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Conestoga College seeks construction industry support for pre-apprenticeship program

Vince Versace

Conestoga College is looking for industry support to help secure a pre-apprenticeship program for heavy equipment operators for tractor-loader-backhoe.

Conestoga College is looking for industry support to help secure a pre-apprenticeship program for heavy equipment operators for tractor-loader-backhoe.

“This is a fully funded opportunity to assist people to bridge into trades where there is some pressure or demand and we have an opportunity to apply for funding,” said Stephen Speers, chair of the School of Trades and Apprenticeship at Conestoga College. “Based on our discussions with the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities and with the local association, there is some solid demand for folks in this heavy equipment operator area.”

The college has an opportunity to apply for a government sponsored pre-apprenticeship program in Heavy Equipment Operator-Tractor Loader Backhoe, anticipated to begin February 2011. Students will also be exposed to dozer and excavator equipment during this program. Graduates of the program would be available for employment by November 2011. The college is asking for letters of support from industry to help strengthen their program application.

“We have history of delivering heavy equipment operator training and the ministry needs to see that industry is supportive of this kind of initiative and to see the need for people to enter those occupations,” added Speers.

The Conestoga Heavy Construction Association is a big supporter of not just the pre-apprenticeship program application by Conestoga but also of the college’s three-year-old full-time heavy equipment operator program.

“We are big believers in the full program and the college deserves all the credit for making that a success, we just support them,” said Paul Taylor, safety and education director at the association and vice-president of McLean Taylor Construction.

“We hear and see it every day, there is skills shortage. We believe this pre-apprenticeship program will be just as productive as the full course.”

Conestoga’s full-time heavy equipment operator program had 40 graduates last year who all found employment. Speers credits input from the association with helping design the successful full-time course.

“If we are doing a good job here, they have good people to hire and put on their crews out in the industry,” said Speers. “There are employment opportunities out there and these folks are well prepared for it. Part of that is thanks to the association.”

The college expects to have 20 people in the new pre-apprenticeship course if it secures it. During the program design stage the association provided key input.

“We pushed that seat time in the equipment is really important,” said Taylor. “We also noted the safety and maintenance aspects for potential operators. We want them to come out well-rounded and not just (skilled) in operating the equipment but also in being good to the equipment and being safety conscious.”

Contact Conestoga College via email at or fax letters of support to 519-824-5554.

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