Fifteen students have been enrolled in the 12 week heavy equipment operations course, and are halfway through their training. When they graduate, they will all be certified to operate excavators, skid steers, bull dozers, back hoe loaders and front end loaders.
High Velocity Equipment Training College was started seven years ago in Alberta, and now offers training courses across Canada. This company has trained many people to operate heavy equipment, and works with many First Nations communities, providing training and job placement assistance.
Company heads Shawn Bonnough and John Deveau connected with TFN Chief Brenda Perley, who made the Fisheries building available as a training base. Working with the Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI) to secure funding for student tuition, the college processed applications from one hundred potential students for the course.
Out of these, eighteen applicants were selected based on their desire and commitment to learning, and ultimately fifteen students began the course, three of whom are women.
Qualified equipment operators are in demand, and an astonishing 97 percent of the students who graduate from High Velocity College soon find employment.
The college held an open house on Wednesday, June 11th to introduce the operation to members of the community and press. After enjoying a barbecue luncheon and touring the classroom facility, visitors were invited to drive to the old gravel pit where students learn to operate the heavy equipment.
Bob LaFrance and I took off in our cars, and missed a turn so that we became lost. I was following Bob, and he pulled up to ask a passing lady for directions. My windows were down, so I heard her giving lots of complicated instructions to take many turns, as she pointed back the way we’d just come.
As Bob pulled away, she looked at me anxiously and I realized that she thought I’d been stuck on the road when Bob stopped his car. I laughed and assured her we were traveling together at which point she said, “Well he asked me where The Pit was, and I told him that was back in Perth!” (For out of town readers, The Pit was a famous, or perhaps I should say infamous, basement tavern that operated for many years in Perth-Andover. Several attempts were made, over the years, to spiff the joint up and give it a new name and image, but it was always and forever “The Pit”!)
After that bit of amusing misdirection, we eventually located the old gravel pit and found four pieces of heavy equipment in operation simultaneously, as students practiced running the machines.
Instructor Rick Moulton handed us hard hats and safety vests as we walked through the old gravel pit, taking in the work. The students have built two inukshuk and a rock wall out of large boulders to say ‘You are on the right path!”
As the students practice at this pit, they are also in the process of turning it into an ATV and dirt bike park for local kids to use by building ramps and bowls. The students will continue to gain experience and practice by using the equipment on other community projects, a win-win for both the community and the college.
A front loader pulled up to a stop as I was chatting with Rick Moulton, and he introduced me to the student operator, Jenna Billings.
Jenna is 22 years old, and is the single mother of a two year old daughter named Faith. She is one of three women currently training at the college. She explained that she jumped at the opportunity to take the heavy equipment course, and that this class has offered her the way to take power over her own life.
The college plans to offer further courses in New Brunswick, which are open to all qualified applicants. For more information or to apply to the college go to High Velocity Training or call toll free 1-855-432-3473.