Mount Polley’s Paul Allan (left) and Gibraltar’s John Purdy helped to supervise the Heavy Metal Rocks program this spring.

Mount Polley’s Paul Allan (left) and Gibraltar’s John Purdy helped to supervise the Heavy Metal Rocks program this spring.

Mines provide educational opportunities

One of the newest education projects initiated by local mines and School District 27 is a pilot project.

One of the newest education projects initiated by local mines and School District 27 is a pilot project that provides secondary students with work experience at Mount Polley Mine and Gibraltar Mine.

Both mines had students job shadowing at the mines earlier this year and a new program will expand the concept to other mines and mine head offices, says Gordon Armour, who chairs the education sub-committee of the B.C. Mineral Exploration and Mining Industry Labour Shortage Task Force.

Armour is also the School District 27 coordinator for transition, training and trades.

Armour says School District 27 is extremely pleased with the support shown for the program by Gibraltar and Mount Polley in providing students with opportunities to explore potential careers.

“As a result of the success seen in the Williams Lake area in working with the mining industry, the task force has developed a program called Career Links that provides other school districts around the province funding support to create working partnerships with mines in their area,” Armour says.

As a result of another pilot project of the mining task force, Armour says that he is extremely pleased with the “agreement in principle” that has been obtained to place students completing foundation training through the district’s ACE-IT programs delivered at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake into employment at the two mines in order to accumulate 480 hours of on the job training, with hours going toward their apprenticeship work-based training hours.

He says the district is currently in the process of formalizing the hiring of the first two heavy duty mechanics students with Mount Polley mines.

The mining task force is also promoting jobs in the mining industry in numerous other ways.

Although provincial funding for the Yes 2 IT program that provides awareness to students in grades 6 to 9 had run out for the 2011/12 school year, Armour says Gibraltar and Mount Polley mines choose to continue to provide equipment, and staff once a year to give Grade 7 students experience in trades.

The program is offered in partnership with the mines and support of community businesses that are suppliers to the local mines. Annually 80-plus Grade 7 students spend a day in the trades programs at TRU in Williams Lake, interacting with post secondary students, and trades people from the mines in five different areas making projects and learning more about these careers.

“Both local mines, in partnership again with their suppliers also provide machinery and equipment, supplies and personnel to provide Grade 11 and 12 students the opportunity to experience operating heavy equipment over a three-and-a-half day period (Heavy Metal Rocks),” Armour says.

He says the education committee was also instrumental developing  Mining Your Future, an informational resource on mining for Planning 10 students that contains lessons and resource material for teachers.

Currently approximately 100 copies of the resource binder have been distributed to 10 school districts as part of a pilot project.

Teaching materials and videos clips of people working in the mining industry are also being developed for students in grades 5 to 7.

Made in BC brochures on mining industry jobs, featuring B.C. workers, training information and industry information have also been produced and circulated.

Last year, Armour says the task force ran a mining blog, inviting secondary and post secondary students to become actively involved. Those school groups participating in the blogs had the opportunity to win prizes.

A new initiative is the creation of a series of eight 30-minute films about careers in mining that will run at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday mornings on CTV this September and October, Armour says. The series (filmed between May and August) will showcase 24 jobs related to mining operations and exploration; city and remote sites; suppliers; safety and protection of the environment; jobs for men, women, ethnic and age diversity in mining.

Special initiatives are being developed to encourage First Nations students and women to consider careers in mining, Armour says.

In addition to the more well known trades of electrician, welder, millwright/heavy equipment mechanic, and mining engineers all sorts of other interesting job postings can be found on mine job sites such as lab technician, community affairs manager, contract miner, development miner, diamond driller, environmental coordinator, environmental technician, geological modeler, geological technician, geologist, geomatics specialist, health and safety co-ordinator, mechanical and metallurgical engineers, minerals processing operator, prospector, sales/management, training co-ordinator, training instructor/group leader, underground miner, virtual reality modeler.

Armour says the task force is also supporting national efforts in the development of a credentialing system for occupations in the mining industry for which skills are acquired through on-the-job training in the categories of underground miner, surface miner, and mineral processing operations.

The goal has been to develop a program that provides consistency of training; competency on a national and provincial level; transferrable skills; and safe operating practices.

Pilot  programs are happening  at the Greenhills Coal Mine, Highland Valley Copper, and Kemess Mine. Results of these programs will be reviewed this year with the goal of expanding the pilot programs to other mines, Armour says.