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Project Heavy Duty provides taste of the trades

A group of students had a chance to get hands-on experience and training working with big machinery last week.
College of the Rockies

A group of Mount Baker students had a chance to get hands-on experience and training working with big machinery last week.

The 24 students put their names forward for the four-day Project Heavy-Duty program, which included two days of certification and safety training and two days of working with the actual machinery. It's put on by the College of the Rockies, in partnership with School District 5 and WorkSafe BC, and took place on Thursday and Friday, May 22 and 23, at the city's public works yard on Cobham Avenue.

Kaley Mitchell, who is in grade 12 at Mount Baker, said the program has broadened her outlook on what's available in the trades. She said it's definitely made her think more seriously about going into the trades as a career.

"It's been very educational," Mitchell said. "It's changed what I might do."

Hugh Moore, recruiting officer from the College of the Rockies, said the event is designed to help students experience first-hand what a career in trades would be like.

“We have the great good fortune to partner with industry as well who have donated both operators and equipment for those days,” Moore said.

Industry employers and organizations like Teck, Fortis, BC Hydro, Finning and WorkSafe BC donated both heavy equipment and staff for the event.

“Every piece of equipment that’s moving has a high school student driving it,” he said. “We have kids who have probably never driven anything beyond their mom’s four-cylinder Honda running an articulating dump truck down a gravel road.”

He said by the end of the four days students will have certifications and training for entry level work.

“Every year we have students who get hired as a result,” he said. “They work with an operator here who passes their name on and they get summer work. It leads to careers for some of them.”

The program has been going on for many years. It alternates between Cranbrook and the Elk Valley for the location.

Riley Piper, a student in grade 11 at Mount Baker, said the training has been a great experience.

“It’s been really cool,” Piper said. “We get to use all the machines and learn how to run them all.”

Piper said he’s always wanted to go into the trades and especially enjoyed working on the excavator.

“It’s fun work,” he said.

Paul Duczek, who teaches at Mount Baker, said the four days are about safety awareness and trades exposure for the students.

He also noted the tremendous support from the city and trades community.

“There are thousands of dollars of donations here in machinery and fuel costs,” he said, adding that without that support something like that wouldn’t happen.

Mary Salmon, occupational safety officer with Worksafe BC, explained that the organization provided the safety training and the personal protection equipment.