Feb 4, 2021
I have coordinated many Heavy Equipment Operator (HEO) programs over the years with the Dumont Technical Institute (DTI). Some have been very straight-forward; some have been more complex in terms of transportation logistics, equipment breakdowns, and unaccounted for weather. What was accomplished in October and November this year in Île-à-la-Crosse broke the mold entirely as far as HEO programs go.
When DTI made it known that we were planning to run two HEO programs in the Fall of 2020 (in the communities of Meadow Lake and Cumberland House), there was a buzz of excitement from several other communities who were also interested in HEO training. One of these communities was the Northern Village of Île-à-la-Crosse. DTI received word from both Max Morin and Mayor Favel that the community had a rather large project needing assistance and that DTI could provide the programming to make the project successful.
The Northern Village of Île-à-la-Crosse had been facing a specific road challenge for many years. There was a long section of road (at points only slightly wider than a half-tonne truck) that connected the main highway to the Île-à-la-Crosse subdivision. This is an area I personally knew little about and had never been to before in my travels. Nonetheless, I was excited to see the area and what the community was looking to accomplish.
DTI was presented with a daunting task, in terms of student training. The task was to widen and level the subdivision road so that residents could use the road year-round and have access to their homes and cabins without worry. Students generally work in open areas, free of trees, large rocks, and tight corners. The location and tasks required for this project were the exact opposite of this generality.
DTI met with partners and stakeholders, most notably our training provider the Practicum Training Institute (PTI), the Northern Village of Île-à-la-Crosse, the Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI) Training & Employment, as well as Northern Career Quest, who all provided financial, logistic, and training advice to DTI to allow us to run this program. Based on stakeholder contributions and community support, DTI was able to fit equipment with safeguards required to safely operate in narrow treed areas. The race was on to beat the late Fall weather and get a road widened and built!
At 6:30 am on a rather chilly October 19th morning, six students made the 40km trek to the training site to begin moving earth for the first time. These students completed this drive day-in and day-out, with ten-hour training days, six days per week, week-after-week in order to accomplish the project goals and their training goals. By the end, a road was widened, and students had the opportunity to look back on their work with pride.
While widening a road is done on a daily basis by trained operators, neither DTI or our training provider PTI have ever had students work in this capacity and accomplish so much. Not only did they accomplish what they started, but they did so with 100% perfect attendance. For perspective, six students x 60 hr training week x four weeks = 1,440 possible hours without any time missed. This just goes to show that even though this was the most ambitious HEO program I have been apart of, with great ambition comes great reward and great pride. Our partners and stakeholders put the tools in our student’s hands to accomplish great things. Our students reciprocated by doing a great thing for their community.