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Graduation time for O’Brien Training students at Gitsegukla

Tamara Ketlo, Project Manager and Communications for O’Brien Training

June is traditionally graduation month and certainly holds true for 11 students at Gitsegukla First Nation.

They have just completed an O’Brien Training Heavy Equipment Operator Program, which was conducted entirely at the Indigenous Community located between Terrace and Hazelton, BC. Within this innovative program, students get trained on how to operate heavy equipment such as graders, dozers, articulated rock trucks, and excavators. The community benefits as the students, while learning, do some extensive land development for the nation at the same time.

“When we leave, we’re leaving (Gitsegukla First Nation) something tangible they can build on, that the students have developed themselves,” says Tamara Ketlo, Project Manager and Communications for O’Brien Training. “I’m very proud that we can leave the community with developed property they can work with in the future. Training the students on their lands, benefiting the community with some major heavy equipment construction work, leaving everyone with new employment opportunities that will cultivate self sustainability, and prosperity. This is a win, win, win situation all around here, and that is one thing O’Brien Training is very passionate about.”

The students all come into the program with a letter of employment so they will be able to step right into their new career when they have completed the necessary training and achieved their full O’Brien Training Certifications.

“The West Coast really does have a high demand for a lot of bodies and a lot of workers right now,” she said. “So, when someone who’s been working as a labourer for example, gets our certifications and skill set provided in training, it sets them up to have a more prosperous, promising life for themselves moving forward. This in turn contributes to their own economic development. Creating a community that can grow as a whole in the future, it sets great examples for each other, lifts each other up, and cultivates self sustainability. Especially if they are working close to home or in the general area. It is essential to lasting community growth to be able to cultivate and create your own professionals. This is what Hagwilget, Gitesugukla, and Gitwangak Nation seen, and wanted for themselves. We were happy to oblige.”

Ketlo describes herself as a ‘follow-upper,’ which means she makes sure the students are doing everything they can to find employment after the program. “Having everyone reach the employment stage afterwards is also key to us moving forward,” she said. “It’s good for business, it’s good for the nations, the students of course, it’s good for the funders who are directing this money in a way that is useful, and progressive.”

The Gitsegukla training session was the second remote project O’Brien Training Ltd has done this year, and more are on the way … all with the goal of training heavy equipment operators, while helping the host community with land developmental work.

“We’ve always recognized the fact that it would certainly be nice to accomplish something with all this work,” she said. “That’s where the remote training really shines. It makes the training quite fun and interesting and is desirable for the communities. It just makes sense.”

Now that the Gitsegukla training session is over, O’Brien Training will move its remote fleet of equipment down Highway 16 to Gitwangak, in the Kitwanga area. That program will get underway in early July with at least 12 students in the new cohort. So, stay tuned.

“We give a little break to our instructors who have been on the road nonstop, move the machines, and then we’re back at it,” Ketlo said. “We scouted out a beautiful location at Gitwangak with the council there. We have a nice old, abandoned sawmill to work with that could really use some cleaning up, a gravel pit that will benefit from some development, some spots to clear, and roads that could use some widening. Plenty of room for the new class to train up and keep busy for nine weeks.”

She currently said O’Brien Training is running only one remote location, in addition to their location in Prince George, but depending on size they may be able to run more than one remote location at a time. Currently they are being approached by Indigenous communities to host these large opportunistic projects, but the remote training program is open to anyone willing to dream big enough to make it happen with them.

“There’s a lot of opportunity out west,” says Tamara.

And the key to seizing some of that opportunity just might be a little expertise.

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