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Overcoming Barriers to Accessing Trades Careers

October 16, 2013

BC AMTA Partners with Industry and Aboriginal Candidates to Support Local Community Hiring, Trades Experience

Seasoned construction manager and newly graduated BC AMTA Heavy Equipment Operator (HEO) share their secrets to secure industry employment.

“I applied to so many places,” says Katrina Leon, who felt frustrated about landing a job without prior industry experience and connections.

Although gaining valuable skills through BC AMTA’s Heavy Equipment Operator Training Program, many candidates like Katrina are looking to gain more experience before becoming full-fledged operators.

Coming from a 20-year-long career working with marine, aviation, forestry, and now industrial construction, Brad Bonner, Project Manager, IDL Projects Inc. from Prince George, B.C., offers some advice to newly trained candidates looking to gain experience.

“Expect that this is a journey and that training is the first step,” he says, “There are still many steps to go to reach your destination. Recognize that what you’ve learned is terrific, but it’s not easy for employers to place newly trained graduates into sites.”

An industrial, civil and commercial construction firm, IDL Projects looks to place new people in sites alongside more experienced workers. This allows new hires to learn, but also means opportunities are fewer.

After completing the HEO program with BC AMTA in Williams Lake, B.C., Katrina applied for a helper position in the camp dining room at Thompson Creek Metals Company’s Mount Milligan, a copper and gold mine near Fort St. James, B.C.

While working in the dining room, she connected with someone from industry who got her a job with The TABA Group, an Aboriginal-owned mining and forestry contracting company.

“I’m really excited,” says Katrina, who will start as a labourer with TABA at the end of August.

Enthusiastic about her new job, she says, “As soon as they can, they’ll put me on the packer, then the rock truck.”

Entering the trades industry with an open mind and willingness to learn new things is a given for early-career trained tradespeople who want to make it far.

New operators may be placed in a position to learn everything about a job site or particular project before operating equipment.

“You may start off running a wheel barrow,” says Brad, “This makes you aware of what’s really happening on the construction site. You’re part of a team, and you get a feel of what everyone is responsible for. By doing this, you’ll slowly gain experience.”

As projects go through many phases, trades graduates should expect to be flexible and take on many different roles during this time.

“Our work is very multi-faceted, and when opportunities arise, we would rather give experience to someone who knows the site and knows the project,” says Brad.

For Katrina, her networking and flexible approach is paying off. She has a job and an opportunity to learn about the industry.

Brad offers the following advice to newly trained trades candidates:

  • Network: Continue to network through the people you already know, don’tbe shyabout looking for work, don’t be embarrassed about notworking

  • Share: Tell people what you ideally would like to do and what you wouldbe prepared to do

  • Ask friends: If your friend landed a job, ask them to bring in your resume

  • Be prepared: Make certain you’re ready for work when you get that call, haveyour gear and boots ready

  • Be flexible: Be prepared to do numerous tasks, and expect that youmay not always like all of them all

To further support BC AMTA candidates in their careers, BC AMTA is pursuing employment opportunities across trade sectors.

From Construction and Mining, to Oil and Gas and Power Generation, BC AMTA works with industry as HR partners to successfully place candidates. Over the past three years, BC AMTA candidates have achieved a 95% job retention rate with industry partners.

“There’s a labour shortage of skilled tradespeople across Canada,” says Leonard Jackson, Director, Operation, BC AMTA, “We want to let employers know that our candidates are certified, trained and ready to work.”

To explore training and hiring opportunities with BC AMTA, contact Leonard Jackson at or 1.250.682.0779.

If you have questions, comments or a story to share, please contact:

April Dutheil, Brand Journalist, Communications
BC Aboriginal Mine Training Association


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