Sixteen students at Tobique First Nation have just successfully completed the 12 week heavy equipment training course that was brought to the community by High Velocity College, a heavy equipment training school based in Alberta.
The company was started seven years ago and now offers training courses all across Canada. The college the company opened at Tobique First Nation was the first in New Brunswick.
The course they offer covers all aspects of heavy equipment training, from the safety aspects, to the paperwork and log keeping that is necessary along with the actual operation of the machine.
The graduation ceremony was held on July 18 as family and friends poured into the gym at Mah Sos School to celebrate the graduates’ success.
The course was offered as a part of the New Brunswick Aboriginal Mining, Energy and Trades Project, or NBAMET.
Financial assistance for the students was arranged through the Joint Economic Development Initiative, or JEDI.
Alex Deham, the president of JEDI, came to the ceremony to celebrate and honour the achievements of the graduates.
This group of students had been selected from over 100 applicants for the course. They were chosen out of their desire for and commitment to learning and they stayed on track for the whole course.
Alex began by offering his sincere congratulations to both the students and the staff of High Velocity.
He said, “The NBAMET project was created to address labour market demands for the mining, energy and trades industry sectors.”
“Our aboriginal population is young, vibrant and growing. This heavy equipment training program has provided the graduates with the specific skills they need to begin meaningful careers in a field that is in very high demand across Canada.”
“These students will become more knowledgeable, experienced and skilled as
heavy equipment operators. This will lead to successful careers, and they will become role models and in turn, will help to recruit more Aboriginal People into the trades and into this profession. I look forward to hearing about the rewarding careers these students will have!”
Imelda Perley, Elder in Residence at UNB, then performed a traditional smudging ceremony as she said a prayer to bless the gathering.
John Deveau, the Atlantic Coordinator of the program, presented the diplomas to the graduates as he offered his congratulations and commentary.
He noted that, “Without the support of JEDI and Tobique First Nation we wouldn’t have been able to make this happen. This investment in their community is one of the best they’ve ever made.”
The graduates were: Houston Bear, Jenna Billings, Desmond Brooks, William Duthie, Ryan Louis, Gitjpesan Martin, Chance Marshall, Mus-hun Muwin, John Moulton, Kiew-nik Nicholas, Matthew Oullette, Henry Perley, Joshua Hawk Perley, Keagan Perley, Nolan Sappier and Joe Sockabasin.
Each graduate said a bit about their experiences during the course, with everyone commenting on the professionalism of the trainers and the curriculum and how much they were looking forward to their new careers.
High Velocity helps with job placement for students, with a 97 percent employment rate for graduates.
In fact, graduate Henry Perley has already been hired by Valcon in Perth-Andover and will begin his new job immediately. Of the course Henry said, “These guys really had their S*** together!”
Of the two women who were among the graduates, Jenna Billings and Mus-hun Muwin, John said “The girls really got their act together. Show them once then get out of their way or you’re gonna get hurt!”
One hundred percent of the women students who have taken this course out west are employed.
John had a compliment for every graduate. After 12 weeks, everyone was like family. He remarked that some of the guys were such naturals at learning to handle the heavy equipment that it appeared that they didn’t have blood in their veins, they have hydraulic fluid!
Because of the success of this course, another 12 week course will be offered in the upcoming months at Tobique First Nation.