The first class to go through the Fundamentals of Forestry – Harvesting Practices program in Woss has officially graduated.
The 12 students, dressed in their best work gear, attended the special graduation ceremony on July 6 in the Woss Community Centre. The ceremony not only acknowledged the success of the students but also the success of the first year of the program and was attended by MP Rachel Blaney, MLA Claire Trevena, Port McNeill Mayor Shirley Ackland, as well as many councillors from Port McNeill, Port Hardy, and Alert Bay.
MC Paul Mottershead, who is VIU’s Associate Dean of Trades and Technologies, first invited Forester John Markos from the ‘Namgis First Nation to begin the ceremony with a speech and territorial acknowledgment.
“I’m so happy to be here to see the kids go through the course,” said Markos, adding that when he first started logging in 1968, “We didn’t have this, my first day of work I was nearly wiped out – I was lucky I was fast!”
The Fundamentals of Forestry Program, which ran for 16 weeks, is based on competencies identifies by the BC Forestry Safety Council and developed with VIU to teach both employability skills and safe work practices. During the graduation ceremony, Mottershead noted that 10 of the 12 students had found full-time employment before they had even officially graduated. “On Monday, they will be starting very good paying jobs and giving back to these communities,” said Mottershead.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for all of you and this is also a fantastic opportunity for the North Island,” MLA Claire Trevena said during her address to the graduates.
“Most people have jobs, and on Sunday and Monday will be getting to work, which is terrific,” said Trevena, adding, “I hope this is not just a pilot but the start of a commitment from VIU, from our communities, and our government to ensure we can bring training to those communities where the work is.”
Fundamentals of Forestry instructor Dazy Weymar also addressed the graduates with a speech where he gave them advice for the future and a special gift to commemorate their time learning in Woss.
“Something we have talked about is that when you go out in the bush – you learn a lot in this course but there is a whole bunch more to learn – be humble when you go out there,” said Weymar. Student Reggie Mackenzie then took the opportunity to speak on behalf of his class.
“I would just like to say on behalf of the whole class thanks to everyone involved in this. It’s quite the opportunity and all of us have gained a whole bunch out of this,” said Mackenzie, adding, “Give Dazy some more accolades because he was definitely the best teacher we could have got. The guy was very patient with us – We couldn’t have had a better instructor.”
VIU has also received funding from the Ministry of Advanced Skills Education and Training to work with a number of institutions to adapt the program for different areas around the province.
“Woss is really on the map as far as I’m concerned,” said Mottershead, adding, “What you have done here has really opened the eyes of the rest of the province and I think it is a program that has long-term sustainability.”
The Fundamentals of Forestry Program was made possible by a $500,000 grant from the B.C. Rural Dividend Program, financial support from Island Coastal Economic Trust, and partnerships with Western Forest Products (WFP), Regional District of Mount Waddington (RDMW), Vancouver Island University, BC Forest Safety Council (BCFSC) and many other local organizations and groups.