An intern learns the ropes when it comes to reducing the risks of avalanches
Mountainous terrain—here in the Basin and elsewhere in the world—is beautiful. But avalanches can pose serious dangers to the people and organizations that work in sectors like forestry, mining, energy and transportation.
Based in Revelstoke, Dynamic Avalanche helps reduce these risks. Along with assessing avalanche hazards, providing avalanche forecasting and control, and training staff on mountain safety, the business also designs structures like avalanche fences and berms. Altogether, these measures help keep industrial workers safe.
Knowing what structures need to be built and where falls into Dynamic’s “engineering and design” side. A couple of years ago, “We needed another engineer to join the team,” says Elaine Lajeunesse, Office Manager. “But they also had to have a solid avalanche training background.”
Finding just the right combo could be difficult, so the company decided to take new a route—it hired its first intern, with help from a wage subsidy from Columbia Basin Trust. “We wanted somebody that we could start young and fresh,” Lajeunesse says. The person would have some skills and experience, “but then we could teach them what they needed to know to fill the position. And so we figured an intern was the perfect option.”
Time for training
Dan Rohn was the successful candidate. From Canmore, Alberta, he grew up in the mountains with parents who worked in the avalanche industry. Also, he had recently earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of British Columbia in geological engineering.
Support from the Trust’s Career Internship Program helped Dynamic afford to bring him on board. This program provides up to 50 per cent of an intern’s salary for full-time, career-focused position that leads to permanent employment.
One of the program’s goals is to help Basin organizations grow by enabling them to offer competitive wages and attract a skilled workforce. In Dynamic’s case, it was able to hire this promising young professional—plus provide the training he needed.
Without the wage subsidy, Lajeunesse says that Dynamic may not have been able to afford to provide Dan with as much training in such a short period of time. For example, Rohn earned his Avalanche Operations Level 2 certificate, gained forecasting experience and learned numerous analytical skills such as avalanche modelling and mapping. “We would have had to put him more on chargeable work,” Lajeunesse says.
Plus, other staff wouldn’t have been able to take so much time out of their schedules to share their knowledge—which means they also earned less revenue. Fortunately, this decrease was offset by having Rohn’s wages partially paid.
Graduates transition into careers
Another goal of the Trust’s Career Internship Program is to help recent graduates find employment in the Basin—increasing their skills as they embark on meaningful careers.
Rohn is thankful for this opportunity. “Everyone else I work with is very experienced in the industry,” he says. “I’m lucky because I’m working with the pros right from the start.”
He appreciates the in-depth training he has received with the Trust’s support. “You can learn a skill while working on a project, and it’s not like you’re blowing the project’s budget because you have this extra funding for the learning time,” he says. “It’s pretty hard to imagine getting all the different skills that everyone here has, in such a short amount of time, without the funding.”
His tasks so far have been widespread. “I like the mix. It’s nice to be able to spend some time in the field and then also do more of the analytical work in the office.” From participating in industrial forecasting projects to getting proficient in new software, his skills have grown exponentially.
A boon to business
Although the pandemic has slowed down Dynamic’s work with international clients, “Our Canadian work has increased immensely,” Lajeunesse says. “We’ve been able to keep our intern and everybody else, which is wonderful.”
Rohn—who started as an intern in August 2019—is now a permanent employee, which means the Trust’s program is working—helping businesses create a skilled workforce that addresses their needs now and into the future.
“The Trust’s Career Internship Program allowed us to get Rohn better trained up a lot faster than we would have otherwise—which makes him more valuable to us a lot faster and helps him further his career a lot faster,” says Lajeunesse. “I would definitely recommend this program to others.”