A School District 27 program that gives students hands-on experience operating forestry and mining equipment continues to grow because of community support, said Dave Corbett, co-ordinator of career programs for the district.
Speaking to city council at its regular meeting Tuesday, Feb. 11, Corbett described how over four days Heavy Metal Rocks offers students from Williams Lake and 100 Mile House a chance to learn from local industry everything from how to drive a forklift to safety on the job.
“Last year we had 50 partners who helped us pull together and make it happen,” he said, explaining how 24 trainers, with 24 pieces of equipment train 24 students.
“Everything comes in from our community. I don’t have a budget line I get from the school district for it — it’s all run by donations, grants, and people with their time and belief in the program.”
When Supt. Chris van der Mark filled the position in April 2019 said he was “completely blown” away by the community support for Heavy Metal Rocks.
“There are so many businesses donating the use of their equipment, which is not insignificant, but they are also sending their lead hands to come down and get students acquainted with these opportunities,” he told the Tribune.
Seeing that level of commitment, he added, is ‘pretty awesome.’
He encouraged Corbett to make a presentation about the program at a BC School Superintendents Association conference, which Corbett ended up doing along with one of the contributors from a local mine.
“They were able to highlight that work at a provincial/national conference,” van der Mark said.
Corbett said Heavy Metal Rocks, will mark its 10th year this May 6-9, 2020.
“We are going to celebrate the partnership that’s going on and I am going to be sending out invitations to all of you to come up,” Corbett told council. “We are going to be honouring all the people that put in the elbow grease to make it happen.”
Efforts are also being made to engage children earlier with a number of programs. One of them is Youth Discover the Trades, which invites 80 local Grade 7 students to get out of the classroom and attend Thompson Rivers University (TRU) Williams Lake Campus for a day.
“On Wednesday, Feb. 19, they will spend the whole day going through each of the trades shops and they are going to build something in each one,” Corbett said. “It is one great ball of energy when you go there and it is so great. The students apply themselves and are being challenged, I have no discipline problems. It goes so well.”
Instructors from TRU and trades people from the community work with the Grade 7s.
High school students are also going to TRU to take care aid, electrical, welding, carpentry or heavy duty mechanic programs, Corbett added.
“Students can graduate with their first level of apprenticeship training done.”
Coun. Sheila Boehm thanked Corbett for the presentation and said she bragged about the program for many years while attending school district conventions when she was a trustee.
“I would like to discuss some other opportunities,” Boehm said. “We’ve heard a lot about early childhood education and I’m hoping that’s something we can look at.”
Boehm also said things such as driver’s training and first aid for all students would be great things to offer as well.
Mayor Walt Cobb said trades were overlooked for too long.
“We haven’t been pushing our kids towards them and now we have a shortage. Great work. I appreciate it,” Cobb told Corbett.