Last week 24 secondary students enjoyed the opportunity to get behind the wheel during School District 27’s annual Heavy Metal Rocks course.
Each year in May, WorkSafeBC, SD 27 and local industry team up to offer students from 100 Mile House and Williams Lake hands-on experience operating heavy machinery, including a mine truck simulator from Gibraltar Mines.
“We had 54 students apply this year,” said Lisa Kraus, the district’s career co-ordinator at the Centennial gravel pit site Friday where students were doing the training. “We interview the students and then make our selection.”
Priority goes to students in Grade 12, although students in Grade 11 who are planning to enrol in the ACE IT program for Grade 12 are chosen.
“We had two girls drop out at the last minute because they had to attend interviews for universities,” Kraus said.
In total 24 pieces of equipment were donated for use on the site, giving each student a chance to try 12 different stations, and one a second time.
“Travis Fontaine of Taseko Gibraltar has organized all the operators to work with the students,” Kraus said. “They are all donating their time.”
As well, local companies donated all the low bedding and BC Hydro conducted a safety demonstration in conjunction with a mine rescue team from Gibraltar Mine.
Waiting to try her next piece of equipment Williams Lake GROW student Damaris Wait said so far her favourite thing to operate was the skidder.
“I just love the way it moves, it’s a very interesting machine,” the 17-year-old said of the skidder. “My mom and stepfather are in the same industry. I would love to work in it too.”
Damaris was selected to be the victim for the safety rescue and found that interesting as well.
“I was lying there impaired for 20 minutes and had to pretend I wasn’t breathing,” she said.
Kraus credited Damaris for asking great questions in the safety meetings.
“I’m impressed with how she’s engaging with the program,” Kraus said.
Students emerge from the four-day course with several certifications including first aid, WHMIS and a construction safety course offered by the BC. Construction Safety Alliance.
It was the first year Josh Ball from Blocks R Us, who instructed fork lift operations, participated in the program.
“I would have had fun attending something like this when I was a student in high school,” Ball said.
As he took a snack break with the other students, 100 Mile House student Austin Briand said Heavy Metal Rocks was a great place to be.
“I’d never used a big piece of equipment before and I’m taking in a lot of knowledge,” Briand said.
Initially he assumed the grader would be the hardest machine to operate because of all the levers, but in the end he said he found it pretty easy.
He also appreciated the safety aspect of the course and said he learned about many hazards he never knew about.
“You have to check every nook and cranny on the highway plows and graders,” he said.
Briand is in Grade 11 and said he is still debating what he will do in the future.
In the meantime he’s been taking as many trades courses as he can at Peter Skene Odgen Secondary School, just in case.
There is no cost to the students to take Heavy Metal Rocks and they emerge with 30 hours they can use toward their graduation requirements, Kraus said.
More than 40 local companies donated time, equipment, and food services to make the program a success, she added.