Aug 05, 2022News
Teal Jones supports Gerrit Bittner’s education and certification, shares values of respect for First Nations and the land
Over the last five years Gerrit Bittner has earned a place on the team engineering as Teal Jones manages the forests in the eastern Fraser Valley. Today, he’s on his way to a hard-won certification that will allow him to take on a key leadership role in the work.
A member of the Wuikinuxv First Nation from the Bella Coola area, Gerrit, 29, earned a two-year diploma in Environmental Resource Technology from the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology in June, 2022. That allowed him to register with the Association of BC Forest Professionals as a Trainee Forest Technologist, which will take at least two more years of hard work under the guidance of Teal Jones’ Registered Professional Forester Calvin Lee.
Once a certified Registered Forest Technologist, Gerrit will have the depth of training and experience needed to lead a team determining where and how roads and bridges should be built, protecting fish-bearing waterways, engineering areas to harvest, and ensuring replanting of seedlings is done correctly.
“It’s not only ensuring great timber for the company but keeping everyone safe and protecting the environment,” he says. “There are so many different aspects to the job.”
Teal Jones’ Manager of Engineering and Forestry, John Pichugin, RPF, says Gerrit brings a lot to the team today, and will bring even more as he gains his certification.
“Gerrit’s passion for responsible forestry and his depth of understanding of how to work within First Nations’ traditional territories is reflected in everything he does,” says John. “We’re fortunate to have him on our Fraser Valley Engineering Team, and look forward to him completing his certification and taking on an even bigger role.”
Gerrit first started that work with Teal Jones five years ago when he joined a crew an old work colleague was running out of Spuzzum, near Hope, BC. He spent the first year as a trainee before being allowed to handle some work like taking soil samples and GPS readings independently, under the supervision of a Registered Professional Forester or Technologist.
The work inspired him to learn more. After three years, he left the company to pursue the diploma, returning to work summers. Teal Jones hired him back on full-time as soon as his schooling was complete.
“Teal jones has been fantastic. They’ve allowed me the leeway to go to school and come back in the summer, then hired me back afterwards,” he says. “I can’t say enough nice things about the company.”
One thing that kept Gerrit coming back to Teal Jones was the company’s respect for First Nations people, culture, and land.
“They hire on a lot of First Nations people from the areas where we’re working. The company’s respect for our beliefs and our culture really shines through for someone like me,” he says. The company’s approach was brought home early in his time with the company. Gerrit was part of a crew planning a cut block in the Boston Bar area. They came across and ‘old Indigenous trail’ that turned out to have cultural significance. Company brass decided to drop the cut block and leave the area untouched. It’s typical of their approach.
“Out of any company I’ve worked for Teal Jones has been the best in respecting First Nations people,” Gerrit says.
Getting to this point in his career hasn’t been easy for Gerrit. When going to school he spent his weeks living near campus in Merritt, returning home to be with his wife and 5 year old son on weekends. It was hard. But, he got through it with the goal of providing a better life for his family while gaining education that will allow him to play a key role in working the land in a responsible and respectful manner – with a company that shares those values.
“It’s everything,” he says. “It’s what I’ve been working for my entire career with Teal Jones. I’ve never really enjoyed a job before. It was always just work. Instantly, when I learned about this forestry engineering and started working out there I was just enthralled by it. I continually wanted to get better and better at it. So I looked into Registered Forest Technician almost immediately, early on. I wanted to make it my career.”