KIA Turns to Simulators to Train Heavy Equipment Operators in Nunavut: Picture of drawn dozer with graduation hat on top.

Following an increase in demand for people with heavy equipment operator certification, the Kitikmeot Inuit Association (KIA) has found an innovative way to train such people without actual dozers. They are using simulators!

“There is a high demand for these services here,” says KIA’s manager for Inuit employment and training, Michelle Buchan. “However, we don’t yet have the expensive equipment to use for actual training. That’s why we’re using the simulators.”

Earlier in the week, you would have confused the KIA office in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut for an arcade. Seated on vibrating chairs, throttle in hand, eight young trainees were focused on large TV monitors, moving virtual piles of dirt with virtual excavators. 29 year-old Ryan Angohiatok who was one of the very first trainees says it’s a really good way to learn and the experience is life-like.

“You get the feeling of how it would be like on a real machine,” he says. “It just gives you the feeling that you can do this.”

Buchan is confident that the move will serve them really well in the short term as they look to plug the current talent gap. While the region has always had a steady supply of highly experienced heavy machinery operators, most of those folks are now looking towards retirement. There is a need to rebuild that pool.

Additionally, the commencement of new projects in the region has created a new demand for heavy equipment operators.

“Over the last year, we have seen an increase in demand for people with these qualifications,” says Buchan. “More and more employers are coming to us asking if we can supply people with heavy equipment operator certification.”

She points to a construction boom in Cambridge Bay and the Hope Bay gold mine which poured its first gold bar a few weeks ago. Then there are also jobs at the former DEW Line site located in Cambridge bay and the diamond mines in the Northwest. All these need qualified heavy equipment operators.

However, getting training in Kitikmeot hasn’t always been possible. Real training equipment is rarely available and those who travel to the southern provinces to get such certification need a class 5 unrestricted drivers’ license. Getting the license in Nunavut is very difficult.

The simulator classes are therefore perhaps the best option for the community at the moment. The project is funded currently by the KIA, Kitikmeot Corporation, and Service Canada.