Keith Azak and Theresa Drake are hard at work installing a smart meter.

Keith Azak and Theresa Drake are hard at work installing a smart meter.

Smart meters boost trades training

The company installing province-wide smart meters is providing some of its northwest employees an opportunity for education.

  • Dec. 4, 2011 12:00 p.m.

The company installing province-wide smart meters is  providing some of its northwest employees an opportunity for education.

Corix, the utility company who won the bid to install smart meters across B.C., is working with Thompson Rivers University and The Prince George Nechako Aboriginal Employment and Training Association to provide 10 First Nations workers in Terrace with an introduction to accredited trades training.

The project is the brain child of Steve Wilson, a former chief councillor of the Haisla village of Kitamaat who is now the regional manager for Corix in this area.

He has combined the job of installing smart meters with offering 10 First Nations people 1,100 hours of accredited work that can be transferred to a trade of their choice once the meters are installed.

“Part of the problems we face as First Nations, is we get training that doesn’t lead anywhere,” Wilson explained.

As First Nations are the largest growing group Canada-wide, and with the influx of industry headed to the northwest, Wilson wants to make sure that First Nations in this area capitalize on coming projects by gaining employment.

Called the construction craftworker program, the initiative involves five weeks of class time to complete and involves an instructor flying up to Terrace from Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops to instruct the students.

Students learn things such as safety, hand tools, power tools, scaffolding, utilities, blueprint-reading instruction and environmental concerns.

And while Wilson looked at the installation of the smart meters as a challenge to find employees for such a short period of time, by paring up with education, the program became a real opportunity for someone looking to get into trades.

Doug Martin is one of the people taking part in the program.

“I jumped on it, because the construction craftworker really caught my eye,” said Martin, who plans on transferring his hours toward an electrical ticket.

So far the students have had two weeks of the five weeks of training, and are averaging grades of 92 per cent. In the winter, once all of the smart meters are installed, they will finish with another three weeks of class time.

The 10 students have been working with an additional five employees installing more than 42,000 smart meters across the northwest.