TIMMINS, Ont. –The first group of students taking Collège Boréal’s new driver training course has just graduated.
Begun in January, the 12 week program was designed to give students both in-class and practical experience driving and allow them to qualify for their AZ licences. But what makes Collège Boréal’s program a little different from courses offered by other schools is the focus on turning out drivers capable of handling themselves and their equipment while working in the lumber industry.
“We’ve had constant discussions with industry, particularly with the forestry sector,” said Denis Belanger, training consultant with Collège Boréal. “They always come back to us and say driving conditions in forest up north are completely different than those experienced in highway trucking. We reviewed that and it’s clear in our mind the types of skills the learners require to do trucking in the forestry industry are completely different.”
Jean-Pierre Nadon, campus director of Collège Boréal, got a first-hand look at the types of conditions the students would be exposed to, and say it was a learning opportunity.
“It’s a big difference. They brought me into the bush so I could experience it. It was an eye-opener. It’s a really different set of skills because the conditions are totally different from the highway. You could get into the bush in the morning and everything is frozen solid. And a few hours later everything is mushy and muddy and you have hills to climb and you have a load behind you, and the environment is totally different.
“The sector needs experienced drivers, and this is the only way the students could get experience before they get a full-time position.”
The course is divided into two parts each lasting six weeks. The first part is teaching them the basics about trucking and Class 8 highway work. The second six weeks are devoted to the lumber side and include specific health and safety training geared to the wood products industry.
Collège Boréal has partnered with two local businesses: Northern Environmental Services (NES) and Millson Forestry Services Inc. to deliver the course. NES allows students to use its facility to practice their docking skills. For the logging portion of the course, the students use Milson truck to get experience hauling into and out of remote, off-road, wooded areas. Although the school is happy to work with industry, the course curriculum was set by the college, and the trainers are employed the college to ensure standards are maintained.
Although Collège Boréal is a francophone school, the course can be delivered in either official language, and the first class was composed of English-speaking students, so the lessons were delivered in English.
The first graduating class is a small one, with just three students, but Belanger said the college doesn’t need large numbers to make the program worth running. The students in the first class were all mature students who received financial assistance from the Ontario government as part of its Second Career job retraining program.
According to Belanger, at the time of the interview all three students were expected to start working shortly, as they all have “possible employment lined up” but he added that they hadn’t completed the final paperwork to make their jobs official yet.
Recruiting is currently underway for the next course which begins in June. For further information about the program, contact Denis Belanger at (705) 267-5850 ext. 5512.