New Programs Target Aboriginal and First Nations Youth for Mining Careers
SECTION: NEW GENERATION'S CORNER
It is not news that mining, one of Canada's most productive industrial sectors, will face a serious skills shortage in the next decade. What is worth notice is that the public and private sector have been working hard to minimize the consequences of the lack of skilled workers that Canada and the world will face.
One of the latest initiatives, an interactive tool named "The Earth Series," targets Aboriginal youth to attract them into mineral exploration and mining careers.
With mining companies preparing big plans for development in the James Bay "Ring of Fire," training a local workforce for the future to build and service these developments is of paramount importance.
To get a head start, the Ontario Mineral Industry Cluster Council (OMICC) and Sudbury's Cambrian College have collaborated to take a fresh and long-term approach to keep the pipeline of skilled workers filled for generations to come.
Part of their strategy is to give career guidance to young people on what kind of jobs are available in the mining sequence, beginning at the prospecting stage and following through to mine development.
This spring, an interactive website will be launched in tandem with printed material targeting seventh and eighth graders because they are starting to make decisions about courses and directions to take in high school.
"We have been working on this project for approximately two years [and we have] faced many challenges, from the amount of time that has passed between the conception of the idea and the completion of the media materials, to securing funding for the development of the promotional materials, including consulting with and gaining the support of Aboriginal communities, as well as ensuring that the materials are sensitive to and connect with Aboriginal cultural realities," says OMICC executive director Indira Singh.
The public and private sector are working hard to minimize the consequences of the lack of mining professionals that Canada and the world will face in the next decade.
The Earth Series print material and a Mining in Mind interactive website will map out what kinds of jobs are available and what skills are needed.
Singh explains the interest in Aboriginal youth as a natural choice, since this group is "incredibly youthful" as well as the fastest growing demographic group in Canada.
"Aboriginal communities are often located on or near areas of mineral potential. This reality makes of them the only local workforce that can be recruited for all phases of the mineral cycle, from exploration to remediation. Besides, there is a long history of collaboration and cooperation between these communities and the mineral industry, as evidenced by the fact that the mineral industry is the largest private sector employer of Aboriginal people," says Singh.
She adds that for Aboriginal communities to comprehend and be more responsive to what mining and exploration is all about, they must understand what jobs are available.
The idea of marketing these careers to elementary-aged schoolchildren emerged from OMICC and its Aboriginal working committee.
Cambrian president Sylvia Barnard, an OMICC member, suggested the Wabnode Centre for Aboriginal Services take up the cause and it came up with the Earth Series theme.
The college has been quietly working on this project for two years with feedback and insight from Aboriginal youth, communities and elders.
"The community consultation and the validation of the material were quite lengthy," said Helmer. "There was no point in announcing anything until we received sanction from the Aboriginal community that this is something that will work and make a difference."
Job cards identify 85 careers covering the entire gamut of the industry such as metallurgy, health and safety, trucking, crane operation, production, accounting, human resources and public affairs.
"The concept focuses around the values of Aboriginal people and the connection to the land that everything comes from the Earth," says Joyce Helmer, chairman of the Wabnode Centre for Aboriginal Services at Sudbury's Cambrian College.
The resource material will accompany Cambrian recruiters when they take to the road this spring for career fairs and presentations.
Aboriginal human resource development is a very hot topic among mining companies and colleges in Northern Ontario and Canada generally, and various initiatives are underway.
Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership
In British Columbia, the mineral exploration and mining industry, First Nations communities and organizations, together with educational and government partners recently created an Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership (ASEP). This committee will run a three-year program providing skills training in the northwest and central interior regions of British Columbia.
Indira Singh acknowledges that funding for Aboriginal post-secondary education, training, skills development and apprenticeships is fairly limited in Ontario. However, she thinks that being sensitive to the cultural needs of Aboriginal students and providing additional funding and support to district school boards that have large Aboriginal student populations is equally important.
The BC Aboriginal Minerals and Mining Training Program (BC AMTA) and its partners will provide training-to-employment plans that cover a broad range of opportunities, including academic upgrading, job specific training and apprenticeships, retention counselling and other on the job support.
"The partners are committed to ensuring that Aboriginal people fully share in economic opportunities created by the mineral exploration and mining industry. Through this partnership, Aboriginal people in British Columbia will have access to skills training [that will enable them] to participate in the exploration and mining industry, and industry will benefit from accessing a quality pool of workers," says Laureen Whyte, Chair of the British Columbia Aboriginal Mine Training Association.
The mining-specific Aboriginal skills and employment partnership is the result of collaboration between fifteen partners who will share the cost of investment funding. The 30-month program will cost a total of CD$ 27.1 million dollars, with Human Resources and Skills Development Canada contributing CD$ 4.4 million dollars to the program, and private contributions from Industry and Associations accounting for CD$ 22.7 million dollars.
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