June 27, 2009

A student trains on a loader.

High Velocity Equipment Training

A new program at High Velocity Equipment Training in Camrose Alberta will teach Metis how to become heavy equipment operators.

Operator Training

Alberta Metis set to begin heavy equipment training

Eighteen members of the Métis Nation of Alberta are about to begin a 12-week course that will train them to become heavy equipment operators.

The contract to provide the training, the first of its kind in Alberta, was awarded to Camrose, AB-based High Velocity Equipment Training (HVET) through the Metis Nation of Alberta’s Labour Market Development Contribution Agreement.

The curriculum, which is spread over 17 modules, covers a lot of material.

Students will receive safety certification in H2S, WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System), ground disturbance, transportation of dangerous goods and first aid.

They will also learn the details of job-site communication, including terminology, road signs and hand signals.

Other topics include machine systems, rigging and slinging, trenching and sloping, as well as how to read cut, fill and grade-stakes.

The students will learn how to operate a variety of heavy equipment, including rock trucks, back-hoes, loaders, dozers, excavators and skid steers.

Terry Payne, HVET’s admissions and job placement officer, said the greatest employer demand now is for operators of excavators and dozers, and, at the entry level, for operators of rock trucks and scrapers.

She said employment prospects in Alberta for heavy equipment operators are pretty good and getting better.

“Road construction is huge now and oil and gas are picking up,” Payne said.

“Some major companies, such as Syncrude, Suncor and Encana, are hiring. If you’re willing to re-locate to a work camp, there are jobs out there.”

The program is popular.

“The deal was signed April 22 to train 12 students,” Payne said.

“But, at the beginning of June, we were approached by the Metis Nation. They had been overwhelmed by the number of applications and asked if we could take more students. So now we have 18.”

The program has been somewhat tailored to meet the needs of the current class.

“All students are unique in their own way and present their own challenges and rewards,” Payne said.

Tuition, which costs $20,650 per student, includes safety vest, steel-toe boots and safety glasses.

Each student’s tuition is fully funded by the program, which, in turn, receives its funding from Alberta Employment and Immigration.

The training will be delivered at HVET’s facility in Camrose.

This particular program is unique in Alberta.

The centre is the first private vocational training school in Alberta that offers heavy equipment training under the province’s Private Vocational Schools Act and is licensed and certified by the provincial government.

“Olds College offers a six-month course,” she said.

“And there are other private instructors, but they’re not licensed and certified by the province.”

In addition to heavy equipment training, the students will receive instruction in personal and employment development from INEO Employment Services of Port Alberni, B.C., which is affiliated with HVET.

“This part of the course will cover the life-skills necessary to function in the construction sector and the job-readiness skills required to be a self-sufficient employee,” Payne said.

“The students will learn how to write resumes and cover letters, networking and job search techniques and interview skills.”

Payne said these soft skills are critical for job retention.

“Employers benefit too because motivated employees mean low turnover,” she explained.

Payne said the program will give Alberta Metis the employment skills they need to fill present and future job shortages and to benefit from the growth of the province’s economy.

According to Alberta Employment and Immigration statistics, Metis labor force participation in May 2009 was 72.9 per cent, compared to 74.3 per cent for the province as a whole.

The Metis unemployment rate for May 2009 was 12.1 per cent, compared to 7.8 per cent in May 2008.

The unemployment rates for Alberta as a whole in the same months were 6.6 per cent and 3.6 per cent respectively.

In addition to its contract with the Metis Nation of Alberta, HVET has other irons in the fire.

In mid-June, HVET began a training program with the Driftpile First Nations Band to train band members on the Driftpile Reserve, located three hours north of Edmonton on Slave Lake.

HVET is also working on training agreements with the Metis Settlements General Council, Kapawe’no First Nations and Stoney Nation, all located in Alberta.

“We are also exploring an opportunity to bring our training program to Latin America, to support mining in the Andean Region,” Payne said.

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