John Antoine has spent his working life outdoors.

A member of the Coldwater Indian Band at Merritt, BC, John has worked in vocations such as forestry and utility construction. In 2016, he ran equipment for a contractor on a pipeline safety inspection near Hope for the Trans Mountain Pipeline — and discovered he had an interest in other aspects of pipeline work as well.

Recently he took advantage of an opportunity to learn about pipeline construction in detail — and pursue a front-line job as an Aboriginal monitor during construction of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.

John was one of 14 Aboriginal students who recently graduated from an Aboriginal Monitor Training Program sponsored by Trans Mountain. It included training in environmental field skills, archaeology and an introductory session on pipelines.

John’s previous utility experience included work on BC Hydro’s Interior-Lower Mainland (ILM) transmission program from Douglas Lake down to Port Coquitlam.

He said he was pleased there was an opportunity for people living along the TMEP construction route to acquire skills that could lead to a monitoring job on the pipeline Project. The proposed construction route for the Trans Mountain pipeline is near the Coldwater reserve, he noted.

“I missed out on the opportunity for monitoring jobs with ILM  — watching what everybody else was doing and making sure they were doing it right,” John said. “I like working outdoors — all of my work has been outdoors.

“All of the training we got was interesting. I had worked in forestry before — did some forest tech work — so I kind of understood that part. I studied fisheries when I was in high school, so a lot of that was a refresher.”

Lane Antoine said he “quickly signed up” after learning about the Project from his father. “I have a background in forestry already, doing GPS (satellite-based geographic orientation) and block layouts and whatnot for my mom’s company. So a little bit of this was just review.”

The program included certification as a crew supervisor in electrofishing, a technique used by biologists to estimate fish populations in streams. There was training in stream flow measurement, tree surveys and archaeology — including identifying culturally modified trees.

“I like being out on the land, seeing what’s going on. I was thinking I might pursue this more; take a two-year course that focuses on forestry. This course is applicable to it.

Work on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, he added “would be a good experience and a good career start — I’m only 19.”

Tyrone Quinn has spent many years as a railway worker maintaining track and he “decided to try something new.”

“I respect the land and I want to take care of it as best I can. Being out in the mountains is what interests me,” Quinn said. “Everything we learned in the program is important. The group of students was awesome and the instructor was good. Plus, we were learning new things every day.”

He said the program fit with his interest in work on the Trans Mountain Project.  “I went to a job fair in Kamloops, and put my email and resume in with them.”

The program finished on August 25, 2017. Four days later, Quinn had already received an offer of work using his newly acquired GPS and mapping skills to carry out some survey work on cut blocks for a logging operation.