In British Columbia and Alberta, a new heavy equipment school in the trades industry opens up opportunities for remote communities.

IHE Heavy Equipment Operator College recently awarded heavy equipment operator certificates to an entire class of Indigenous women from Little Red River Cree Nation in British Columbia.

John Price, a remote/mobile manager and instructor at IHE, didn’t know who would be in the class before he enrolled.

“We often do Indigenous remote training across B.C. and Alberta, and when we were approached at the time, we had no clue it was all women,” Price said.

“It was only when we kicked it off that we got the information that this was a diverse age group of women, which was great,” he added.

According to Price, the school takes classes directly to communities and uses heavy equipment for hands-on instruction.

Many communities are located in remote areas, and getting the equipment to students can be difficult, but he said that IHE instructors have extensive experience to get the job done. 

“It is very much a logistical challenge. You have to fight the weather and the time of year to go with it, but IHE and the remote division have a wide diversity of experience from myself as the division manager right down through my instructors,” Price explained.

According to Price, classes are open to any student interested in learning the trade. There are no prerequisites to attend any of IHE’s courses. A typical program lasts from 10 to eight weeks down to three weeks. 

While students can work upon graduation in their communities, they also have the qualifications to work wherever heavy equipment operators are needed in the construction industry.

“They come out fully prepared to be able to hit the workforce with the amount of work in B.C. There are lots of partnerships taking place. You have two major pipelines, the rebuild of the Coquihalla Highway, the Site C dam, there’s a labour shortage. It’s great to see students going right out the door and entering the trades industry after graduation,” Price added.

He stressed that women entering the trades industry would likely not encounter discrimination based on their gender as they have in the past.

“In my personal experience, over the past 35 years in the trades industry, there’s been a huge curve in terms of equality. Gender doesn’t matter anymore. It’s who’s got the better skills and is qualified for a job. Many employers support that, and there’s zero tolerance for a bias between women and men in the industry,” he said.

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