by Ethan Paquet
A new pilot program offered by the PEI Department of Education and Lifelong Learning in conjunction with the PEI Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association is providing students with the opportunity to experience some of the careers in the heavy construction industry using simulation technology.
The training simulator, called the Vortex Edge Max, replicates the feel of operating real heavy construction equipment.
The federal and provincial governments have provided funding to the association to help with this initiative to further develop a skilled workforce. The investment will help the association purchase a heavy equipment simulator as part of its work with the PEI Department of Education and Lifelong Learning on the Youth Transitions program pilot.
“The Youth Transitions program will introduce students at Colonel Gray Senior High School and Montague Regional High School to the heavy construction industry,” says Melissa Paquet, Executive Director, PEI Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association. “We are excited to be partnering with this program to offer the simulation training.”
“Starting in February 2023, some students in the program will be using the simulation technology and will experience operating six pieces of heavy machinery including an excavator, bulldozer, wheel loader, backhoe, grader, and articulated dump truck (ADT).
“Along with the simulation training throughout the school year, association members will work with the classes, making special appearances to speak about their experiences on the machinery and working in the industry.
“Our goal is to provide students with exposure to our industry as a viable career option,” says Melissa. “This technology will allow students and prospective employees to discover the technology of heavy machinery and see if they have an aptitude or interest in the industry.”
Students are chosen for the Youth Transitions program based on recommendations from their teachers, school counsellors and administrators. Through competency-based training, they are prepared to enter post-secondary education, apprenticeship, or other work options.
“Should the pilot program be a success, the program will be expanded to cover the remaining eight high schools in the Public Schools Branch in the 2023/2024 school year,” Melissa says.
“While new technology like the training simulator is designed to help youth smoothly transition to a career path, our hope is that it will help the industry with their training and skilled labour needs.
“Our industry has been dealing with labour shortages, and training is becoming an increasingly pressing issue. Students taking part in the new simulation technology can potentially move on to further education or directly into the workforce.”
About the PEI road building and heavy construction industry
On PEI, the heavy construction industry deals with large-scale construction projects such as building, repairing, and maintaining roads, bridges, water and sewer, wharfs, groundwork, and snow removal. “Clients tend to be federal and provincial governments, cities, and municipalities,” Melissa says.
“For instance, before you build a subdivision, you need an engineered design and plan, earthwork, water and sewer installation, storm drainage, utilities, and roads. Without heavy construction, commercial or residential construction builds cannot start. When you see a new subdividing, you see all the beautiful new homes, but you don’t think about the work it takes to prepare the site.”
Jobs in heavy construction
- Skilled Labourers
- Heavy Equipment Operators
- Truck Drivers
- Heavy Equipment Mechanics
- Supervisors and Superintendents
- Consulting Engineers who design the roads
- Building Surveyors
- Office Managers, Accountants, and Heavy Equipment Dealers
“Some of the positions currently in demand include Heavy Equipment Operators, Labourers, and Flaggers. When hiring, employers look for someone who has a willingness to learn and who takes pride in their work.”