A career in heavy machinery could be a bit closer for 30 Okanagan students who might choose that path – which is good news for an industry that (like many others) needs new workers to keep pace with retirement rates.
“The demand is increasing for qualified operators. One recent search for jobs identified four large companies searching for over 220 operators collectively,” says Mike Hansen, general manager of the Interior Heavy Equipment (IHE) Operators School in Winfield, in the IHE Snapshot Newsletter.
The IHE Training School donated its training site and equipment for the fifth annual Heavy Metal Rocks event Sept. 28 to 30 in Winfield. Local road building and construction companies sent their equipment operators – male and female – to act as mentors and train youth on how how to operate different types of heavy equipment on site.
They learned about safe use of graders, bulldozers, loaders, back hoes, rock trucks and excavators – rotating through different stations. Information on career options for heavy equipment operators in the construction, oil and gas, forestry, civil and mining industries was also provided.
Chris Ovelson is a Kelowna teacher who coordinated the annual event. He said the operators were very impressed with the students.
“We had one student that was such a natural behind the controls of the rock truck that the operator challenged him to drive the course in reverse. The operator couldn’t believe that the student could drive the truck just as well backwards as forwards!” he said.
“We also had a student behind the controls of the excavator for the first time and he stacked up five rocks on top of each other faster than the operator who was mentoring him. Don’t tell his parents this, but I guess all those video game hours are paying off!”
Union rep Herb Conat had similar comments last year, which I wrote about in my post Gamers bring hand-eye skills to work.
Safety for heavy machine operators
“Researching the safety culture, practice, and record of an employer should be part of counselling youth about early career experiences and potential places of work,” reads Exploring Careers in Heavy Equipment: An Introductory Guide for Parents and Educators, part of Alberta’s Careers in Heavy Equipment Occupations Project.
I hope young people will make careful choices before entering a workplace that includes risks of rollovers, pedestrians near moving equipment, musculoskeletal injuries, and falling from machine cabs.
In addition to watching their mentors model safety, the students prepared for Heavy Metal Rocks by doing Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) training at school, along with Level 1 First Aid Training donated by First Response Training and Safety Professionals Inc.
Congrats to all involved!