After two rain delays, the Municipality of Chatham-Kent’s summer students finally got the chance Wednesday to test out the tractors and tools they’ll be using on the job.McGrail Farm Equipment staff put the student workers from the parks and horticulture department through different scenarios using some of the equipment related to their jobs with the municipality.These tasks included using a compact tractor to scoop up mulch and place it back down on the opposite side of the pile, driving a crossover utility vehicle through an obstacle course and learning how different handheld tools work.The training is for both new summer workers and those who worked during previous summers, said Deb Veccia, supervisor of Chatham parks and horticulture.“Every year, it’s a good refresher for the students to go through the skills and techniques that they need to know when they’re out in the parks systems,” she said.Mulching, weed pulling, and tree and shrub trimming are some of the jobs the students will have this year, she said.Most of the students usually start May 1 and work until close to Labour Day, said Veccia. Training was originally scheduled for May 1, but it and the rain date of May 7 both got rained out.Veccia said some of the summer students had started working in parks across Chatham-Kent ahead of the training, while others haven’t started just yet.The municipality has been working with McGrail since 2012.“We didn’t have the land that they have here to do some of the tractor work that we’d like them to learn,” said Veccia. “They had the equipment right on site and they had the staff that are fully trained and versed in how to use the equipment, and we felt it was a good partnership.”Dan Richards, a sales representative at McGrail, said the company provides the service free of charge.The training stations have been tweaked over the past eight years, he said.“We have some of our students who have helped with the organization over the years and they look at it from the same perspective of the summer students from Chatham-Kent who are getting trained,” he said.“The push has been to give them something that simulates some of the experiences that they’ll have in their workplace.”Laura Polowick, who has worked in horticulture for three summers, said the training sessions have helped “a good amount.”“I didn’t know how to use … the hedge trimmer, the blower, all that kind of stuff,” she said. “You just get to refresh your memory and your skills on trimming the hedges.”Polowick, who is entering teacher’s college after graduating from Western University this year, said while she doesn’t use the tractors on her job, it is still “a good thing to know for the future.”Working for the municipality has led her to meet new people and make connections, she said.“It’s been really good just to allow me to open up and be a part of the municipality,” said Polowick. “It’s good to be an add to the community (and) set an example for other people.”The municipality is employing about 35 summer students for parks and horticultural work this summer, according to Veccia.
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