2012-The College of New Caledonia, in consultation with the mining industry, has developed a new Mining Industry Certificate program that is offered at campuses in five of BC's central interior communities. The Mining Industry Certificate program is an innovative educational program designed to train students for a career in the surface mining industry. It helps ensure local residents have specialized knowledge and skills to access employment opportunities at Fraser Lake's Endako Molybdenum Mine, Houston's Huckleberry Mine and Fort St. James and Mackenzie's Mt. Milligan Copper/Gold Mine amongst many others in development throughout the region.
Designed to train students for a career in the surface mining industry, the MINE program uses heavy equipment simulators that fast track heavy equipment operators to about forty percent proficiency before they are ever on a job site - saving mining companies considerable amounts of training time, and making graduates from this program very desirable to mine operators.. While the heavy-haul truck and front-end loader simulators are key to the program, students develop a full range of skills. By the time they graduate, they have also had on-site training; earned the safety certifications they will require and gained a real-world understanding of what it’s like to work as part of a team at a mine site.
The 16-week program, first offered at the Fort St. James campus, quickly filled up and the response has been consistent as it has been offered at the Burns Lake, Mackenzie and Vanderhoof campuses as well. Course participants have ranged from seventeen year-olds working towards their first job to experienced forestry workers wanting to make the transition to mining. Students include Aboriginals, women and new immigrants.
The program provides much more than heavy equipment operator training, as trainees gain general knowledge about mining operations, receive necessary safety certifications, and are also provided with on-site experience at active mining sites. A portion of this program is transferable to the British Columbia Institute of Technology's Mine Technology Diploma program. This program is aligned to streamline future educational opportunities for local program graduates.
"Student will gain valuable skills that will provide for increased opportunities for jobs in the mining sector. Through this funding, the College of New Caledonia is able to bring advanced technical training to remote communities and to the large number of aboriginal learners in Northern British Columbia."
Lynn Jacques, Vice President Academic, College of New Caledonia
"This program has offered an opportunity to gain further education. It has been designed by industry to meet industry needs. It's a great model where the outcome is jobs!"
Joan Ragsdale, Regional Director, Lakes District Campus
"On the surface, more jobs and an improved economy are what you see here today, but the real benefit is the pride our residents have in our community, knowing we worked together to reshape our future."
Ann McCormick, Fort St. James Campus Supervisor, College of New Caledonia
British Columbia's mining industry is poised for a number of new operating mine startups over the coming decade, and the planned expansion of current operations will also require a significant workforce that will be ideally sourced from within local communities. The College of New Caledonia's Mining Industry Certificate program allows these local graduates to obtain employment from the new mines, and diversify their skillsets to secure employment with existing mining operations as well.
The establishment of this innovative training program is reducing mining companies' dependence on people coming from outside the region to fill newly available positions. With local residents securing well-paying employment at local mining operations, the payrolls from large-scale mining activity in the region will remain in central and northern British Columbia's communities, circulate within local economies, and be further invested in building community infrastructure in the region.
Many people who have years of experience working with heavy machinery in the forestry sector are now being given the opportunity to transfer their skills to mining equipment through this program prior to applying for jobs in the mining sector. This is giving local residents a competitive advantage on many other applicants that are willing to relocate to central and northern BC from other provinces and countries.
A key aspect of the College of New Caledonia's Mining Certificate Program involved active recruitment of aboriginal youth and women in addition to displaced forestry workers. The unique design of the program, CNC's commitment to the program by assigning base funding, and its classroom-based simulator training lowers the cost of offering the course, dramatically reducing the cost of tuition for local residents. This program provides training that has lead to meaningful employment opportunities for these local residents that are often an underemployed segment of the region's population.