Cambrian College wants to bring more training directly to rural communities

Henry Girard, a Try a Trade instructor with Cambrian College, said his own personal lesson from teaching in Kashechewan, Ont. was not to take anything for granted.

“We’ve literally worked past our limitations that we’re supposed to,” he said.

Girard, who specializes in small engines, welding, electricity and carpentry, added repairing skills are more essential for communities further away from services.

He spent weeks with eight students at Kashechewan as part of a limited Small Engine Repair course, which started mid-August.

The hands-on training focused on repairing heavy-duty appliances, including ice augers for winter fishing, chainsaws and ATV engines.

“We gave them the skills to start practising and taking things apart and, and identifying what’s the cause of it, not starting it, but the cause of it not running,” Girard added.

‘The course wasn’t long enough’

According to Cambrian College, the partnership with Kashechewan started with a request from the Hishkoonikun Education Authority for training in how to repair machinery in the hopes of boosting services.

The Small Engine Repair class also spent long days of instruction on a line of community ATVs for inspection and exploring the different deficiencies that could be worked on.

Small Engine Course students Robbie Williams (left) and Elkina Hughie Jr. (right) had less than three weeks of hands-on training to troubleshoot, disassemble and repair heavy duty appliances including chainsaws, ATVs and ice augers. (Submitted by Henry Girard)

Girard said the biggest lesson was doing more repairs with less.

“Simple things like getting electrical wire has to come from Moosonee or Timmins, so they would have to wait days for shipment,” he said.

“We identified those things in the future, bringing in what items you may just take for granted and is accessible to us.”

‘The course wasn’t long enough’

Students also had less than three weeks over a modified course to troubleshoot, disassemble and fix small engine appliances.

Celina Mantler, training consultant at Cambrian College Espanola, said they only took one major gripe to heart.

“One of the biggest complaints was the course wasn’t long enough,” said Mantler.

She added the eight students were energetic enough to practice on weekends and knowing how to fix heavy-duty appliances by themselves.

Mantler hopes the limited Small Engine Repair Course passes on skills that can be turned into careers.

“What it does give them is the ability to approach an employer in the community and work with somebody else under their purview to, you know, really kind of enhance that skill set,” she said.

She added despite troubles with distance, the course opens up more ways to bring the education straight to other communities.

“To be able to build people who have these skills definitely fills those gaps in the community.”

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