More than 30 people were involved in delivering the Heavy Metal Rocks program in Williams Lake May 2 to 12.
The program gave 16 boys and two girls in grades 11 and 12 hands-on experience running heavy industrial machinery.
School District 27, WorkSafeBC, local industry, and government representatives teamed up to provide the program.
Participating students interested in a career in the construction industry were selected for the program through an application and interview process, says Gordon Armour, School District 27’s, coordinator for transition, training and trades programs.
If the school district had to put the course on alone Armour says it would cost more than $600,000 but thanks to involvement by local business the costs to the district are minimal. Even the diesel fuel and flood lights for night security were provided by industry, Armour says.
The program started with the students taking orientation sessions in the classroom along with industrial first-aid and work-place safety training.
On site, Fortis and BC Hydro started by provided demonstrations on what can happen if equipment accidentally hits a power line or buried gas line, reinforcing directives to find out before you dig where gas, water and other lines are buried and taking care when using heavy equipment around power lines and poles.
Then over a two-and-a-half-day period each of the students was given an hour-and-a-half of hands-on experience on each of 16 pieces of heavy equipment loaned for the program by the participating businesses who also provided the experienced equipment operators as trainers and supervisors.
Armour says the students don’t just push dirt and rocks around for the experience either. They are doing work with a purpose to reclaim the exhausted Centennial gravel pit site on Bond Lake Road.
He says the work to smooth out the site and return it to a natural state will be completed in about six years by successive groups of students participating in the Heavy Metal Rocks program.
Bucket truck, crane truck, skid steers, excavator, mini excavators, loaders, dump truck, dozer, packer, grader, water truck, back hoes of various sizes and other equipment could be seen busily working around the site with students at the controls and mentors close at hand.
“It’s excellent. I’ve learned so much about the machines,” says Jesse Siwek a Grade 11 student who works summers as a general labourer and painter in his dad’s contracting business. Jesse says he is very mechanically inclined and it is helpful to know how to use a piece of heavy equipment if you have to.
“The safety skills I have learned I can carry around with me because they apply to everything pretty much,” Jesse says.
Ryley Gardner a Grade 12 student participating in the program is also an ACE-IT student in the heavy duty mechanic program who works part-time for Peterson Contracting as part of his high school pre-apprenticeship training.
“I’m really enjoying it and learning a lot about the machines,” Ryley says.
Armour says the students participating in the program worked a close to normal work day being picked up at 7 a.m. and bused to the site and working from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.
About 30 trainers, supervisors and other support people participated in delivering the program including members of the Lions Club who provided lunch on site for the participants, and on site security at night.
Paul Allan, superintendent of human resources at Mount Polley, and John Purdy, senior foreman of mine production at Gibraltar Mine, also helped with the program.
“We’re already arguing about who will get one of the students,” Purdy jokes. “Its a great program.”
Purdy says students who have never been around heavy equipment before get to try out all types of machinery and see what’s out there in the way of future careers.
Allan says one of the trainers provided by Mount Polley for the Heavy Metal Rocks program took a similar program 20 years ago and is now a foreman at Mount Polley.
Steve Rothman, Ministry of Mines senior health and safety officer for South Central B.C. along with Mark Harper from WorkSafe B.C. were also both on site.
“This is an excellent program, Rothman says. “We have a lot of well trained people working with us.”
Harper adds: “A lot of students don’t know what they want to do when they graduate. This helps them to make up their minds. If for no other reason it is good work experience and exposes them to a whole new environment.”
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