “maybe one day” he’d like to compete in one of Civil Contractors New Zealand’s regional excavator operator competitions.

He jokes that his regular visits to the Doug the Digger roadshow make him Alistair’s number one student.

“He taught me so much …if Alistair had other people waiting in line, he would get them on the digger first because he knew I’d wait.

“When Alistair was having his lunch, he’d say to me: ‘there’s the digger – you know what to do, go and have a play’”.

Alistair says he has got to know a lot of people who have taken part in Doug the Digger experiences over the years but Kyle stands out for his enthusiasm, which even extended to bookwork if excavators were involved.

Alistair says he went as far as giving Kyle “paperwork” to complete during his childhood visits – a checklist to note down oil, water and fuel levels, confirm the excavator was in good working order and a pre-start test – before putting it through his paces.

Now an adult, Kyle has continued his annual tradition of visiting Doug the Digger. For his part, Alistair is continuing to challenge his ‘star student’ and at this year’s Northland Field Days he set Kyle some of the toughest excavator challenges he could think of, including scooping a golf ball out of a pile of sand and balancing it on a road cone and filling a bottle with liquid from a teapot.

“He pulled out all his tricks and got me to do them all, I pretty much nailed them first time round,” Kyle says.

Alistair says it was a real pleasure to see Kyle after a few years when he turned up at the event looking all grown up and Kyle recognised a photo of himself in Alistair’s promotional material from when he was much younger.

“He’s a star in his own right.”

Kyle says during his visit he couldn’t resist the opportunity to also try out another demonstration excavator fitted with an Engcon GPS-guided tilt rotator and pincer attachment set up on site by survey and excavation technology company Global Survey.

As the demonstration driver wasn’t going to arrive until the following day, Kyle asked to have a go, and impressed enough people in the audience that 15 attachments were sold over the next two days. He jokes that he should have asked for a commission payment, but it didn’t matter because he was just doing something he loved.

Kyle says experiences like Doug the Digger can be ideal for engaging people who don’t always find their feet in a traditional school environment. He says he says Alistair’s Doug The Digger roadshow had opened his eyes to the civil infrastructure construction careers that exist for practical people who enjoy operating heavy machinery.

“If you’re finding that you’re not getting anywhere in school, go and have a talk to Alistair and have a go on his digger.”

Behind the scenes: What are the Doug the Digger and Have a Go experiences at Northland Field Days?

Civil Contractors New Zealand’s Northland branch hosts a number of opportunities for excavator enthusiasts at Northland Field Days including a Have a Go excavator experience for all ages and Alistair’s Doug the Digger experience, which caters for children and young adults.

The branch team also has boots on the ground to meet people, discuss industry issues, support contractors, and highlight career opportunities in civil construction. Doug the Digger has a busy schedule and can be found at a variety of events across New Zealand, including Central Districts Field Days – the country’s largest regional agricultural event.