Project Heavy Duty took high school students back to elementary school in order to perform preliminary groundwork for construction of a new school and learn skilled trades at the same time. Project Heavy Duty has been taking place in School District 60: Peace River North for over a decade. In the program, Junior and Senior students get real construction experience to explore the career and learn skilled trades. 16 students are allowed into the program at a time and over 300 students have participated over the years.
Richard Koop, the project co-ordinator, has been with the program since the beginning. His background as a teacher and carpenter inspired him to work with industry consultants to give students the opportunity to get experience before they graduate. He understands that not ever student is going to go on to study something in college. The hands-on opportunity with skilled trades can help them find their path into a construction job after they graduate from high school.
Project Heavy Duty gives students that chance to operate things like rock trucks, dozers, and graders. Instructors start students off with mandatory safety courses to ensure that everything is done as safely as possible. There are also industry representatives supervising students to ensure that they get expert instruction every step of the way.
The work the students do isn’t superficial, either. Co-ordinators search for projects that will help the community and will be considered valuable additions. Students aren’t simply placed in a field to experiment and move dirt. They are working on important projects that will be turned into new building sites. Students have leveled land for parking lots and sports fields, for example.
Students participating in the skilled trades get 40-50 hours of construction experience in a week of the exercise. Most recently, they helped contribute to the new elementary school by preparing the ground for the building process. After the program students are present with job offers at times and are able to move into a new field within the industry based on their newfound experience.