Sparwood Secondary School Grade 12 student Jaden Olinyk operated a compact excavator during Project Heavy Duty. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Students participate in Project Heavy Duty

Hands-on experience with local industry equipment.

Last week, 22 graduating high school students from around the Elk Valley participated in Project Heavy Duty, giving them hands-on experience with local industry equipment.

The College of the Rockies (COTR), WorkSafeBC, School District No. 5 (SD5) and the District of Sparwood (DOS) coordinated the event, and invited students from all communities to participate in the event which took place at the Sparwood gravel pit.

The program took place over four days. Day one included Occupational First Aid training with COTR. On the second day, students toured Line Creek Mine with Teck Coal Operations, as well as SMS Equipment in Elkford. On day three and four, students learned about, and operated various types of machinery used in the Elk Valley.

“Safety is a huge priority with this project,” said College of the Rockies regional transitions coordinator, Brian Conrad. “We try to invoke a consciousness in the youth, so when they do hit the world of work, they automatically think safety.”

Another priority was to show students the expectations of real-work operations, as well as introduce students to contractors for potential future work.

Overall, instructors and contractors were impressed with students’ quick learning. Some attributed this to video games and how they improve hand-eye coordination.

There were 12 stations set up at the gravel pit, giving students the chance to experience 12 different industries.

A virtual-reality snowplow simulator from the college taught students how to operate a snowplow, while giving the instructor detailed results on how the students performed.

The District of Sparwood, as well as Mitchell Excavating donated the use of several rock trucks and loaders, which the students operated under close supervision.

The District of Elkford donated the use of a grader, with which students practiced leveling areas of the gravel pit.

SMS Equipment provided the use of a brand new Komatsu Crawler Dozer, which they brought in from Calgary, along with a veteran trainer, Art Hine, whom they flew in from Vancouver especially for this event.

Also, available was a bobcat and another small loader.

Students climbed telephone poles with spurs, under the instruction of BC Hydro.

FR Rentals provided an 80-foot boom lift which gave students a vertical perspective of Sparwood.

Mainroad provided a HIAB truck, with which the students lifted and stacked large blocks of concrete.

The only other place in the province where you can find a program like this is in Prince George.

“It’s a testament to the buy-in by the community and the industry here, that recognize the value of training the next generations of workers,” said Conrad.

“It takes a community to raise a child, and this is really that in action,” he added.