Students enrolled in a heavy duty mechanic apprenticeship program in Williams Lake are excelling, instructor Tom Logan said Tuesday during a meet and greet with industry.
Eleven First Nations students are enrolled in the six-month program, which is being offered through the Aboriginal Mentoring and Training Association (AMTA) at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) Williams Lake Campus.
“These students have worked extremely hard,” Logan said as he introduced the students. “Their marks are as high as any class I’ve ever taught and I’ve been teaching in Terrace for over 25 years.”
The students were picked by AMTA to pursue the program and come from various communities.
“Being a mechanic pretty well runs in our family,” Racine Dimitrov from Anaham said.
Keith Thomas, from Fort St. James, has always had an interest in mechanics, while Kory Billy from Canoe Creek said he has been looking for a career opportunity.
“I believe this is the path for me and I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out,” Billy said.
Shawn Cloutier, originally from the Mount Currie Band, has lived in Williams Lake for 25 years and said he first heard about the program from Rhonda Johnson who runs the Gathering Place at TRU.
“She directed me to the AMTA office. It was a quick and painless process and here I am,” Cloutier smiled.
Justin Meldrum grew up on a ranch and has been around heavy equipment all his life, so it made sense to take the training.
“I love the course,” he said.
The students had the opportunity to meet representatives from Gibraltar Mine, Taseko Mines Ltd., Ledcor, the Mining Association of B.C., Industry Training Authority, TRU, Xats’ull Band, School District 27 and former chief Ervin Charleboy who said he hopes to see more programs for young people.
The program grew out of a conversation with Gibraltar Mine’s vice president of operations Dave Rouleau, Taseko’s community and aboriginal affairs manager Christy Smith, and AMTA, said northeastern B.C. regional manager Sharon McLeod.
“Leonard Jackson, our director of operations asked Dave, ‘what do you need?, what do you want? what can we do?’ and Dave immediately responded with heavy duty mechanics, that go the ball rolling and here we are,” McLeod said.
Originally 28 candidates were interested in the program, 13 enrolled, and 11 have remained.
Logan phoned McLeod last week and told her the lowest mark on the midterm exam was 87 per cent.
“They just go up from there,” McLeod said, adding AMTA is very proud of the students.
Taseko’s Manager of Community and Aboriginal Affairs Christy Smith said the company is very proud of the students and plans to employ four of the apprentices at Gibraltar when they complete the program in August.
Mount Polley has committed to hire two of the graduates, McLeod said.