BY IAN MCLEOD
International Union of Operating Engineers
The April 17 Skills Canada BC event in Abbotsford featured demonstrations by two novice mobile crane apprentices from Prince George, both from Indigenous backgrounds.
Skills Canada BC, an annual career fair that promotes the skilled trades, puts selected apprentices to the test in front of an audience. The mobile crane event includes crane set-up and inspection and a series of crane lifts through an obstacle course.
Participant Janine Sebastian, 43, has joined a wave of B.C. women who are moving into technical fields in the skilled trades. A single mom with a 15-year-old daughter, Sebastian says she chose crane operating “because it encompasses all my previous work experience.”
“I’ve operated heavy equipment in a mine, and I’ve maintained machinery in industrial shops. My goal with the cranes is to get my Red Seal (national certificate). Depending on how things go, I’d like to get into project management, or work as an inspector or safety officer.”
At the age of 20, Brydon Lessard was the youngest operator in the mobile crane event.
“Being around worksites, I’ve always enjoyed watching cranes and what they do,” he said.
Sebastian’s heritage is in Hagwilget territory near Hazelton, while Lessard is from the Nak’azdli First Nation in the Fort St. James district. Both of them started training in March, just five weeks before the Skills Canada event. Their training program was organized through an agreement between PGNAETA (the Prince George Nechako Aboriginal and Training Association) and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115.
“I’ve got a job opportunity through Local 115 with a crane services company in Prince George,” said Lessard. “I like lifting stuff, and it will really be helpful to get the union wages and benefits.”
Sebastian said her training is also opening the way to a job. She said, “With permanent work in a union company, I’ll get benefits like dental care that are really important to my family.”