High Velocity Equipment Training
Since 2008, High Velocity Equipment Training (HVET) has provided heavy equipment training across Western Canada, offering innovative approaches to heavy equipment training, accommodating the growing industries and communities, and the changing training needs. This aboriginally-managed and operated venture brings some fresh ideas into the traditional heavy equipment training.The Canadian Business Journal spoke to Shayne Bonnough, CEO of HVET, and Dion Arnouse, High Velocity’s First Nations Consultant.
As the construction, infrastructure and energy industries continue to grow, they require ample heavy equipment support, and currently the numbers of trained and experienced operators in Canada are falling short to accommodate this need. Arnouse said, “People do not realize how deep the heavy equipment usage runs in the industries. From building cities, to mines, roads, infrastructure and everything associated with them. Yes, there is the energy sector expansion in Alberta, and the mining in B.C., but the infrastructure building is experiencing a big shortage of heavy equipment operators, so there is a huge demand.”
One of the biggest advantages offered by High Velocity is its ability to take the training where the training is required. The company sets up provisional training centres across Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, or anywhere the industries take them. For example, the company recently finished a training program for the highway department in Yukon. To this unique way of delivering training needs, Bonnough said, “Our main centre is in Alberta, and we are in a process of opening a new permanent centre in B.C., but the upside we offer is creating remote projects, duplicating the entire school at locations, whether it’s an industry, First Nations community, or anyone else.”
High Velocity saw a great demand in First Nations communities, however, building relationships across First Nations is different from regular business relations, because the company builds relationships with the community as a whole. HVET works to create strong ties within these communities. Arnouse said, “This was a great move from the side of the company. When building relationships with the First Nations communities, it’s always important to be honest and transparent in your business. So being mobile, taking the whole program into the community, and working with the community collaboratively to suit communities’ training needs has been very beneficial. In our experience, coming into the community has a great effect on the number of trainees, as well as relationships between the company and the community. Even graduation from our training program has a great significance for the trainees in these communities, and we are very aware of our positive impact within these communities.”
In recent months the company trained 104 heavy equipment operators across First Nation communities such as Woodland Cree, Tall Cree, Sturgeon Lake Cree, Driftpile Cree, Kapaweno, Peerless Lake, Fond Du Lac, Black Lake, Hatchet Lake, Sucker Creek, and Metis Nation of Alberta.
To build an engaging curriculum, the company worked extensively with all groups involved in heavy equipment operation — from government and field experts in equipment operation, to employers who seek to hire new operators; and High Velocity keeps an open mind and listens when it comes to meeting employers’ needs. By listening to these needs, the company developed its flagship product — the 12-week training on the Top 5 most popular heavy equipment tools, giving the trainees 240 practice hours. During training, the trainees learn practical skills such as working at night, scaling slopes with the equipment, and maintaining equipment to the highest possible standard. To this, Arnouse said, “We work to develop good habits for our trainees, as they operate expensive equipment that cost thousands of dollars to repair, and much more in downtime if the equipment requires a repair. So we are working to create a well-rounded curriculum that creates an atmosphere of cooperation and learning.”
During training with High Velocity, while most of the standard training happens in a gravel pit, the company also identifies suitable real-life projects trainees can engage in, and gain the necessary real-life, on-the-job experience. The company also embedded a substantial attention to safety protocols in its training program, providing the trainees not only with heavy equipment certification, but safety certification as well. Further, as part of the training, High Velocity also provides job searching skills, resume building, and even a mock interview. This comprehensive training builds up a comprehensive resume for the trainees as well as their confidence, and 92 per cent of the High Velocity graduates land a job within four months of finishing the program. To build a strong community of heavy equipment professionals, High Velocity keeps in touch with the former trainees, forwarding them industry updates as well as job postings.
The company provided training for private companies and public services such as WCB [Workers Compensation Board – Alberta], Yukon Highways, WorkSafeBC, and even the Canadian Military. High Velocity’s training turns heads across Canada and worldwide, and the company received inquiries to provide training in South America, India, and China, however, the company continues to focus on the Canadian market.
While the demand for operators continues to grow, High Velocity trainees had been under a lot of pressure to obtain funding for operators professional training. Arnouse explained, “The cost of our three-month program is approximately $20,000. Under the current funding policies, if a course is shorter than 12 months, the likelihood of a student having the course covered is minimal. This is unfortunate as the demand for operators is high, and industry is constantly calling us to offer our graduates jobs right out of school. I see this as a low risk investment for organizations funding this type of training program, and, as a consultant, I have been in communication with other industry training partners who have potential students facing the same challenges.”
The company currently has a file with approximately 150 applicants who are struggling to obtain the funding for the High Velocity program. While applicants have shown a tremendous drive and initiative to acquire partial funding, and while the company does its best to assist their efforts, the company can only do so much. “This is truly unfortunate and sad to see. The organizations who provide the funding need to look at the big picture, and see that an adjustment in these policies could result in many more Canadians getting jobs, which means putting the dollars back into our communities.”