Jeremy Ouillette, Kasteel's occupational health and safety supervisor, watches as a student practises putting on a safety harness during a fall protection class. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
Kasteel Construction and Coatings’ Safety and Training Division has launched a full slate of training courses for northerners, with a goal of building capacity across the NWT.
Courses include training for high-angle rescue, first aid, fall protection, confined spaces, aerial work platforms, qualitative and quantitative fit testing, chainsaw safety awareness and sawmill training.
There are also courses on the operation of skid steers, forklifts, loaders and telehandlers, plus the Yellowknife-based company runs a women in trades program with the Mine Training Society.
The company has come a long way, said president Trevor Kasteel, since it was founded 18 years ago “with a little four-door red Dodge Neon car, stuffing two-by-fours from the back window to the front seat.”
Today, Kasteel has around 50 employees and is known for work such as spray foam, concrete coatings, steel coatings – and the training courses it can now offer.
Kasteel said the company is always looking at the latest training and technology it can offer northerners. The company is COR certified and has partnerships with the Canadian Red Cross, Leavitt Machinery, 3M, and the Mine Training Society, as well as relationships with Indigenous governments across the NWT.
“We actually really never knew where we were going, and how we were going to get there,” said Kasteel of the company’s early days.
“But we certainly did know our purpose – to use this company to make it as powerful, and credible, and as strong as possible, and to spread as much kindness and goodness, and use it as a tool to do that.
“We’re a company that wants northerners to grow and northerners to train northerners. We just care about people and we want the best for people, as well as growing ourselves.”
Jeremy Ouillette, Kasteel’s occupational health and safety supervisor,works with the company’s safety and training teams.
“Everyone who walks through the door for any training – or if we’re going to their front door for the training – they can feel confident and comfortable with the training that they’re receiving. They know the people that are giving them the training actually care that their lives are changed or improved,” Ouillette said.
“That’s the ultimate goal – to build their capacity, give them confidence, and truly just try and grow people into positions and into situations that they want to be in, and jobs that they want to be doing; giving them the opportunity to feel confident and comfortable enough to do them.”
Ouillette was one of Kasteel’s first trainers, starting in the role seven or eight years ago.
The company was doing work at an NWT mine and was required to have employees certified. But sending Ouillette to learn how to become a trainer proved an easier and more flexible solution than hiring an external trainer.
In turn, hosting training courses became a business opportunity rather than an expense, and Kasteel opened its training to a broader market.
Less than a decade later, the company has a new room for Yellowknife-based training and offers courses across the North.
“All of the course offerings we have right now are stuff that we can pack up into a truck, or pack onto a plane, and go to a community and offer these trainings,” explained Ouillette.
“There’s nothing that excludes anyone in the North from receiving this training. Whether it’s for their personal or professional advancement, it’s available to people in any and every community.”
Traditionally, Kasteel said, fly-in contractors work in a community then leave without taking the extra step of explaining how something is supposed to be used or maintained.
He wants his company to be of the opposite mindset.
“There needs to be growth in the communities, even into leadership positions,” he said.
“It’s caring about the human being next to you. And it’s taking that into business and doing what’s right.”
“In the end,” said Ouillette, “if we’re not helping them, what are we doing?”
The training the company offers has the potential to save lives, he said, crediting a women in trades course – provided in partnership with the Mine Training Society – with helping to launch Kasteel’s training division.
“That helped us get going, and we have put on the Usain Bolt running shoes and not turned back ever since then,” he said.
“It’s just been go, go, go for the past three years, and it’s been an excellent opportunity to meet a lot of really wonderful people across the North. Sometimes it’s been hard but it’s always, always been rewarding.”
Ouillete recalled training one woman who was afraid of heights in a fall protection course.
“We showed her how to be safe at work at heights, and then, by the end of the program, she was up on the roof of the greenhouse that we built, screwing down sheets of the metal roofing,” he said.
“You see that type of growth, and you see that type of change in people, and it doesn’t happen just because we said it’s OK. They have to feel that comfort level. They have to know that people have got their back.”
While courses are often run for businesses or organizations, Kasteel and Ouillette said courses are also available to the public.