June 11, 2012
Manitoba introduces new roadbuilding training program for Aboriginal workers
MANITOBA HEAVY CONSTRUCTION ASSOCIATION
The Province of Manitoba in partnership with the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association (MHCA) has launched its first-ever program aimed at training Aboriginal students in operating roadbuilding equipment.
The program is intended to encourage Aboriginal participation in the heavy construction industry.
Individuals enrolled in the program were recruited by Options for Success, a Winnipeg-based consulting firm, which also provided pre-employment and job coaching.<0x000A>The company is working in collaboration with Workplace Education Manitoba and also delivered essential skills upgrading.
What makes this program different, said Eddie Calisto-Tavares, the president of Options for Success, is that her company has provided what she calls a reflection component for the program.
“As this is a training program intended for Aboriginal people and their cultural norms differ from the larger society, we made sure to prepare the students before they started the actual training,” she said.
“We also want to make sure that employers and employees in the industry understand the specific needs of Aboriginal workers.”
The pilot program began in March with 16 students enrolled.
The students were in the classroom for the first week of the five week program.
The remainder of the time, they spent the mornings in the classroom and the afternoons in hands-on training, which included learning to service equipment – checking oil and other lubricants, and greasing the machines – as well as operating the equipment in a gravel pit owned by Hugh Munro Construction.
“We had an excellent group of students,” said MHCA trainer Greg Huff.
“We had very little absenteeism – and those students who missed classes had good reasons. Everyone was punctual and all passed.”
Huff noted that students who missed two classes in a row would have automatically failed.
Sheldon Green was one of the successful graduates.
The 24-year-old Winnipegger – who was looking for a career change – appreciated the hands-on experience.
“I learned a lot of skills,” he said.
Aaron Henry, 45, enrolled in the program with his 18-year-old son.
Henry works for FPM Peat Moss in Sprague, in southeastern Manitoba.
He had been driving a tractor, but recently acquired new responsibilities that required the use of heavy equipment.
“Greg is a really good trainer,” Henry said.
While Henry has a pre-existing job, his fellow graduates are still in the process of applying for work.
Huff is optimistic that all will find jobs in the industry, but noted that a cool spring has delayed road construction projects.
As well, he reported, there has been a decline in government tenders as compared to last year.
Once the graduates find work, Calisto-Tavares noted that her company will be monitoring their workplace situations for a year.
They will make sure that the clients are being fairly treated and also helping the employers help their new Aboriginal employees to fit in.
Greg Huff noted that a second class is tentatively scheduled for late June.
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