Heavy equipment operator shortage has Kirkland Lake calling on the province

KIRKLAND LAKE - A northern town is calling for provincial help due to a labour shortage of qualified heavy equipment operators.

Kirkland Lake is petitioning for help from David Piccini, Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Training, Immigration and Skilled Trades, to fully fund a municipal equipment operator course in 2024 through the Skills Development Fund.

At its Tuesday (Feb. 20) council meeting, Mayor Stacy Wight brought forward a motion supporting the work of the Association of Ontario Road Supervisors to develop a municipal equipment operator course to address the issue.

She said there’s a lack of provincial-wide courses that properly train potential municipal workers, specifically relating to municipal heavy equipment.

“Former president of Northern College Dr. Audrey Penner came to us in the past speaking about these micro-courses to combat the need of specialized training that could be offered at a local college level,” she said.

“I myself work in a career that was born out of the need for a specific subset of skills from the nursing profession and I understand how vital offering niche training can be to ensure the provision of required care, in this case specific to duties relating to municipal public works.”

In her motion, Wight said municipal public works departments across the province provide invaluable services to communities ensuring the health and safety of all residents.

“If it was not for our municipal public works employees … maintaining our public roads systems, our communities would not be able to function as emergency personnel could not respond to calls, school buses could not get our children to school, residents would not be able to get to work, school or appointments and many more basic functions would not be able to happen,” she wrote.

“Municipal public works departments are already feeling the impacts of a labour shortage, which will only be exasperated over the next three to five years, which will cause levels of service municipalities are able to provide to ensure the health and safety of our residents to decrease.”

Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative, TimminsToday.com