Life at BCIT: How a co-op led to a career as a heavy-duty mechanic

Four days after completing her Heavy Duty Truck Technology diploma, Kaiya Greenfield, Métis Nation, started her dream job as a service technician at Inland Kenworth, a commercial truck dealership. She got to know the culture and work-life at Kenworth through a 15-week paid co-op term which was part of her curriculum. The program’s faster pace delivers the first three levels of common core apprenticeship training so that students can get into more advanced tasks like engine repairs when they enter their co-op. “I am a hands-on learner,” says Kaiya, “I like to troubleshoot and diagnose problems.” Learning at the BCIT Motive Power Centre of Excellence and working at her co-op gave her that experience.

Specialized training that launches careers

The 20-month intensive program provides in-depth diagnostic skills that go beyond the National Red Seal Occupational Standards, as well as getting students credit for their first three levels of a full-time apprenticeship. They also receive specific technical training endorsed by manufacturers. “The extra knowledge gives us an advantage,” Kaiya explains about her co-op work term, “I didn’t have to start at the bottom and got right into the things I enjoy most, like engine and transmission rebuilds.”

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Kaiya’s passion for heavy-duty mechanics was sparked as a child in her hometown of Prince George where she spent hours helping her grandfather, a wheel loader mechanic, work on his machine. In high school, her mechanics’ teacher noticed her mechanical aptitude and recommended she apply to BCIT. Upon getting accepted, she journeyed to her new home in Metro Vancouver.


Kaiya reflects that her peers and instructors have always had her back during her time learning at BCIT and working in her co-op. Early in the program, she began to feel like she was falling behind. Her Heavy Equipment Instructor Carl Jaggernath noticed this and asked how he might help. Together they came up with a plan, which provided her with the support she needed to catch up and excel at her studies.

“Kaiya is a hard worker who came here to learn,” observes Carl. “With the small class sizes, we get to know our students. When I see a student that needs help, I do my best to support them and connect them with resources, like the BCIT Learning Hub, that will help them succeed,” he explains.


Industry connections enhance learning and leadership in emerging technologies

In fact, the collaborative nature of the Heavy Mechanical Trades department is vital on many levels. As the Canadian Government pushes the shift towards zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles, working directly with industry to train the technicians is paramount in this rapidly changing sector. For this reason, the program includes coursework on Emerging Technologies. Additionally, the curriculum is endorsed by industry manufacturers, who supply their manuals and instructional videos to help the students understand the complex technical mechanics of their equipment.

“Employment prospects for graduates of this program are excellent,” says Bruce Thompson, Associate Dean, Motive Power. “So far, all our students in this program have returned from their co-op placements with job offers. The employers have been very impressed with the quality of graduates from our diploma programs.” This is due to both the high level of industry knowledge that the students gain during their studies, as well as the strong ties with industry partners who endorse and support the curriculum.

Kaiya can envision a future that includes autonomous EV trucking, hydrogen-powered trucks, or mining vehicles that use regenerative braking to power electric batteries. These technologies are on the horizon, and the program has given her a head start on how to safely move forward as the technology evolves. Currently, Kaiya says she loves her new job, “It’s hard work, but it’s fulfilling.”

About Life at BCIT Series:

The Life at BCIT Series depicts moments in the lives of students each contributing uniquely to the richness and diversity of the BCIT community. Follow along on BCIT News to get a glimpse into the lives of BCIT students. Visit our Future Students page to learn more about studying at BCIT.


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