'Heavy Metal' rocks...and pays well

With the recent announcement of a pending shortage of trades workers in BC, it was an appropriate time for a group of high school students from School District 23 to get hands-on experience in the heavy construction industry.

Over the weekend, 30 students from high schools throughout the district got a chance for some hands-on practical training and an up-close look at their potential future during the 5th Annual Heavy Metal Rocks program.

"These kids have shown us an interest in pursuing heavy equipment as a career once they transition out of high school," says School District 23 Career Life Programs Consultant Chris Ovelson.

One of those students clearly interested is Grade 12 Mt Boucherie student Sam Oram.

"That's definitely been my plan since I was 10," says Oram.

He spent Sunday training on a rock truck and was soon confidently driving the rig solo.

"I really like it. It's like driving a car but you're in a giant open space and it's got tires that are bigger than you. You learn about how it works, where everything is and how to check the machine before you go on it."

The Interior Heavy Equipment Operator School training site near Winfield hosted the students and also provided one on one instruction.

“The students will be learning from experienced operators who also act as their mentors,” says Ovelson.

"IHES has really opened up their school to the students of School District 23. They have over 30 pieces of heavy equipment here on 40 acres, and it's really like the Disneyland of heavy equipment."

The students prepared for the work experience session by taking the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System program, Occupational First Aid (Level One) certification, and hearing tests. The students also received a safety talk from a WorkSafeBC officer.

Mike Hansen is the General Manager of the Interior Heavy Equipment Operator School and he says his company was happy to become a part of the program.

"We got a call from School District 23 and WorkSafeBC...and they needed someone to step up and really help them get these students on all the varieties of heavy equipment."

The School made available everything from graders, bulldozers, loaders, back hoes, rock trucks and excavators. The district also brought in the welding and hydraulics school from Okanagan College.

"We've really made it a win-win for all these students seeking a career in heavy equipment," says Hansen.

"Right now we're seeing a really big demand for heavy equipment operators. The industry is expanding...and the baby boomers are retiring. I think more people are becoming interested in the trades because they're able to get high paying jobs."

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