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Learning the ropes

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Liard (Mar 26/04) - Nineteen students in Fort Liard are getting a 10-week taste of the work world. The work-experience program continues for the next four Tuesdays.

NNSL Photo

Etoah Kotchea works at the Acho Dene Native Crafts store each Tuesday. - photo courtesy of Zabrina Diamond'C

One of the Echo Dene students, Aaron Bertrand, 17, is gaining insight into helicopter operations at Deh Cho Helicopters. While his tasks have primarily been labour-related, such as moving heavy parts, he did get to spend an hour in the air.

"It's lots of fun," he said, adding that he is contemplating a career as a pilot.

Mark Diamond'C, 19, shadows Hamlet employees on the garbage truck, water trucks and sewer trucks. He said his time on the job has taught him that there's a lot of waiting involved while the water tanks are filled. He's also learned the vehicles' features. For instance, there are large bolts that must be removed prior to the trash compactor dumping the load within, he explained. Wearing steel-toed safety boots, a safety vest and gloves are also a must, he noted.

"I've learned quite a few things," he said, adding that his occupation of choice is heavy equipment operator.

Teacher Charlene Grimes arranged the work experience program with Economic Development Officer Michael Pealow, who found placements for the teens.

Grimes said the students are obviously enthusiastic about the course. When Beaver Enterprises safety officer Al Harris was invited to impart basic safety in the workplace training, every one of the students showed up, she noted. In addition, she said the feedback from job supervisors has been very positive.

"Everything we've heard has been phenomenal," said Grimes, who added that the students will receive high school credits for their efforts.

Alana Harris, who oversees the three students working at Beaver Enterprises, praised the youths' keen attitudes.

"They've been great," said Harris, Beaver's operations supervisor. "They've all been showing up on time. They all showed up during spring break, which is incredible."

Sixteen-year-old Melanie Drake works in the Acho Dene Koe office. As a receptionist-in-training, she has answered phones and filed documents. Drake said the position has given her a greater sense of responsibility, but she's hoping to become a flight attendant someday.

Robert Loe accompanies safety officer Al Harris on his rounds every Tuesday.

"I've learned to be more safety conscious around the every-day job site," Loe said, referring to ice hazards and proper lighting.

Loe, 17, is aiming to graduate from high school and then move on to acting classes and try-out as a professional wrestler.

If that doesn't pan out, he said he will likely work as a heavy equipment operator.