Advanced Education  Minister Amrik Virk got a hands-on demonstration today of a haul-truck simulator during a visit to the College of the Rockies . The college bought four stationary haul-truck simulators and one mobile simulator through funding totalling more than $2.8 million. Funding sources included $580,000 from the Province, $560,000 from the Columbia Basin Trust, and more than $1.7 million through Western Economic Diversification.
“Haul-truck simulators at the college are preparing students in the region for B.C.’s mining sector with hands-on training,” said Virk. “We expect thousands of jobs in the mining sector to open up over the next few years – particularly in the Kootenays – and we need to ensure we are training students in the right region with the right skills.” 
The provincial government funding is part of a $17-million investment in public post-secondary institutions across British Columbia to upgrade skills training equipment in line with the BC Skills and Training plan commitment to ensure students have access to the right training tools that will equip them with the skills regional economies need.
“With over 4,000 employees working at the five coal mines here and many of them approaching retirement, the opportunities for my constituents to find well-paying work with Teck Coal are excellent,” said Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines and MLA for Kootenay East. “The only hitch is that you need skills. This truck simulator is a terrific way to provide skills for a job that is in demand at the mines. Congratulations to the College of the Rockies for stepping up to provide this training.”
The simulators run through real-life scenarios and help students gain hands-on experience that complements their classroom and online instruction. The first intake of students to benefit from the new equipment was in August at the college’s Fernie campus and September at the Cranbrook campus. The programs run on a monthly basis, with the next intake of students due on Oct. 28, 2013.
“The success of the college’s new haul-truck operator training program demonstrates the power of partnerships,” said College of the Rockies President and CEO David Walls. “The funding support we received is helping to ensure our students are well-prepared to enter the job market across the province.”
A 2012 report by the Mining Industry Human Resources Council, in conjunction with the Mining Association of BC, showed that heavy-equipment operators and truck drivers will be the top two mining sector in-demand occupations in the next 10 years. The forecast shows that of 11,330 workers needed in the B.C. mining industry, 6,370 will be needed in the Kootenays.
“Columbia Basin Trust has heard from basin residents, industries and educators that employment and training are priorities in our region,” said Neil Muth, president and CEO, Columbia Basin Trust. “We applaud the College of the Rockies for taking the initiative with these haul-truck simulators to increase training opportunities and help meet the high demand for skilled labour. CBT is pleased to contribute to such a worthwhile project.”