Gallery: Project Heavy Duty in Vanderhoof celebrates 30th anniversary

It’s more than playing in a giant sand box with dumper toys, as students got an early taste of trades this season.

It’s more than playing in a giant sand box with dumper toys, as students got an early taste of trades this season.

From May 5 to 6, over 20 trades-inclined students from the Nechako Lakes school district participated in the annual Project Heavy Duty in the Striegler Pit, trying their hand at performing tasks with heavy equipment.

At its 30th anniversary, this year’s project is comprised of 19 pieces of machinery brought in by local industries and service groups — such as a feller buncher, an excavator, and a crane, said Darren Carpenter, School District No. 91’s career and trades programs coordinator.

New participating companies included BC Hydro, who brought in equipment to simulate work at power poles, as well as Advanced Millwright Services Ltd., who contributed with a zoom boom.

A helicopter, usually provided by Yellowhead Road & Bridge in the past, wasn’t on site this year, as it was called out for fire-fighting duty, Carpenter added.

“The idea is to expose students to these equipment early…and replicate a job site,” he said.

Through rotating stations, students are instructed to perform job-related tasks such as moving gravel and spreading it for a bush road, pruning trees at power-line level, as well as manoeuvring logs.

“It helps to not only refine ur thoughts [for the future], but also to find out what doesn’t work for you, what you can do or cannot do,” Carpenter said.

All instructors and equipment time were provided as a donation from participating companies — it would have costed $150,000 to rent the plethora of equipment supplied, he added.

“It’s about community involvement…we really can’t say thank you,” Carpenter said. “We call these folks our partners in project.”

Rob Anthony, an excavator operator for M 4 Enterprises Ltd. and involved with the project for the last 20 years, saw a number of students who started with the project and eventually joined the industry.

“Some are born to run machines, others are born to push papers,” Anthony said. “Everyone needs to find their niche.

“If I was to start at their age, I might be at a different place in life.

“There’s not many industries that can give young people this look into a career.

“It’s not like if you’re an astronaut, you can fly in a spaceship.”

For Grade 10 student Matthew Thompson from Lakes District Secondary, it’s an opportunity to show future employers his experience in working with equipment, he said.

The loader was his favourite piece to operate at the project, though he had experience running his family-owned equipment for tasks such as cleaning up saw dust and piling loads in the past.

“When I’m older, I just want to run equipment…doesn’t matter which piece,” Thompson said. “You get to be in the bush and see new country.”