FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Students from North Peace Secondary School were on the job for their fifth day of work through the Project Heavy Duty program.
15 total students have been on the job site next to the Rona since Monday learning how to operate 14 different pieces of heavy machinery. The machines include rock trucks, excavators, crawler dozers, graders, packers, and a logging machine.
The student’s project is to clear out land and strip the top soil of the ground for the owner of the lot.
School District #60’s Principal of Special Projects Richard Koop explained that it is a fairly interesting process getting some students who have never even seen some of the equipment into the machines and working on the site. Koop mentioned that it took some time for the students to get comfortable, but now many of them are strong enough operators that they could be working in professional construction sites today if they wanted.
“We understand that when students first come in they’re going to be very hesitant.” Koop said. “As the week progresses you can see the confidence level of the students raise… There’s not a cockiness but there is a confidence, like hey even though I’m not a professional at this, I’m learning, I can learn, and I’m really starting to develop my skills.”
Construction workers came from all around the Peace to help teach and supervise the students. Koop explained that the supervisors were amazing and made it easy for students when learning the new machines.
Project Heavy Duty Student Justin Bookham explained that after participating in the program he could definitely see himself entering the construction field after high school.
“It’s fun we get to learn a lot of new machines and how to run them all.” Bookham said. “My favorite machines the rock truck, its fun, real easy to drive, and not hard. They’re teaching us a lot.”
Project Heavy Duty is in its 17th consecutive year here in Fort St. John, and if its up to Koop, the program will stay for another seventeen.
“As long as the old body is gonna hold me up were gonna do it.” Koop said. “Its very rewarding. This morning sitting up on a dirt pile there watching all the students I was thinking, man what incredible growth we’ve seen in them over the week and the developing skills. They’ve learned more in this week then they would a lot of places elsewhere.”