Heavy Metal Rocks wrapped up another successful year this weekend of training students for the industrial workforce.
Every year Grade 11 and 12 students at Lake City Secondary School and other qualifying schools in School District 27 get the chance to get hands-on training in the mining, construction and forestry industries. Over the course of several months, they’re vigorously trained, on their own time, to operate heavy machinery and construction equipment by industry professionals.
All this work culminated on May 10 and 11 where students were out driving and using backhoes, dump trucks and bulldozers at the Cenntenial Gravel Pit. A group of around 24 lakecity students, split into teams of two, were rotating through 24 pieces of equipment, under the watchful eyes of their 24 professional instructors.
For Dave Corbett, the coordinator of school programs at SD27, Heavy Metal Rocks is a real life job simulation of operating heavy equipment in the civil, mining, forestry and construction industries. This real-world experience is key to helping these students, many who will be graduating in June, get their foot in the door for prospective job opportunities.
“This is a program where the school district is working with our community help grow our young people and give them skills and abilities that will help them get into the next stage of life and have successful experiences in their future careers,” Corbett said.
Corbett said that students apply for the program through their high school career centres in the winter around January and are then interviewed to determine their suitability. After sorting through the applicants and selecting those who are the most committed and would benefit the most from the program, he said the first step is giving them training in first aid, WHMIS, construction safety and resume writing, all before so much as stepping into a simulator.
“Our goal is to give our young people not only the (practical) experience but as many skills and certifications as we can to help them to get a better leg up into the industry and also be a more skilled worker,” Corbett explained.
Natural resource-based industries are all common in Williams Lake, Corbett said, and exposing young people to it early is a good thing. Whether or not they make it their long term career or a short term way to make money isn’t the point, he said, instead it’s all about making sure their first step into their professional careers is a success.
Close to 50 businesses and organizations in the community come together each year to help support Heavy Metal Rocks and Corbett credits them for the success of the program. He said he could not spend enough time thanking people for all the “phenomenal support” they receive.
For high school students Krysten Dickey and Gwen Rohls the event is a fun way to prepare them for the workforce and their future careers. While Dickey is in Grade 11 and Rohls is in Grade 12 both are graduating this year and saw the program as a good way to jump into a career straight out of high school.
“We’re learning to drive heavy duty machinery so stuff like the backhoe, the dump truck, the excavators, the graters and all those kind of machines. That’s a lot of fun, I highly suggest the program,” Dickey said.
She hopes to start doing some work in carpentry out of high school before working her way into working at a northern mill as a millwright. Rohls already works at a mill and hopes to move up within it from her weekend clean up job in the future.
Both girls highly recommend the program for those looking to get their foot in the door of future job opportunities, as they said it’s a fun way to gain a variety of skills that will come in handy for the future.