Dunc Wassick of Dam Helicopters Inc. provided orientation and training for Logger Training program participants and job coaches in safety and operating procedures when working around helicopters

Logger training provides gainful employment outcomes

The program's aim is to open up employment opportunities in the regional forestry sector.

The inaugural Logger Training Program in the West Kootenay was successfully completed at the end of February, opening up opportunities for employment in the regional forestry sector for the graduates.

The objective of the training was to introduce individuals to the logging industry preparing the participants to begin a career as a logger. The Logger Training Program was developed through a partnership with Selkirk College, the Nakusp and Area Community Forest (NACFOR), the Kaslo and District Community Forest Society (KDCFS), and local logging contractors and forest industry employers.

“Before we moved ahead with the program, we met with many of the local logging contractors from the Nelson, Nakusp and Kaslo area,” says Gregg Neelin, the manager of Selkirk College’s Community Education & Workplace Training. “The contractors fully supported the program. The Logger Training Program was built on logging contractors’ input and their needs, and this is why the program was such a success.”

The 11 week program was a combination of certification training with a focus on safety (first aid, chain saw use and maintenance, tree identification and log merchandizing, wire rope splicing, saw milling, and more) and on-site logging work experience with local logging contractors. Job coaches worked with students to support their training throughout the program.

“Our focus was on cable harvesting operations because cable logging is very labour intensive and taught the basic goal of logging getting the wood to the landing safely and efficiently,” says Bill Kestell, Manager of the KDFCS.

The participants were introduced to a wide range of logging practices that included setting chokers, rigging the back line, hand bucking on the landing, chasing at the landing, and helping to move the yarder. They were also able to spend some time on a skidder and a log loader on several conventional logging operations.

The training program stressed the importance of safe logging practices for all phases of conventional and cable yarding log harvesting operations. Participants were also introduced to the importance of following logging plans, emergency management systems, and the use of iPads as a growing tool used in the logging industry.

The training program began with nine participants and ended with eight. Two of the individuals have jobs with local logging contractors, and a third has a mechanics position with a logging contractor. Two participants have scheduled job interviews with a logging contractor and a stand tending contractor. Another individual is interviewing with a local forestry development contractor. The remaining two individuals, although they do not have an insight on a position today, are very interested in pursuing a logging career.

Although the program was focused on becoming a logger, the Logger Training program introduced the participants to other logging industry careers such as fuel management, stand tending, milling operations, and layout opportunities.

“We believe there is a real benefit for individuals going through this program to enter the world of logging and technical forestry development, especially as it pertains to cable logging,” says NACFOR Manager Hugh Watt.

The goal now is to continue with the Logger Training program and make it into a regular program to encourage new employees into the logging industry.

“We believe we faced many of the same obstacles as others have encountered in developing their training programs program start-up delays and restrictive eligibility criteria being the two biggest hurdles,” says Neelin. “Selkirk College, the Nakusp & Area and Kaslo & District Community Forests, and the local loggers who participated in the program are scheduled to meet soon to have a critical look at the program and improve on what we have started so we can continue to grow the Logger Training program to meet the logging contractors’ and WorkSafe needs. With the terrain and expertise we have in the area, we will work with local logging contractors and the forestry industry to further develop an interior logging training centre in the Selkirk College region. We welcome all comments or questions regarding this training program.”

Funding for the Logger Training program was provided by Government of Canada through the Canada-British Columbia Job Fund.