Gov't funds free forestry training course

A free forestry training program funded by the provincial and federal government will teach people skills still in high demand, despite the downturn in the sector.

The first class of 12 students will start the 19-week program on March 30, learning skills like chainsaw and brush saw operation, pesticide application, silviculture surveying, occupational first aid, forestry field skills, ATV operation, bear safety and more. Two more classes will be offered following the first, Stillwater Consulting president Jody McInnes said.

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Stillwater has been hired to offer the program to students who meet EI eligibility and live in Prince George or the surrounding area.

"We've been hearing from employers up here for years. The timing was good," McInnes said. "We thought this would be a good fit with the job opportunities up here. We never want to train people for no jobs."

Part of the process to get government funding required getting letters of support from regional employers, he said, and while normal that can take weeks they received enthusiastic support from local companies within a few days.

Graduates from the program in other parts of the province have seen a 90 to 95 per cent employment, McInnes said.

"That gets people excited," he said. "Past experience is great, but not necessary. We've seen people transition from the manufacturing side to working in the field. We saw some of that on the island. They were working in mills that had shut down..."

Students have gone on to work as junior forestry technicians, wildfire firefighters, silviculture surveyors, working on major industrial projects clearing and building roads and other jobs, he said.

"Some have gone into the recreation side – trail building, trail maintenance," McInnes said. "We've got people working in parks and rec, doing silviculture in downtown Vancouver."

The free training program includes tuition, safety equipment and learning materials. For more information, go online to www.stillwaterconsutlingltd.com or contact the Prince George WorkBC Centre at 236-601-9111.

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