Project Heavy Duty gets students hands dirty

Students from Burns Lake, Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake and Fort St. James ran heavy duty equipment through project heavy duty.

Branson Albertson

Branson Albertson

Logging trucks, excavators, and bobcats are just a few pieces of equipment kids got to work on during this year’s Project Heavy Duty.

Selected Gr 10-12 kids from Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, Burns Lake and Fort St. James took part in the 29 annual event in Vanderhoof on May 14-15 for a  hands-on taste of working with various heavy equipment machines. Each year the equipment and personnel to run them are donated by local industry and we couldn’t do it without them, Darren Carpenter, career coordinator for SD91 said.

“If we had to pay it would probably cost upwards of $40-$50 thousand to rent all the machines for two days. There are some pretty expensive ones here,” he said pointing to a large excavator on site.

Historically the project is a four day event where students firstly take a tour of L&M saw mill in Vanderhoof. On May 13 the group did just that and were able to listen to operators talk about their trade for an insider sneak-peak of various jobs including millwright, boiler operator and mechanic to name a few.

Last year the second day was a tour of Endako which was cancelled this year because of the mines closure.

The students did however spend two days outside rotating through ten stations in groups of two working on 17 different machines.

“We try to replicate the work site by having the loader fill the truck or excavator fill the rock truck and then come back and dump it so the grader can flatten it into a road. We try to make it as real and relevant as we can so it’s actually what they would be doing on the job,” Carpenter said.

Each station has an operator that gives a short orientation on safety and what to do and not do with the machine. Nick Thompson,15, from Lakes District Secondary School, was seen using the clam grapple which is used to sort or load logs.

“The hardest thing is remembering what joy stick does what, all the while keeping it smooth,” he said.

There were 67 applicants this year but only 24 students were chosen based on interest and academics.

“We would like to take them all so that’s why the opportunity to come back a second year is not realistic,” Carpenter said, adding this year had the most amount of industry partners with the biggest scope and scale of previous years. A Vanderhoof fire truck was also present at the pretend work site with two second year fire fighters teaching students about the trucks gadgets.

“The halogen tool can break windows, break into doors, pry things open, basically anything you want to get into you can,” Kevin Leslie, second year fire fighter said.

Rob Anthony, a heavy duty machine operator with M4 Enterprises, has been instructing students at Project Heavy Duty for the last six years.

“The kids are always enthusiastic to run the machines. It’s good too for me to see their potential as future contractors. Ten kids could come into the shop but the one here I see, they got a heads up because I’ve seen their potential and attitude,” Anthony said.

Anyone who didn’t get to go to this year’s project can sign up next year at their schools careers office.