Students show off operator skills

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by Bradley Fehr

Fifteen high school students got to show off their heavy equipment operating skills at a recent demonstration in Mission, B.C.
lafarge cannon pit in mission b.c.
lafarge cannon pit in mission b.c.

Fifteen high school students got to show off their heavy equipment operating skills at a recent demonstration in Mission, B.C.

The students are part of the Abbotsford School District’s Heavy Equipment Operator (HEO) ACE IT Apprenticeship Training Program.  

“We know there are a lot of opportunities for heavy equipment operators,” said Patricia Tebbutt, district principal for career programs with the school district.

The program is in its fourth year and is the first of its kind in the country.

It enables high school students to spend a semester training to become heavy equipment operators. 

The students training in the Heavy Equipment Operator Program receive exposure to the practical knowledge related to heavy equipment operation and get a head start in developing a career in the industry.  

They take six weeks of classroom theory and follow that up with two weeks of operating the equipment in a gravel pit.

Upon completion of the program, students gain their Certificate of Qualification – Level 1 Foundation HEO from the Industrial Training Authority (ITA), the provincial Crown agency responsible for managing and expanding B.C.’s industry training and apprenticeship system.

“They are now on track to a well-compensated career,” said Kevin Evans, CEO of the ITA.

“This is another pathway for kids that want to determine what they want to do with their life.”

Over the last three years, there has been a 100 per cent graduation success rate.

Labour forecasts indicate that there will be jobs available for these students if they want to pursue a career after graduation.

“These guys are going to work for our guys,” said Jack Davidson, president of the B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association.

“We’re going to be so short of people in the next few years.”

He added that while the course and training is valuable, there is always more to learn.

“They still have a lot to learn when they get to the jobsite,” Davidson said.

Brad Oostenbrug took part in the program and is a grade 12 student at Yale High School.

He’s been operating machinery since he was little and there was never any doubt on what career he wanted to pursue.

“This is what I’ve always wanted to do,” he said.

He appreciated the various aspects of the training, but definitely liked the hands-on part best.

“In class was good, but the pit was fun,” he said, adding that he preferred working with loaders and excavators.

He said that the machinery isn’t difficult to operate, but it’s hard to run well.

The program remains the only one of its kind in the province.

Other programs introduce students to heavy equipment operation, but they don’t including the training and certification.

This program has come together through partnership efforts between the Abbotsford School District, the provincial government through the Industry Training Authority (ITA), and industry companies with the B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association, as well as the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC).

There are other ACE-IT programs around the province, where student can take courses that will provide both high school graduation credits and a head start towards completion of an apprenticeship program.

You can see a video about the Open House here.

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