The Southeast (SE) College has received significant funding for its newest program.
The provincial transitioning funding committee for economic development is directing $100,000 towards the Heavy Equipment Operator (HEO) program, set to start in April or May 2021.
The announcement was made at the college Thursday morning in presence of committee chair Mayor Roy Ludwig, Estevan MLA Lori Carr, representatives of the United Mine Workers of America, the president and CEO for the SE College Patrick Stoddart, college board of governors chair Janice Giroux and other members of the college and the community.
The establishment of an industry accredited HEO program has been a long-time goal of SE College, and Ludwig said that it was important for the committee and the city to step forward and help this goal to come true.
“Larry (Heggs, SE College facilities manager) and I had a conversation and he mentioned the Heavy Equipment Operator program and that they needed a little bit of extra funding for,” said Ludwig.
The provincial transitioning funding committee for economic development was formed to administer funding announced in the fall of 2019. The Estevan area received $8 million; the Coronach region received the remaining $2 million. The fund was created to assist in the funding of projects that will offset the effects of the coal transition in southeast Saskatchewan.
In his address, Ludwig praised the government and Carr for allocating the money, which will help this program and other important projects to come to fruition.
“With mine workers, with training, I think that’s going to be a key thing moving forward that as we evolve and we need training programs in different areas … they are very willing, very knowledgeable, very fluid to work with us and make the necessary changes, and put different programs in place that can help out the community,” said Ludwig.
The funding will assist in the development of a specialized curriculum that will be used to facilitate training and retraining opportunities. The project will also have another unique advantage of supporting the City of Estevan with various infrastructure projects as part of the hands-on practical training for the HEO students.
According to the college’s data, employment estimates in 2019 topped almost 5,300 positions with the future job prospects rated as fair. Most students who were interested in this program had to travel out of the province to receive the training that will soon become available at the SE College.
“There has been a number of provincial projects announced in Saskatchewan recently that will require an increase in experienced and skilled heavy equipment operators in our province,” said Stoddart. “We are very pleased with the collaboration between the province and the southeast coal transition board that has made this funding possible for Southeast College. The funding towards the Heavy Equipment Operator project will help provide key skilled employees to help fulfill this important labour market need.”
In her address, Carr thanked the college for being initiative and bringing the needed program forward. She also extended her gratitude to the City of Estevan and the committee for supporting the evolving initiatives.
“To bring programs like this here will not only help the existing businesses, the mines that are here, SaskPower that are here to continue to be successful operations, but any other economic development that comes out of the community,” said Carr.
She added that the mayor and the committee, which includes representatives of the RM of Coalfields, the RM of Estevan and Town of Bienfait, have been working very hard looking for new opportunities for the City of Estevan and the surrounding areas. And Carr said she is hopeful for the future of the power production in community.
“With all these new opportunities that are hopefully coming our way we’ll only become stronger than before,” said Carr.
On behalf of the college, Sheena Onrait, marketing and communications co-ordinator, thanked all parties that made the program possible and said that there are more exciting announcements on the horizon.
The timeline for completion of the HEO project is March 31, 2021. The college will tentatively start accepting applications for the program at the end of 2020 or beginning of 2021.
Approximately 18-24 students per year will benefit from this training with the majority of students relocating to Estevan for the duration of their program.