Students learn about heavy machinery

NANAIMO: Students learned to operate excavators, bulldozers and dump trucks.

Learning to operate excavators, bulldozers and dump trucks isn’t part of the typical high school curriculum, but that’s exactly what more than two dozen Nanaimo students did last week.

The youth – 25 from Nanaimo and seven from the Parksville-Qualicum school district – are the first high school students on the Island to take a work experience course in heavy equipment operation.

From Wednesday to Friday, they learned to operate 30 different pieces of construction equipment at Vancouver Island University’s Heavy Equipment Operator training site on Timberlands Road.

In advance of the hands-on training sessions, the students took the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System program and the Construction Safety Training Systems course.

“The students [learn] from experienced operators who also act as their mentors,” said Rick McDonough, Nanaimo school district’s Career Technical Centre coordinator, in a press release. “It’s an amazing opportunity they normally wouldn’t get in school.”

The program, Heavy Metal Rocks, is sponsored by WorkSafeBC, VIU, Nanaimo school district, Parksville-Qualicum school district, the Vancouver Island Construction Association and about 20 local companies.

It 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.