By DARRELL BELLAART
July 24, 2015 · Updated 11:08 AM
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Federal money will be used to take forest sec tor training to smaller communities.

Michelle Rempel, Minis ter of State for Economic Diversification announced the $1,015,000 in funds at Vancouver Island Univer sity Thursday. The money is to provide for mobile simulators to teach people how to operate heavy equipment. A heavy equip ment operators program is offered at the VIU Nanaimo campus, but for someone in a remote community, costs include not just tuition and safety gear and supplies but accommodation away from home.

"In a rural community it can be a daunting task," Rempel said inside the VIU Heavy Mechanical-Con struction trades building.

"When I talk to students, they say I need access to training to have access to these jobs. We've really had to ask: How do we work with industry, how do we work with institutions and government."

The university is now shopping for the simulators.

"We're doing all our research now," said Glynis Steen, interim dean of trades and applied technol ogy. She said VIU's wish list isn't yet complete, but the university will "definitely" want an excavator, grader and a wood processor.

The announcement is welcomed by the forest industry.

"We'd be on the receiving end of these students," said David Elstone, Truck Log gers Association executive director. "As the minister mentioned, we are looking at a deficit of people coming into the industry and this is a building block to get that to happen."

He said the problem is often not only finding people, but finding equip ment to train them on.

"There is not a lot of availability to absorb people right now - they don't have the opportunity to take someone off a machine to train people."

Rempel said students will benefit from basic safety and skills training.

"But also, as mentioned, it will be able to take these simulators - which have been stationary, based in institutions like this - out into the community so that students can actually have a hands-on experience," she said. "I'm glad VIU has worked with industry and us to come up with this real ly neat program."

Darrell.Bellaart@Nanaimodailynews.com250-729-4235

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