northwestern Ontario equipment operators


A recently developed program in northwestern Ontario is helping to train First Nations members as equipment operators for work—and a career—in the forest industry.

By Nathan Medcalf

Goliboski Contracting Incorporated, based out of Thunder Bay, Ontario, has started a training program that is preparing First Nations members for work in the Ogoki Forest in northwestern Ontario—and for a career in the forest industry.

“I started working for First Nations communities more than 10 years ago,” explains Brad Goliboski, the company’s president and founder. “It was in remote northern communities, doing work as a mechanic sub-contractor for government on water treatment plant generators.

northwestern Ontario equipment operatorsTigercat and Ontario Tigercat dealer Wajax have led the way in providing support and any materials needed by the program to assist in teaching new students. When Rick Goliboski started the forestry training program, he decided to use Tigercat equipment because he had owned a number of their machines through his career, and he knows they are solid machines.

“As the trust grew with the communities, so did our workload,” he added. “We performed all sorts of odd jobs, from repairing equipment, cars and trucks to snowmobiles and canoes—we even built winter roads. Eventually, we became a one-call solution for everything.”

Goliboski has always seen the need for pre-employment training. Since he has a great working relationship with First Nations groups in the region, he was approached by Confederation College of Thunder Bay to provide heavy equipment and mechanical harvesting equipment operator training for Supercom (a 100 per cent First Nations-owned business partnership between Fort William First Nation, Red Rock Indian Band, Pays Plat First Nation, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg, Pic Mobert First Nation and Michipicoten First Nation). They trained 18 students on how to operate feller bunchers, skidders, processors, dozers, excavators and front-end loaders for the east-west tie transmission line project, a large 450-kilometre power transmission line being built in the region.

After a very successful course with Supercom, Confederation College asked Goliboski to help out with training in the Ogoki Forest, which brings them to where they are today.

None of this would have been possible without the prior hard work and dedication of the Ogoki Development Corporation LP, which had signed a forestry agreement that gave them an interim license to manage the Ogoki forest while preparing a formal 10-year forest management plan.

“With what both companies bring to the table, it was an easy decision to do training on the Ogoki,” says Goliboski.

The new training program is designed to give three local First Nations communities (Aroland, Eabametoog and Marten Falls) an opportunity to gain the necessary training to be competent equipment operators in the forestry industry.

northwestern Ontario equipment operatorsStudents first learn the feller buncher, and how felled trees need to be bunched neatly so it is easier for the skidder to pick them up. Then, they learn that the skidder needs to place trees properly in the landing area, because this helps the processor.

“We are building job opportunities for forestry and mining in the Ogoki Forest and surrounding areas. Forestry is a hard sector to start out in—regardless of whether you are experienced or not—so training new employees to be ready for forestry work is a win-win for everybody,” says Goliboski.

The training program is a joint venture between Goliboski Contracting, Ogoki Development Corporation Limited, and Confederation College with support from the Oshki, Wenjack, Nakina and Longlac sawmills to make this a reality.

“First Nations people are ambassadors for the lands we are working on, so working alongside them is beneficial for both parties. When you respect their way of life and their heritage and understand how mining or forestry impacts that, you can work towards a common goal,” says Goliboski.

“It’s good to see jobs created for local people—previously there just wasn’t the opportunity to train inexperienced new hires on forestry equipment,” he continued. “We have been able to hire people right out of our courses to work in the forest, which is a huge benefit. There are a lot of people here in this area that we can provide not only jobs to, but careers. In providing pre-employment training, we can get the ball rolling.”

According to Goliboski, one of the benefits of the co-operation agreement is the abundance of students looking to get into this training course. “We always have a full enrolment of people of all ages who are looking to better themselves, and work in their home environment.”

Goliboski says he has been looking to create training opportunities for businesses in Northwestern Ontario for the last five years. “Being a business owner, I know first-hand the difficulty of hiring good people for a job and of the expense of training them in-house. So I looked at opportunities for companies like mine that need to hire people at entry-level positions, but with some specific pre-employment training.”

The training provides the opportunity for a student to become comfortable with operating a piece of equipment efficiently. “We train them to the point where, if a company were to hire them, you can trust them to work independently. We give them enough hours to make them competent and safe operators that can take care of the equipment, which is a huge starting point for the companies hiring new people.”

Each class contains six students and the course is 12 weeks long, including four weeks of life skills, two weeks of safety training, and six weeks of equipment training and operation. People of various levels of experience have taken the course.

Trainees are screened for aptitude and commitment during the four-week life skills course.

“The forest is a unique working environment,” says Goliboski. “Many operators wake up at four in the morning and finish at different times of the day, depending on weather and other environmental conditions. The people who are really interested in forestry progress to the next level, while those who realize it’s not a fit, won’t advance in the program.

“It’s a helpful component to the training—it ensures that once we get to the point where we are putting these students into the machines, they are 100 per cent dedicated and want to complete the training and work in the industry.”

After these skills are attained, they provide a First Aid course that is mandatory for anyone working in the industry, training for working at specific heights, and other safety training, such as fighting forest fires.

After students acquire the necessary safety certificates, the class has a one-week conference session where they go through all the operation and training manuals, and they talk about that material until everyone understands every part of each manual.

“Tigercat and our Tigercat dealer, Wajax, have led the way in providing support and any materials we need to assist in teaching new students. Their assistance in supporting these initiatives has been very helpful. My reps are available any time and even gave us their personal phone numbers in case we had to reach them after hours—that’s dedication to providing the best possible service for your clients.”

Once they’ve completed the one-week conference, students head out to the equipment.

“From there, we go into a brand-new block and harvest trees just like a commercial operation, because it is just that,” says Goliboski. “The layout will be done, but we go in with the students to cut our pink line—the perimeter—and then we actively log with the students just as if they were hourly employees. It’s real-life training that is different every day—and really makes you think about what you’re doing.”

Students first learn the feller buncher, and how felled trees need to be bunched neatly so it is easier for the skidder to pick them up. Then, they learn that the skidder needs to place trees properly in the landing area, because this helps the processor. “There is an understanding of how using one machine affects the next machine in line, and how it is in turn affected by the machine ahead of it,” says Goliboski.

Each student gets 60 hours of operating time per machine, “and 100 hours on the grease gun”, says Goliboski. The final test requires students to cut down trees, lay down one bundle, park the feller buncher safely, hop into the skidder, do a proper start-up on the skidder, drag the bundle to the landing, park the skidder, hop into the processor, do proper start-up of the processor and process the wood to final product. If they accomplish that, they pass the course.

“It’s a great accomplishment when students who didn’t even know what these pieces of equipment were eight weeks before are able to effectively perform on all three pieces of equipment,” says Goliboski.

When Goliboski had a block selected for training a while back, he purchased three new Tigercat machines from his local Wajax dealer—an 845D feller buncher, a H822D harvester with a Southstar QS500 processing head and a 632E grapple skidder.

When he started the forestry training, he decided to use Tigercat because he had owned a number of their machines through his career, and he knows they are solid machines.

“They are the easiest to train on because there is not a lot that an operator can do to hurt the machines. For example, the 632E is a hydrostatic skidder, so operators don’t have to worry about being in the wrong gear. The machine knows where it needs to be and that is a huge benefit for training new operators. As well, the 845D features a big cab so a trainer can comfortably sit behind the operator, which you can’t do with competing machines.”

However, even when Goliboski isn’t in the machines, he can view their operation remotely via Tigercat’s new telematics system. “Tigercat’s telematics helps me from a business and training standpoint, because I can monitor the machine remotely. I know where the machine is, if it’s working efficiently and if there are any errors—all viewed remotely and in real time.”

Component commonality amongst the machines is also a great benefit. “They have the same engines and filters for all machines, so I only keep a minimal amount of spare parts,” says Goliboski.

Durable equipment is important in a training environment. “During training, the machines take a lot of—I won’t call it unnecessary abuse—but there is a learning curve, and Tigercat machines stand up well to these challenges.” And the Tigercat equipment came with upgrades.

The 845D has been upgraded with several new features to promote increased productivity and improved operator comfort, including a new cab with monitors for the machine’s skyVIEW and rearVIEW camera systems, a larger main hydraulic pump for additional power, quicker functioning of the clamp and accumulator arms, and a longer, (8.5 metres) energy-saving ER boom system.

The Tigercat 632E skidder can be equipped with the largest grapple (2.1 metres) offered on any four-wheel skidder on the market. A larger main hydraulic pump and larger valves provide faster operation and better multifunctioning. Larger hydraulic cylinders allow the machine to run pressures that are 10 per cent lower while increasing performance by 10 per cent, on average. The new OB20 rear axle provides 47 per cent more torque capacity and nearly twice the life on all bearings, says the company. Features such as load sensing control and a simplified steering circuit lead to more responsive and adjustable steering control.

The H822D features a new cab structure with narrower front posts and larger side windows for better visibility. A new engine enclosure profile further improves right-hand side visibility.

Similar to the 845D, the machine’s skylight has been replaced by the skyVIEW camera system, which provides the operator with a much wider field of view. Standard LED lighting improves productivity in night shift operations. Inside the cab, operators utilize a seven-inch colour touch screen for machine monitoring and function adjustment.

“The machines are so easy to operate—you can train anyone to run them,” says Goliboski.

Logging and Sawmilling Journal

November 2020

On the Cover:
With equipment such as this Eltec harvester, Freya Logging, based in Prince George, B.C., has proven itself to be a versatile and diversified log harvesting contractor, handy attributes to have during a period of industry transition. Freya has demonstrated a willingness to take on a range of logging assignments in the B.C. Interior. Read all about the outfit beginning on page 8 of this issue (Cover photo courtesy of Freya Logging).

Win/win deal = getting more fibre out of the forest
A new fibre supply agreement in B.C.’s Cariboo region is leading to better forest resource utilization for the Esk’etemc First Nation, and more fibre for wood pellet producer, Pinnacle Renewable Energy.

Freya Logging tackles range of harvesting jobs
Freya Logging has proven to be a versatile and diversified logging contractor in the B.C. Interior, taking on a range of harvesting work, including commercial thinning, with a variety of equipment.

Making a mark with mill upgrade
A major investment in Alberta’s Foothills Forest Products is being described as a pivotal moment in the sawmill’s history.

Not your typical wood pellets …
The new Skeena Bioenergy plant in B.C. is not a typical wood pellet operation—using proven European equipment, it is turning out high quality wood pellets from a feedstock of Western Hemlock, not SPF.

Training for work—and a career—in the forest industry
A recently developed program in northwestern Ontario is helping to train First Nations members as equipment operators for work—and a career—in the forest industry.

Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) and FPInnovations.

 The Last Word
Tony Kryzanowski notes that a recent wood biomaterial supply agreement with a major player in the global cosmetics industry is massively important to the forestry sector.


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