Students from Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School traveled to Scott Pit in 100 Mile last Friday to participate in Heavy Metal Rocks.
The school district program gives young people in Grade 11 and 12 a chance to get some hands-on learning while working with heavy equipment, according to Dave Corbett, coordinator of career programs for School District 27.
Twelve students attended the event, including seven boys and five girls, to do two full days of heavy equipment training.
“It’s gone really well. The industry has been very busy, and so it’s harder to get equipment,” Corbett said. “We did a little bit of scrambling the last couple days to get everything, but the people of 100 Mile, the businesses, are extremely supportive and want to help out as much as they can.”
He said they try to make the program as realistic as possible, with students meeting at the school at 7:30 a.m. They then start their day with a safety meeting before heading to the machines for two hours of training. The students rotate through each piece of equipment with the help of trainers.
Before they hit the equipment, though, a lot of work takes place beforehand. They can apply for the event in February and are then interviewed and go through a selection process to either be selected or waitlisted. This is followed by occupational first aid level 1 training by Alexa Jeffery from Combined Workplace Safety, and the Ready BC Safety course in order to get them prepared to use the equipment.
“Safety’s pretty important,” Jeffery said. “Because if you don’t follow safe work practices, you wind up getting an accident or injury, or not just that, you damage equipment, you damage machinery, you lose confidence.”
Payton Ryder, a grade 11 student, said he was excited “to learn how to operate the different machinery out there.
“I feel some excitement and joy and just relief from the world when sitting in the machine and just digging… it just gets my mind off things and just gets me outside playing around,” he said.
Heather Wood, PSO’s work experience facilitator, said she was glad so many youth were at the event.
“They’re just blowing these operators out of the water, it’s amazing. They’ve all been very polite and safety conscious,” Wood said.
Corbett said he was also pleased to see past students, who are now working in the industry, come back as trainers.
“They’re successful at what they do and they’re back here, helping out. So that’s really exciting to see the full turnaround.”
Instructor Jason McNabb, of McNeil and Sons Logging, was one of those who returned, having attended Heavy Metal Rocks 30 years ago.
“We need more young people in the industry for sure, all the old-timers are starting to retire and we really need some new blood in the industry,” McNabb said. “They’re picking it up and taking it seriously. You can tell they want to learn and they have great attitudes.”
Grade 11 student Megan Holyk said it “just felt like it was a pretty cool opportunity. You don’t really get to do this stuff.”
For Grade 12 student Cory Bougie, the day was a great way to figure out if he’d like to pursue operating heavy equipment as a career. Bougie said he’s been trying to get into the program for a couple of years.
“I’m feeling pretty good. It’s fun driving around the machinery and I’m liking it a lot,” Bougie said. “You learn pretty fast and as you get going you get better at it.”
Don Cameron has been working as a Driver Trainer for 20 years, currently at Dawson Road Maintenance. While he also works in Goldbridge, Bella Coola, Smithers, and Fort Nelson, Cameron also decided to be a trainer at SD27’s Heavy Metal Rocks program.
“I really engaged with the students here… you can feel that you’re doing the building blocks for them, the foundations for them and you can really tell in their eyes and everything that they’re just loving it. And they’re doing great.”