The British Columbia Aboriginal Mine Training Association celebrated two important milestones Tuesday.
The organization officially opened a new office in downtown Williams Lake and accepted the 2013 BC Mining HR Diversity Award in partnership with New Afton New Gold.
Zoe Younger, Mining Association of BC vice-president, said it’s great to see the community embracing mining and the aboriginal training program.
“We’re here to celebrate in the community the meaningful success of the partnership between BCAMTA and New Gold,” Younger said. “As importantly, the success of that partnership is now being replicated across B.C. and evidence of that is here today as we celebrate the grand opening of the BCAMTA office in Williams Lake.”
Younger said when she joined the mining association five years ago, one of the first things she was asked to do was to work in partnership with the Association of Mineral Exploration to write a proposal and hopefully receive funding for a B.C. aboriginal mine training association.
After she and a lot of people performed some “mental gymnastics” the funding was approved.
“I had no idea that it was going to grow to be this,” she reflected, adding she was fortunate to be a part of turning an idea into reality.
Commending the mine training association CEO Laurie Sterritt and her “cracker jack” team for giving the organization its “wings to fly,” Younger said the new office in Williams Lake is one more place where successes can be duplicated.
Jill Tsolinas, HR Diversity co-chair, said it’s diversity that produces better outcomes.
The award was designed to discover who is fostering diversity, she explained. It recognizes organizations that have showcased an outstanding commitment to encouraging and supporting diversity in the work place.
While 2013 marks the first year the award has been given out, Younger said it will be awarded annually.
“It’s a distinguished honour to recognize the first winners. Management at BCAMTA and New Gold showcased their commitment to eliminate barriers to employment for First Nations and the advancement of Aboriginal people through that partnership.”
The success rate of the mine training organization is evident and unsurpassed, with a 93 per cent retention rate for candidates placed through the program, Younger said.
“A “whopping” 24 per cent of New Gold’s staff is self-identified Aboriginal.”
Len Jackson, director of operations for the mine training association, said the organization recently celebrated its 500th hire.
“We have also been able to ascertain that we’ve increased the annual average wage of our candidates by more than $40,000,” he said. “The BCAMTA Waterhouse Cooper report that will be released later this month will show that the average candidate’s salary prior to BCAMTA was $13,754 and the average salary after training is $52,959.”
While Jackson believes his organization and mining companies have developed a formula that works, he said it didn’t happen overnight.
“It was about going to New Gold, trying to establish what it was that we wanted to do, trying to understand who the employer is, but none of this happens without our First Nations partners.”
It’s really about communication, Jackson said, adding he thinks there will be more successes. Taseko Mines Ltd. is providing an in-kind donation of a space for the new office on the floor where it leases offices space in the 100 block of Second Avenue North.
“The donation of a space makes it possible for us to do what we do,” Sterritt said. “We’ve been able to create an efficient space where our candidates can come and feel comfortable or work in the computer lab. Taseko’s giving us our start here and we really appreciate it.”