College celebrates 1,000 employed mining grads

College celebrates 1,000 employed mining grads
From left, federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney, mine training grad Conan Zoe and Aurora College president Jane Arychuk celebrate 1,000 students turned miners.Photo: Bill Braden.

Aurora College and the NWT Mine Training Society celebrated an important milestone last week, announcing that 1,000 students have not only successfully graduated from the mine training programs, but have now obtained full-time employment.

Conan Zoe, a Tlicho student based in Yellowknife, was honoured last Thursday at a special event at Aurora College featuring federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney.

Zoe was one of 11 students to enroll in the underground mine training program offered through Aurora College by the Mine Training Society last March in Behchoko.

Last August, Zoe was offered a training position at Rio Tinto’s Diavik diamond mine, where he received his certification as a Level 1 underground miner.

He was hired full-time in January, becoming the thousandth student assisted by the Mine Training Society to receive full-time employment in the sector.

Zoe thanked the program for supporting young people like himself to build their skills and get hired.

“They really helped us every step of the way, writing our resumes and going out there and looking for work, and we got hands-on training in heavy equipment,” he said. “I’d just like to thank everybody for the opportunity you guys have given me. Now I’ve got full-time employment.”

While at the college, Kenney was treated to a try of the new underground mining simulator, with the coaching expertise of Zoe.

Mine training graduate Conan Zoe (back) coaches federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney on how to use the underground mining simulator at Aurora College in Yellowknife.

Photo: Bill Braden

Mine training graduate Conan Zoe (back) coaches federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney on how to use the underground mining simulator at Aurora College in Yellowknife.

The simulator is one of many programming aspects obtained through a partnership with the Mine Training Society, a cooperative enterprise that has won national and territorial awards.

Aurora College president Jane Arychuk said in addition to the underground miner courses and mineral process operator program, the college will now also be offering a new program this spring developed in partnership with the Mine Training Society to train geoscience field assistants.

“These programs, plus a wide variety of skills and service-based courses, have helped to create a skilled workforce for the mining industry in the Northwest Territories,” she said.

Kenney said the training provided by the college and society partnership will only become more valuable as mining activity increases in the territory, where skilled labour is already in shortage.

“In much of Northern Canada, we are looking at hundreds of billions of dollars in investments in mining, commodities, resources and related infrastructure, which together over the next decade or so represent hundreds of thousands of potential jobs,” he said.

Economic growth in the NWT is projected to be 3 per cent in 2015 and 8 per cent in 2016 with the advent of new mines, each requiring hundreds of employees. That’s one of the reasons the federal government pledged $5.8 million last year to the Mine Training Society, the minister said.

“We want to make sure that the Northern economy is an economy in which Northerners fully participate, making good livings, taking care of their families, giving back to their communities,” Kenney said.

“We don’t want to develop a Northern economy that’s all about flying people in and flying them out to do the work that is here…We want the people who’ve been unemployed or underemployed to be first in line to accept those jobs that will be opening up in the future.”

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