School District 58 has announced a new program that teaches students to operate heavy machinery.

The SD 58 Rocks is a new dual credit program being offered by the school district which aims to give high school students the opportunity to operate heavy machinery while still being enrolled in school.

Students who are interested in participating will be able to register to the program until Jan. 22, while the selections will be completed by Feb. 16. Those selected to the program will experience it over the weekend, on April 12 and 13.

Kevin McGuifford, School District 58’s Dual Credit Programs coordinator, said the SD 58 Rocks program is a great opportunity for both Merritt and Princeton students to get the experience they are looking for.

“We’re taking grade 11 or 12 students,” he said. “Meeting a certain criteria (and if) they are interested in becoming a heavy equipment operator or working in heavy industry.”

He added that over the years, student interest levels for dual credit programs have increased over the years significantly by around five times.

“We might have seen five to eight students per year, and now we are seeing 20 to 25 students per year that are taking seats in these programs,” McGuifford said. For SD 58 Rocks, McGuifford said the school district is expecting eight students will be participating from both Merritt and Princeton.

He sees these programs as a huge advantage to the students that want to work in the trades industry, and this might just be the kick-off they might need.

“It breaks down barriers for students,” he said. “For work in trades and work experience, it opens up opportunities for students to get connected with employers. And it’s low risk for the employer, you know if it’s a work experience program.”

McGuifford said that the other benefits for students include gaining their high school credits as well as credits towards their specific trade, which usually could take up to four years to be completed.

“The opportunities looking ahead for students, you know, filling positions that are with retirements and people that are now looking towards retirement,” he said. “It helps support staffing for the industries.”