17 residents of Westbank First Nation have new professional skills thanks to Velocity Training Canada.
Funded by the Ministry of Social Development, Velocity Training provides heavy equipment training to participants with links to Employment Insurance they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. Acquiring heavy equipment training provides the participants, referred to as a cohort, with a conduit that can take them from EI to having a valuable skill to seek employment with.
“When they graduate from our program they get 170 hours of seat time,” described Shad Mailer, project lead for Velocity. “They learn foundations, which is everything to do with machines and maintenance and of course a great level of safety. Then when they pass their foundations exam, they move into the heavy equipment portion, which is eight weeks of working on equipment.”
The training doesn’t just include how to operate heavy equipment professionally, but also includes employability training such as resume writing and mock interviews. The employability training pays dividend for participants, as 40% of the 17 grads were already employed at the graduation ceremony on March 4th.
The training program, which lasted 12 weeks, took place in an empty lot behind the Home Depot in West Kelowna. Through the work the participants did on the land, Mailer noted they estimate they increased the value of the land by $30,000.
“Normally we’ve been in gravel pits, where it can rain a lot and you don’t have to worry about anything,” he said. “This cohort learned how to work in the mud. The exposure to adverse conditions, the snow, rain and just the muck, but the job still had to get done. It was uncomfortable, it was messy, it was frustrating, but the person that comes out t the end, when they go to their next job they’ll find it easy.”
This was the fourth time the province-wide program has come to the Okanagan, and Mailer said they are currently researching where they will go next.