Editor's note: The following news release was issued by WorkSafe BC, VIU, School Districts 68 and 69 and the Vancouver Island Construction Association.
Nanaimo, B.C. — A group of students from the Nanaimo-Ladysmith and Parksville-Qualicum regions are the first high schoolers on Vancouver Island to take a work experience course in “heavy metal.”
Twenty-five students from School District 68 and seven from School District 69 took part in the Heavy Metal Rocks program, getting training and hands-on experience with heavy machinery used in the construction industry.
The youth learned to safely operate 30 different pieces of heavy construction equipment, such as excavators, bulldozers, and dump trucks.
The Vancouver Island University Heavy Equipment Operations Site was their classroom during the three-day event.
The students prepared for the work experience session by taking the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) program and the Construction Safety Training Systems (CSTS) course ahead of time.
According to Rick McDonough, School District 68 Career Technical Centre Coordinator, the students learned from experienced operators who also acted as their mentors.
“Heavy Metal Rocks definitely gives young people a good foundation if they’re considering a career in B.C.’s construction industry,” said David Gaskill, a WorkSafeBC occupational safety officer in the Nanaimo area. “The safety training these students received will also help prepare them for work.”
“Construction is — and will continue to be — B.C.’s leading employment sector,” said Greg Baynton, CEO of the Vancouver Island Construction Association. “The industry will be looking to fill the 44,000 trade positions projected for B.C. in 2012-2020.
“Fifteen to 20 percent of those positions will be on Vancouver Island, and they will include trade-certified equipment operators.”
VIU President Dr. Ralph Nilson said VIU was pleased to be part of the Heavy Metal Rocks.
"Events like Heavy Metal Rocks are crucial to exposing Vancouver Island youth to educational and work opportunities available in heavy construction trades," said Nilson.
The program is sponsored by WorkSafeBC, Vancouver Island University, School District 68, School District 69, the Vancouver Island Construction Association, and approximately 20 local companies. The organizations and individuals involved volunteer hours of effort, as well as equipment and supplies, to make this inaugural event a success.
Heavy Metal Rocks has been held in six other B.C. communities for several years, including Elk Valley, Fort Saint John, Kamloops, Kelowna, Prince George, and Williams Lake, but this was the first time the event was held on Vancouver Island.