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New drill rig operator program

NAIT is welcoming a new drill rig operator program in January. The foundation drill rig operator’s course is the first of its kind in North America and is comprised of nine online courses taken over a two-year period. Similar to the skilled trades program, students will complete training in both theory and in industry.

The idea to bring the training to NAIT didn’t come from within. Kevin Sharp approached NAIT with the idea in 2014. At the time, Sharp was the vice-president of the Western Canadian Chapter of the Association of Drilled Shaft Contractors (ADSC).

Since then, NAIT teachers have teamed up with industry professionals to create the curriculum for the program. Until now, there hasn’t been any formal training or certification required for operators in Western Canada. The ADSC has contributed about $480,000 in funding for the program.

“My uncle was seriously hurt in a drill rig accident,” said Sharp.

“I want to make sure I leave this industry better than I found it and proper training is a big part of that. This program will increase safety and understanding among drill rig operators.”

Those unfamiliar with the construction industry may assume this program is oil-rig related but that is not the case. The drill rig program at NAIT will centre training on foundation drill rigs and not different applications such as oil or well drilling. This type of drill rig is used in commercial and industrial construction to anchor foundations to the earth.

“Foundational Drill Rig Operator” is not a skilled trade but it might be soon. The program at NAIT is the first step to making it a fully recognized trade. The program was created to keep that in mind.

“When the time is right and the government is prepared to accredit this as a skilled trade, they won’t have to go back to the drawing board and rebuild it,” says Brian Pardell, NAIT’s associate vice-president of Continuing Education and Workforce Development.

Training will range from operations and mechanics to safety and blueprint reading. Students will also be mentored by an experienced operator in the field while completing the program.

That said, taking the program online has its advantages. Students are able to work in industry while they are receiving training and it extends NAIT’s reach into the industry. The program could be managed through NAIT to serve all of North America or even other parts of the world.

“As long as you have employers in any region of the world that are prepared to back their employees to take that training and act as a mentor for them, there’s no need to have it delivered in multiple locations,” says Pardell.

The program will begin on Jan. 22. Thirty students will be accepted on first intake. However, that number may change in the future depending on growing demand from the industry. Registration opens at the end of October and program details are available on NAIT’s website.

– Seth Hennig

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