Everything You Need to Know About Mining
Trade schools and mining
In the mining industry, gone are the days when knowing someone in the mines guaranteed you a job—nowadays, you need technical skills, theoretical background, and a good work ethic to make it in mining.
“We’re typically looking for at least one year of post-secondary before we have people come into the organization,” says Heather Bruce-Veitch, director of external relations for the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) in St. John’s, Newfoundland. “[It gives you] a higher level of skill and more flexibility for us in terms of moving you throughout the [company].”
With this on-going trend in industry, trade schools can be a great place to prepare you for a career in mining.
“A great many [mining jobs] require a technical skill set,” says Katherine Bruce, program coordinator and professor of Mining Engineering Technology at Cambrian College in Sudbury, Ontario. “That isn’t to say that we throw the theoretical part of it out the window, but it’s a smaller component..”
Not only are technical skills and theory important, but soft skills like attention to detail and working well with others are becoming crucial to getting hired.
“Having a good working ethic is becoming more of a requirement than even the technical skills—and we get that straight from industry,” says Bruce. “In our evaluations for each course, we’ve allotted a percentage of marks based on our observations of the professional conduct of students.”
Small class sizes help create an interactive environment—at Cambrian College, labs are capped at 20 students—and many programs partner closely with industry to help students be better equipped to find jobs after graduation.
“We have a program advisory committee at Cambrian College … made up of industry persons who act as advisors [and provide] suggestions on what we can do to improve the outcome for our students,” says Bruce. “As far as employment goes, [our faculty, recruiters, and employment office] have very strong ties to industry and we utilize our personal contacts from industry to secure positions for our students.”
Jacob Viitamaki, a recent graduate of the Blasting Techniques program at Sir Sandford Fleming College in Lindsay, ON, notes the benefits of the practical experience gained at trade school. “In the program you actually get to practice what you study, handling explosives and the devices to monitor explosions,” he says. “[It’s] helped me be prepared for a job as a blaster or even a blasting related industry, such as monitoring.”
Once you’re working, trade school can also be a great way of getting additional training. Paul Audette, a construction and maintenance electrical apprentice in Gogama, Ontario is currently enrolled in trade school to get his red seal electrical ticket. “Now that I am working out in the real world, I can apply what I am learning [in trade school] to what I am doing at work,” says Audette.
There are many summer positions available for students in mining programs. According to Bruce-Veitch, every year IOC hires between 120-150 postsecondary students at a base rate of $26/hour. These positions can help students transition into the workforce after graduation. The industry has also become much more inclusive, and operational roles aren’t just for manual labourers anymore.
“Trades have changed significantly over the years,” says Bruce-Veitch. “A lot of businesses have engineered methods and technology to try to reduce or alleviate things like heavy lifting or heavy manual work.”
According to Bruce, for someone with the skill set and the determination, operational roles can open up countless opportunities. “If you want to work in South America or in the Arctic, or if you want to go to Africa or Mongolia, then mining is for you,” she says. “To make that happen, you’re going to need a credential, and a great place to get that credential is going to be a technical school.”