Support from Brandt in Brandon was a key factor in establishing Assiniboine’s Heavy Equipment Operator (HEO) program, which saw its first cohort in March 2016. “There was a lot of demand for trained operators,” said Gerald Cathcart, Business Development Coordinator at Assiniboine.
“Assiniboine had received funding from Western Economic Diversification [Canada] to set up the program but still needed private sector partnerships.”
These private sector partnerships would help the college keep tuition rates low, allow for smaller class sizes and offer students the opportunity to experience real-life industry situations and equipment. That’s where Brandt came in. Since 2016, Brandt has provided in-kind support to the HEO program, providing excavators, loaders, graders, skid steers and other equipment, allowing students to learn by doing on real, industry standard equipment. To date, Brandt has contributed more than $107,000 in kind to the program.
“Brandt feels that it’s important to support this part of the industry. This is where the next level of operators are going to come from,” said Brett Morton, former Territory Manager for Brandt in Brandon, who was involved in facilitating the partnership until a recent transfer to Ontario. “Back in the ‘old days’, decades past, you kind of jumped on the equipment at 18 years old and ran it until you were 65 and that’s how you learned. Well there’s so much more to it now in regard to safety and maintenance. The equipment can be a bit more technically involved than it would have been 30 years ago, so we feel the training is very important in educating the new generation of operators.”
In addition to the program being offered in Brandon at Assiniboine’s North Hill campus, it has been offered in eight First Nations communities since 2016 with a total of 107 graduates receiving their Heavy Equipment Operator certificate across all locations. For Brandt, their connection to the program was clear. Many of their customers had a need for trained operators, and supporting education for these operators was a way to not only help their customers, but also get the next generation of operators familiar with Brandt’s John Deere equipment.
“There’s civic pride there as well,” said Morton. “To be able to support this program, word does get out that Brandt is a staunch supporter of it. And when you’re going to the sites where they’re doing the training, it’s fun to sit there and talk to the operators on their break and check in on the equipment.”
Brandt has long seen value in supporting education for future operators and has supported other programs before Assiniboine’s was established.
“We’re happy to help,” said Morton. “Brandt is very proud that we’re able to help Assiniboine with this program. We look forward to continuing in the future. Certainly, we get fantastic value, Assiniboine gets value and the students that take part get tremendous value. We’re eager to continue our support.”