Job training takes root

A significant partnership has been built up to train more than 50 local Aboriginal workers for careers as heavy equipment operators

  • May. 17, 2015 5:00 a.m.

A significant partnership has been built  up to train more than 50 local Aboriginal workers for careers as heavy equipment operators.

A partnership worth nearly $1.4 million between the B.C. government and the Southern Interior Construction Association was announced in Armstrong Friday, which is making it all possible.

“This funding covers three intakes of our heavy equipment operators program and provides an opportunity to engage a segment of our population that often faces employment challenges as well as meet the future skilled trades needs,” said Bill Everitt, chief operating officer, Southern Interior Construction Association.

In three different sessions of 18 people, the trainees will get 8.75 weeks of occupational and employability classroom training in road building and heavy construction and 4.25 weeks of hands-on training as operators of bulldozers, excavators, front-end loaders and backhoes to prepare for work in the construction industry.

The workers will also get eight weeks of followup support to help them find work as heavy equipment operators in the north and central Okanagan. The project will last one year and is scheduled to finish in March 2016.

Participating First Nations include the Splatsin First Nation, the Okanagan Indian Band and the Westbank First Nation, which will hold the training sessions on their respective lands. The first intake of trainees began with the Splatsin First Nation in the Enderby area on May 4. The second intake starts in August in the Vernon area with the Okanagan Indian Band and the third intake is in November with the Westbank First Nation in the West Kelowna area.

“One of the reasons I chose to do this course was to do a career change. I have always had an interest in heavy equipment and I am honoured and pleased to be part of something that is positive and exciting,” said Patrick Thomas, project trainee, Neskonlith Indian Band.

“The teaching that we are receiving is easy to learn from and to understand, so this makes learning enjoyable.”

By 2022, B.C. is expecting one million job openings with more than two-thirds driven by retirements in an aging population.

“When we get people trained for jobs that are needed in our communities, such as Vernon-Monashee, everybody wins. Our communities benefit from construction jobs and these trainees will help to fill those needed positions,” said Eric Foster, MLA for Vernon-Monashee

The Community and Employer Partnerships program is featured in B.C.’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint and provides more support to people who are struggling to gain a foothold in the job market. It helps build stronger partnerships with industry and labour to connect British Columbians with classroom and on-the-job training, while making it easier for employers to hire the skilled workers they need – when and where they need them.

“Building the future starts with finding a dependable, rewarding job,” said Premier Christy Clark, MLA for Westside-Kelowna.

“That’s why we launched the Skills for Jobs Blueprint – to connect people with the in-demand training they need, in the regions that need workers with a particular skillset.”