In its fourth year, the Heavy Metal Rocks program is attracting a bigger assortment of young people than ever.
“We are proud of the fact that we have six female students and five students of aboriginal descent participating in our Heavy Metal Rocks program this year,” said Deb Roseleine, community partnership facilitator for the Central Okanagan School District.
“It’s great to see the diversity of School District 23 students represented in this event.”
The Heavy Metal Rocks initiative, sponsored by local industry and WorkSafe B.C., gave 28 students from School District 23’s Career and Life Programs the chance to work outdoors with heavy machinery at the Emil Anderson pit in West Kelowna from Sept. 23 to 25.
The enrollment of six females in the program was a major boost as last year’s program was completely male-dominated.
Amanda Storey, a Central School student, said that getting into some of the large pieces of construction equipment was a little intimidating at first.
“It’s pretty scary because they’re so big compared to you. It’s kind of like, how am I going to drive this?” said Storey.
From Thursday to Saturday, Storey and 27 others had the opportunity to operate Skid steers, D6 Cats, excavators, graders, dump trucks, boom trucks, rock trucks, 950 loaders, ride-on rollers, rock drills and a simulator trailer.
Storey said that she enjoyed working with the dump truck most, due to its relatively smaller size.
“I can actually drive it. I’m so small compared to everyone else here.”
According to Storey, Heavy Metal Rocks was a valuable experience that will help her achieve her goal of being like her father.
“The reason why I got into this course was to follow in my dad’s footsteps. He was a heavy duty mechanic.”
The students’ lessons on how to operate the equipment took place under the direction of experienced male and female operators.
“I think it’s a real good opportunity to let them get out, get on some equipment, talk to operators and find out what the trades have to offer,” said Tom Kinnear, of the Operating Engineers Training Association.
Kinnear said that students excel at operating different pieces of equipment.
“Everyone’s got different weaknesses and strengths. That’s the best thing about this: They can find out what they’re good at.”
Lindy Monahan, occupational safety officer with WorkSafe B.C., said that safety is a key aspect of the Heavy Metal Rocks program.
Before any student gets on a new piece of equipment, a pre-shift inspection is done.
“They’ll talk about the safety features on each piece of equipment, what are the pinch points,” Monohan said.
“If it was on the rock truck or the tandem, where is the blocking that they need to block so that they don’t put their head in where a piece of equipment’s raised.”
“They talk about seat belt use, looking for their ground crew, being aware of where people are on the ground, (being aware of) overhead power lines, underground hazards, gas lines and power lines underground.”
Before the students got to the construction site they all had a first-aid course and took WHMIS training.
“They have to do training with the fire department, we come in and do safety talks with them, we brought in an injured worker last week, Mel Camilli, who lost both his legs in a workplace accident.”
According to Monahan, Camilli’s talk helped the kids put into perspective what can happen if safety is ignored.
The hope is that the program will help students make an educated decision when considering their future.
“This program gives young workers a good foundation for considering a career in B.C.’s construction industry,” said Shawn Mitton, WorkSafe B.C. regional prevention manager for the Okanagan.