The programme which was launched in September last year by Ministers Volda Lawrence and Keith Scott, saw 23 persons engaging in an intensive, comprehensive course not only in equipment operation, but also maintenance and safety aspects.
Trainees logged over 1,800 hours in the use of a skid steer loader, tractor and excavator, which was supported by the Regional Administration of Region 8. Along with classroom sessions, participants engaged in-field activities within the Region, gaining practical experience in real-life situations.
Chief Labour Officer of the Ministry of Social Protection, Charles Ogle, at the event on Thursday last, noted his pride at being present, especially given that the Ministry of Social Protection is also celebrating Occupational Health and Safety Month.
He stated that in an occupational area such as equipment operation, safety is a critical yet often ignored aspect, which results in accidents on the worksite.
Noting the emphasis placed on the correct usage, maintenance and safety in this course, he expects that employers will follow suit and encourage their operators to always engage in the correct practices on the job.
This was reinforced by the Regional Chairman (RC), Bonaventure Fredericks who expressed satisfaction with the work done by the participants, and noted an example where one of the trainees interviewed for a job, was asked by the employer to demonstrate operating an excavator.
Fredericks said that even before the trainee started the machine, safety checks were carried out. The employer noticed this and hired the individual on the spot.
The RC also expressed his gratitude to the BIT for its “continued support of young people and providing much needed skills training to young persons in Mahdia.”
Chief Executive Officer of the BIT, Maria Khelawan reiterated the Board’s commitment to providing employable skills for young persons throughout the country. She stated that the HDEO programme has become one of the core programmes of the BIT, and is one of the most intensive, comprehensive operation courses anywhere in the country.
She also added that the agency is now engaged in making this skill one that is recognized nationally and in the Caribbean, as they are now working with the Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in the development of a national standard for heavy-duty equipment operators.
Two of the beneficiaries, Acqueline Williams and Brandy Fleming, both single-parents, aged 23 and 18 respectively, were previously not engaged in any economic activity prior to the commencement of the programme.
The women noted that the course was intensive and challenging, especially being females in a male-dominated environment.
However, over time, they both overcame these challenges and learnt to perform as well as the males they were training with.
Indeed, their Instructor stated that Williams was one of the top performers in the batch and following graduation, she will now be employed as an operator on a Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) pipe-laying project in Mahdia.
Over the past couple years, BIT has not only engaged civilians in the heavy duty operator training, but also police officers throughout the country, to enable them to be better prepared as certifying officers of operators.
La-seena London, a police officer in Mahdia, said that she was encouraged to participate in the programme to enhance her job performance. As an officer, she had no prior knowledge of operating. She is now better equipped in licensing persons as operators.
The programme, which was one of the first launched in Mahdia, signaled further engagement by the Board in Region 8 with additional programmes in block-making and small engine repairs – now ongoing in Kato – and collaboration with the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs and the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST) on the sun-dried tomatoes project in Paramakatoi.
This engagement now sees BIT involved in the provision of skills training in all regions throughout Guyana. Some 1000 persons have already received certificates in their respective fields of study with over 600 persons about to wrap up their training.