Heavy equipment training for the low-income

Heavy equipment training for the low-income in Vanderhoof

Vanderhoof’s workforce now has 10 new heavy equipment operators, thanks to a funded program targeting those who would normally be unable to access the industrial training.

On Jan. 26, graduates of the College of New Caledonia’s Heavy Equipment Operator program in Vanderhoof celebrated and were presented with certificates of completion on campus.

“It’s the first program of its kind at CNC,” said Aboriginal Support Worker Reg Mueller, who was involved with the program’s student recruitment and support. “The students now have experience operating most pieces of equipment.”

Funded by the Ministry of Jobs, Skills and Tourism, the HEO program focused on providing students with hands-on equipment operations training complemented by industry recognized safety training, as requested by industry supporters, CNC states.

Started at the end of last October, the 12-week program followed the Industry Training Authority’s (ITA) curriculum and students received 200 hours of machine time.

Though end of January may not be the best timing for job search for the graduates, the college will follow up with students and continue to make connections within the community for job prospects, Mueller said.

He advises students to “pound pavement and make calls to companies with resumes,” or become an entrepreneur by making a business plan, buying their own equipment, and starting their own company.

“Start from the bottom up, get your foot in the door,” Mueller said, adding that students can also challenge the Red Seal, an interprovincial and territorial standard for certified tradespeople. “I hope to see people with jobs in the next three to six months.”

Twelve students were enrolled in the course, with one participant finding employment in Alberta before the end of the program and another moving out of Canada in December.

For HEO graduate Heather Alexis, the program prepared her for entry into industry, covering different skills related to both logging and road maintenance, she said.

“I wanted to try to get my foot into the door; this makes a big impact,” Alexis said. “I want to go further in the Red Seal.”

As a single mother with two children aged five and under, Alexis found the coursework challenging, and she looks to expand her skills into mining and bridging as well.

“If I can get into everything, I can do this in the fall, and that in the summer, so I don’t need to sit around,” she said. “And later, way down in the road, start my own company up.”

She added, “I’m happy with the accomplishment I have done; when I first started I was rock bottom, I had nothing going for me.”

Also offered at CNC’s campuses in Mackenzie and Prince George, the HEO program in Vanderhoof was supported by in-kind donations from GC Forest Enterprise, White River Contracting, Takla Lake First Nation, M4 Enterprises and Pitka Logging.

“We are very grateful to the Ministry for providing this funding,” said CNC President, Henry Reiser.

“This course has provided a number of individuals, who are typically unable to access these sort of opportunities, with training that is supported and asked for by our local industry partners.”