By Mark LaFleur
How do you attract the ‘best and brightest’ students to a possible career in the Trades and Business areas within the BC Forest Industry? How about a day long program for high school students at one of the largest sawmills in the world where they can see a multi-million business department in action, job shadow various skilled tradespeople ,and actually get ‘down and dirty’ in performing some of the technical skills required of these tradespeople! That is exactly what happened on Thursday, January 15th, as over 25 high school students from Corrilieu Secondary (Quesnel) visited the West Fraser Head Office and Sawmill operations in Quesnel to familiarize themselves with a variety of career opportunities in the Business and Trades areas of the forest industry.
After an overview of company operations and a safety orientation, the grade 11 and 12 students spent the morning visiting the Forest Planning, Corporate Sales, Accounting, and IT Departments at the Head Office at West Fraser Quesnel. Many of the students commented that they were ‘unaware’ or ‘lacking’ an appreciation of the variety of careers that exist in the forest industry. They marveled at how all the different departments work together towards a common goal/product. Following a pizza lunch, where everybody refuelled for a busy afternoon, the students were off to the sawmill itself where a number of trades were on full display. Students spent time with each tradesperson on the tour and were able to gather information on a variety of trades and thus help them in deciding which trade they really wanted to pursue. Beginning with Quality Control, students learned about the technology and efficiency that the mill must perform at. The students next visited the Mill Wrights, where the versatility and expertise of these trades’ people were on full display. Students were able to ‘get down and dirty’ in troubleshooting and fixing an engine. Subsequent stops in the program involved a visit to the Heavy Duty Mechanics, Electrical, and Sawfiling departments of the mill. At the Sawfiling tour stop each student was able to put on a welding mask & safety gear and weld two pieces of steel together.
By the end of the day at West Fraser’s Head Office and Sawmill in Quesnel the students were able to see and learn what each career and trade is really like and had an opportunity to interview each person involved. Students learned about the many day-to-day functions, working conditions, wages, skills required, and received personal career anecdotes and recommendations from each of the business /tradespeople. What a great opportunity for students to learn about the over 60,000 careers that will need to be filled by 2020 and help make career preparation decisions that will last a lifetime.