Correlieu Secondary School students had a chance to sit in a skidder, climb aboard a buncher and sit in – and blow the horn of – a logging truck last Friday.
A row of large vehicles and equipment lined the student parking lot May 11 when the British Columbia Council of Forest Industries (COFI) held its first “Find Your Path – Embrace a Career in Logging and Trucking” event in Quesnel, in partnership with West Fraser Quesnel and Correlieu Secondary School (CSS). The full-day event was expected to attract about 400 students.
Jim Costley, the education manager for COFI, says this event is all about showing students the opportunities that are out there in the forest industries. Students receive a hands-on opportunity to learn about careers in the logging and trucking sectors of the forestry industry and get a chance to speak with operators and contractors to learn more about their jobs.
“We’re here to make kids aware of all the different opportunities in the forestry industry,” Costley said Friday morning, as students milled about the CSS parking lot, climbing up into dump trucks, logging trucks, a skidder and a buncher, and speaking to operators.
“We’re focusing on logging and truck driving. We’ve got this equipment because we’re forecasting 50 per cent of the workforce is going to retire in the next 10 years, and we need to fill seats.”
COFI does not recruit potential employees, but it does partner with members like West Fraser to reach – and then support – the youth who could potentially fill those job openings.
Grade 12 students who would like to work in the forest industry can apply for COFI scholarships for professional, technical or trades studies, with the current applications due May 31.
Bowen Sly, planning co-ordinator with the Woods Group with West Fraser Quesnel, sees a lot of value in these hands-on events.
“Jim and I work quite frequently to put on events like this to give kids exposure to career paths,” he says.
“We recognize the next generation of men and women filling the seats and working in the trees, we need to actively engage them for the business to continue to be successful into the future.
“To give kids the opportunity to engage and slow things down so kids can touch [the equipment] and ask the questions that come to mind at that time is very valuable. We already had one girl who was very interested in the skidder, and she got up and got to try the controls – that was very awesome to see.”
With COFI’s education program, students have a chance to learn about different career paths through events such as this one; trades workshops and natural resource management workshops, which take students into the forest, where they get hands-on experience learning from professionals. Costley says with these types of workshops, the students’ energy goes up, and so does their engagement and, consequently, their learning.
“West Fraser, we take Jim’s organization’s drive and give it an outlet,” adds Sly.
“Our organization has so many partners that we can connect kids with machines and get kids into the forest and start to make it real for them and show them the tools and opportunities. The message we want to drive home is there are a lot of opportunities for well-paying jobs in forestry.”
Some of those jobs don’t even have much to do with trees, Sly and Costley both point out, offering office administrator and media relations as examples.
“We’re trying to make kids aware of the jobs, the good, the bad and why we do this,” says Costley.
Costley is grateful to CSS for bringing an event like this to the school, and he says business and information technology department head and career preparation co-ordinator Martin Runge has been a huge part of making this event a success.
Runge says this event is a chance to open students’ eyes to the different options that are out there.
“It was open to teachers, and I’m hoping by the end of the day, most of the school will go through,” he says.
“We’re trying to say to teachers, ‘All our kids may not be academic,’ and we’re trying to say ‘Check it out.’ For us, it’s just an awareness. Both West Fraser and COFI have been fantastic partners for us.
“We try to get kids out of their comfort zones. The whole idea is to look at what’s out there that you might not have been thinking about.”