Red Rock Indian Band’s Melissa Hardy Giles and partner Paul Giles encouraged visitors to try out their CAT heavy equipment training simulators during the grand opening of ORIGIN Recruitment and Operator Training in Thunder Bay.

Red Rock Indian Band’s Melissa Hardy Giles and partner Paul Giles encouraged visitors to try out their CAT heavy equipment training simulators during the grand opening of ORIGIN Recruitment and Operator Training in Thunder Bay.

By Rick Garrick

THUNDER BAY—Red Rock Indian Band’s Melissa Hardy Giles and partner Paul Giles want to train more women as heavy equipment operators. The two owners of ORIGIN Recruitment and Operator Training held the grand opening of their new training centre on June 22 in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

“We found that a lot of the employers are looking for women operators,” Hardy Giles says. “They seem to be more efficient, easier on the machines, they maintain the machines and they definitely seem to be in demand.”

One of ORIGIN’s top female trainees, Ashley Anderson from Kasabonika, a remote fly-in First Nation community in northwestern Ontario, was recently hired on at Goldcorp’s Musselwhile Mine after operating a 30-ton truck for four to five months at the Kasabonika Lake Sewage Lagoon Project.

“The training was good,” Anderson says. “It was fun learning something new. The week [of training] in simulators was in Thunder Bay and then [the rest of] the training was in Kasabonika.”

Hardy Giles says Anderson’s success has inspired other people in her community to consider a career as a heavy equipment operator.

“Now she’s making $25 to $30 an hour,” Hardy Giles. “I want [to see] thousands of Ashleys.”

Hardy Giles says the biggest advantage of ORIGIN’s state-of-the-art CAT heavy equipment training simulators is the liability issue.

“Even kids can jump on there and they are not going to hurt it,” Hardy Giles says. “You can use this as a screening tool and you can weed out people that are not a good fit. You can also use it to gauge someone’s skills as well for the assessment tool.”

ORIGIN’s assessment process measures ability and skill while providing a comprehensive introduction to heavy equipment operation.

“It gives you a measurement on how much gas you burn, how much damage you’ve done to the machine,” Hardy Giles says. “It gives you exactly a report card of your qualifications.”

Hardy Giles says there are potential training opportunities in many of the remote fly-in communities across northern Ontario as well as with Northern Superior communities such as Red Rock Indian Band and Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishinaabek (Rocky Bay).

“And we actually have a couple of women from Fort William First Nation taking our Women Under Construction on June 27,” Hardy Giles says.

Giles says ORIGIN is also working on developing a regional training project with the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

“If that project comes through, it would be basically screening hundreds of women and training in the area of 50 to 60 females in the full certified programming,” Giles says.

Giles says women account for about 44 per cent of the truck operators at the New Gold mine near Kamloops, B.C.

“So that is a trend,” Giles says. “So we’re kind of taking advantage of that to help a lot of the females that thought they might want to do it but never got the [opportunity].”

ORIGIN’s four heavy equipment simulators — loader, bulldozer, excavator and articulation truck — cost about $500,000 in total.

“These are high quality and technical machines,” Giles says.

The business was funded through Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund and Aboriginal Business Canada.

Hardy Giles was one of four Emerging Leaders recognized during the APEX | Aboriginal Partnership Exchange, held June 8 in Thunder Bay. She started up Hardy Giles Consulting with Giles about five-and-a-half years ago and built upon that experience to start up ORIGIN.

ORIGIN is located at 669 Beaverhall Place near the Airlane Hotel and Conference Centre in Thunder Bay.