Williams Lake students try heavy equipment operating with Heavy Metal Rocks

The gravel pit was a hive of activity with heavy equipment set up in multiple stations around the site to provide hands-on learning for some Grade 11 and 12 students. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)The gravel pit was a hive of activity with heavy equipment set up in multiple stations around the site to provide hands-on learning for some Grade 11 and 12 students. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
A small excavator is operated by a high school student during Heavy Metal Rocks in Williams Lake. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)A small excavator is operated by a high school student during Heavy Metal Rocks in Williams Lake. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
A Jenga-style exercise was one of the activities high school students got to try using a processor to stack lengths of wood. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)A Jenga-style exercise was one of the activities high school students got to try using a processor to stack lengths of wood. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
A processor was set up to receive and process trees brought in by a feller-buncher in a simulation of a bush logging operation during Heavy Metal Rocks 2022. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)A processor was set up to receive and process trees brought in by a feller-buncher in a simulation of a bush logging operation during Heavy Metal Rocks 2022. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Kendra Parent is given some pointers by a professional trainer as she learns how to operate a bobcat during Heavy Metal Rocks 2022. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Kendra Parent is given some pointers by a professional trainer as she learns how to operate a bobcat during Heavy Metal Rocks 2022. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
A trainer watches over a student learning how to operate a small excavator. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)A trainer watches over a student learning how to operate a small excavator. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Jenna Jessop, a Grade 11 student, operates a crane to move large concrete road barriers during Heavy Metal Rocks 2022 in Williams Lake. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Jenna Jessop, a Grade 11 student, operates a crane to move large concrete road barriers during Heavy Metal Rocks 2022 in Williams Lake. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Trainer Ryan Jasper of Ken’s Custom Grading, gives some pre-trip advice to a student before he or she drives the grader. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Trainer Ryan Jasper of Ken’s Custom Grading, gives some pre-trip advice to a student before he or she drives the grader. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
The Lions Club of Williams Lake has been supporting Heavy Metal Rocks with hot lunches for all participants for somewhere around a decade. Chris Hornby, from left, Gordon Lowe and Bonnie O’Neill were a few of the many club members working hard to get spaghetti and Caesar salad ready on Friday, April 29. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)The Lions Club of Williams Lake has been supporting Heavy Metal Rocks with hot lunches for all participants for somewhere around a decade. Chris Hornby, from left, Gordon Lowe and Bonnie O’Neill were a few of the many club members working hard to get spaghetti and Caesar salad ready on Friday, April 29. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Hi-viz vests, hard hats and heavy machinery made for a fun day of school for 22 Williams Lake high school students last week.

It was Heavy Metal Rocks 2022, which is a long-running project and partnership between School District 27 and industry to help get high school students some hands-on experience working with heavy equipment.

At a gravel pit on the Bond Lake Road, 22 students were mentored through operating 22 pieces of equipment by 22 professional trainers from industry over three days.

There were 11 stations, with two pieces of related equipment at each one, and the stations were meant to reflect real-life industry, focusing on forestry, mining, and road construction.

David Corbett, coordinator for careers programs at School District 27, was enjoying seeing his months of hard work in the planning and preparation come to fruition.

“This is our biggest event of the year,” said Corbett, going on to commend the amazing community partnerships which make it possible, including the buy-in from industry.

The planning for the event begins in October for Corbett and Shannon Augustine, career programs facilitator for the school district, who co-organizes the event.

Corbett said it was particularly hard this year to get the equipment time from the various industries because everyone is so busy.

But despite the loss in income by taking equipment off the job, companies made professional mentors and equipment available in order to get the students some hands-on experience.

The students themselves also had to work for the opportunity. Eligible Grade 11 and 12 students applied in February for the limited spots, then a selection process followed which included an interview.

Those selected and wait-listed took part in extracurricular training in preparation for the event.

Students who missed training lost their spots in the program. Courses the students received included first aid, SiteReadyBC and resume/interview training — all helping the students en route to employment.

All this is meant “to help them embrace being a good worker,” said Corbett. “By the time they get here, they’re keen, they’re ready.”

“It’s just amazing seeing the students so committed to it. They’re so driven,” echoed Alan Meyer, applied design, skills and technology teacher for School District 27, who helped at the event.

Also included in the three-day program were demonstrations by BC Hydro on installing power poles and downed lines as well as Fortis Gas showing line location and how to deal with a line strike -simulated using compressed air.

The equipment and stations included bush logging operations using a feller buncher and processor, a makeshift log yard which hosted a grapple loader, a mining operation with an excavator and rock truck, a crane and a grader fixing a roadway, and bobcats smoothing and packing some gravel and dirt.

Grade 12 student Kendra Parent took a brief pause from operating a bobcat to tell the Tribune why she decided to participate in the work experience program.

“It was something outside of my comfort zone,” explained Parent, with a big smile on her face. “So I thought, why not try something new.”

“It’s really awesome,” she said, about the experience.

While she had not gotten through all of the stations, so far her favourites were the processor and the crane.

She said the experience could open doors to more opportunities for her and while she had not considered a career in those industries necessarily before her participation in the program, she would definitely consider working in industry after experiencing it.

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