March 28, 2018
Education. Training. Skills development. Preparation for satisfying employment. What is it that we need, want, can’t live without here in the North East? What do we need in Chetwynd?
What have we had here in Chetwynd in decades past? What has disappeared in the last twenty years? In trying to remember, I forget. I know that forty years ago Northern Lights College was doing Commercial Driver Training right here in our home town. That’s when I got my Class I with Air. Which reminds me that, as I write and you read, there are trucks sitting idle because qualified drivers are not available. Once upon a time (this ain’t no fairy tale) log yards at the mills would be choked with logs by the middle of March. Not so this year. It’s a troubling situation. We are living in a complex society that is becoming more so as you read. Will an industry have to curtail production because society can’t turn out the skilled operators that we need?
The harder it gets to pocket a credential, the more difficult it becomes to keep the wheels turning. And I’ve noted a number of times that Chetwynd was built on turning wheels. (A load of logs just rolled into town. There should have been three during the time it took me to write these few words.) As one industry official said to me yesterday, “We are in a crisis.” Cowboys used to take the bull by the horns. Who is going to take the truck by the wheel and make training happen? Is the red tape so sticky a competent, training entrepreneur is discouraged before starting?
I know industrial training is costly. I was involved in training for decades. But failure to train is even more costly.
Once upon a time (this ain’t no fairy tale, too) the Chetwynd Campus of Northern Lights College was humming from morn ‘til night with something like fifteen staff and approaching 200 full-time students in courses such as these: Business Office Training (ten months), evening courses of many kinds, Industrial First Aid, Adult Basic Education (ten months), a two-year diploma in Forestry, University Transfer, portions of AHCOTE Teacher Training, Early Childhood Education, Home Care, Aesthetics, C-level Welding, all sorts of short-term employment-related skills, and this is not an exhaustive list. In trying to remember, still I forget. No, everything was not offered every day but our days were always full.
Things change, always. Change is sometimes part of growth, but not always.
The still-successful Aircraft Maintenance Program was developed here on Chetwynd Campus following a series of courses on repair and maintenance of helicopter components. It was a Ministry Of Advanced Education decision to locate the program in our sister community to the east after I had done all the work to bring it to birth. Probably the right decision but, given its place of birth, it stung a bit to see it located elsewhere.
Chetwynd Campus contracted with a Prince George entrepreneur to offer Class I Driver Training in the 70s. The full-time Commercial Driver Training with several staff and a number of trucks was located in DC until the College ceased to offer the program, I believe sometime in this millennium. I used to argue (usually not successfully) that because trucks had wheels the training could come to Chetwynd from time to time. The Air Brakes component was offered regularly in Chetwynd.
(Funny, how when trying to write this column I start to feel some of the old satisfactions of bringing training to the people.) Now, we have to bring the people to the training. I’m not entirely unsympathetic with the concept if it is not taken to extreme; I had to go away for education at age fifteen. But Chetwynd is certainly capable of subscribing to more local opportunities than we presently enjoy.
It’s also funny how a piece of literature can take a mind of its own. I really didn’t know where I was going with this piece when I started but now we all know. I should confess that the memories are my own and, as any number of people can attest, my memory is subject to lapse. However, the main points of the column are correct. It is also correct that change happens, sometimes against our will, sometimes by deliberate, if not thoughtful action.
Oh, by the way, “your future depends on many things, but mostly on you” (Frank Tyger).
Merlin Nichols, Mayor