A group of female students from the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District had the opportunity to try out heavy machinery as part of Young Women In Trades Day.
The 29 girls went to the IUOE Local 115’s Heavy Equipment Operator Training Centre along 256 Street in Maple Ridge to get some hands-on experience working in the heavy excavation trades.
The training site features more than 40 acres with real-life, hands-on access to more than 25 pieces of equipment used in the field and realistic job site conditions.
“The idea was to get more female students interested in the heavy excavation trades, which is actually quite a good trade to get into because the training is only 12 weeks, but it pays very well,” explained Steve Wiebe, principal of alternate partnerships and work experience programs for School District No. 42.
Also on hand was Minister of Advanced Education Melanie Mark.
Wiebe said the ratio to girls and boys who enter the trades at the high school level is changing.
“We have some carpentry classes now that are almost 50 per cent female,” he said.
Wiebe suggested girls in trades are conscientious and listen to instructions well. They have also shown the fine motor skills required to operate heaving equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Wiebe said the idea of the visit was to plant a seed about what is possible and he is hoping the district can create a partnership for next year.
“It’s great because you can do it in your Grade 12 year. It’s a 12-week program and then, boom, you are literally ready to work on an excavator and the money is very good,” he said with jobs at $25 to $35 an hour to start.
“And then if you ever go into cranes, you are making six figures,” he said.
Most of the work is unionized with medical and dental benefits and the pay is based on meritocracy.
And, Wiebe said, if you are a woman who wants to start a family, the work is ideal.
“You can take time off between projects to look after your kids. There’s benefits and you are not dependent on another partner for income,” he added.
Female students can also take advantage of a mentorship program.
“It’s a really great opportunity to make a good living,” said Wiebe.
• Anyone interested in the trades can contact Steve Wiebe at 604-318-9792 or Brad Dingler at 604-626-1176.