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As technology brings new efficiencies to heavy construction, Sask Polytech plans to update and upgrade its tools of the trade

By Sara Bedal

Technology is changing at a breakneck speed, transforming the smallest—and the largest—of tools. This includes the loaders, graders, excavators, crawler tractors and other equipment essential to heavy construction. Equipped with the latest electronics, these high-tech machines are helping us do our jobs faster and with greater accuracy.

They’re also posing a challenge--both to construction firms that need technicians and mechanics who can service and repair the sophisticated machines, and to Saskatchewan Polytechnic (Sask Polytech), which plays a pivotal role in training these skilled individuals.

Consequently, the polytechnic wants to update and upgrade its fleet of training vehicles, which includes everything from front-end loaders, graders and crawler tractors to diesel engines, excavators and forklifts in its 27,000-square-foot heavy-equipment shop at Sask Polytech’s Saskatoon Campus.

In total, Sask Polytech needs to invest $350,000 in updates and upgrades and it’s turning to industry partners to help meet its goal. “We’ve really appreciated how both dealers and manufacturers have supported our training programs in the past,” says John Erickson, associate dean of Sask Polytech’s School of Construction and School of Transportation. “We’re anticipating that they’ll step up to the plate again as we make enhancements to better equip our grads. Our partners will reap the benefits. They’ll spend less time on re-training and more time on the work at hand because our grads will have had experience on machinery that’s very similar or identical to theirs.”

And there’s plenty of work to go around – so much of it, in fact, that Sask Polytech can’t train future technicians and mechanics fast enough. Each year, the school accepts 52 students into its Heavy Equipment and Truck and Transport Technician (HETT) certificate program and it expects it will expand this program. This year the program accepted an additional 4 international students. As well, Sask Polytech has increased the number of seats in related apprenticeship training programs.

Curtis Ebbert is one of those apprentices. In the apprenticeship program, he and his fellow students had the opportunity to hook up a heavy-duty engine to a computer to learn about fault codes and diagnostics. But, says Ebbert, he’d like to have more of this kind of computer training at Sask Polytech because he works with several types of engines on the job.

He may get that opportunity once the school upgrades its equipment. The stimulus, says Shantel Lipp, president of the Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association, has to come from industry and its commitment to investing in innovation. “When companies sponsor this type of training by donating cash or equipment, it only strengthens the industry itself and helps to close the employment gap in this high-demand field,” she says.

To discuss opportunities to contribute to the HETT program or for more information, please contact:

Alison Matheson
Senior Major Gifts Officer, Donor and Alumni Relations
Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Ph: 306-775-7717
E: alison.matheson@saskpolytech.ca<;/a>

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