High-School Mining Education in Sudbury – Sofia Gallagher

Students from Rainbow District School Board at a Vale Inco facility in Sudbury - Photo SuppliedImagine yourself in Grade 12 again. What do you remember? Did part of your schooling include visiting an underground mine and witnessing the various career opportunities available there? Do you remember receiving certification awareness training at a local employer, alongside other workers in the plant? Upon graduation, were you able to say that you had the skills and knowledge to pursue your postsecondary destination of choice, had spent time shadowing the types of jobs you were interested in, and had acquired a number of certifications that made you more appealing to employers?

These opportunities are now being provided to our youth thanks to a new Ministry of Education initiative – the Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM). This program, launched in September 2006, is part of the Student Success Initiative, a province-wide strategy to expand learning opportunities for students and support success for all.

Students enrolled in a SHSM focus their learning on a specific economic sector while meeting the requirements for their secondary school diploma (OSSD). The program is designed to help students prepare for the transition from secondary school to apprenticeship training, college, university, or the workplace. A SHSM enables students to gain sector-specific skills and knowledge in a learning environment that is hands-on and career-focused.

The Rainbow District School Board in Sudbury is the first school board in Ontario to offer the SHSM in Mining. It includes the following required components:
• a defined bundle of Grade 11 and Grade 12 credits for each of the four pathways to postsecondary destinations — apprenticeship training, college, university, and the workplace
• sector-recognized certifications and training, including First Aid, CPR, WHMIS, confined space awareness and fall arrest
• experiential learning within the sector
• “reach ahead” experiences in the student’s postsecondary destination of choice,  such as participation in the Mining and the Environment conference, among others
• development of essential skills and work habits required in the sector, with documentation in the Ontario Skills Passport (OSP)

Over the next 10 years, the mining industry estimates that it will require some 92,000 workers due to a strong economy and an aging workforce. These figures make the SHSM in Mining relevant and timely.

A total of 45 students from Lively District Secondary School and Lockerby Composite School are the first cohort to sign up for the SHSM in Mining being offered by Rainbow District School Board. The students are currently completing an “Introduction to Mining course”, part of the bundle of courses required in the program. Students will gain a better understanding of the mining industry, from exploration and mine development, to mineral processing and product refining. They will earn certifications and develop habits to become safe, responsible workers. They will work alongside mentors in the industry through co-operative education placements.

The mining industry has an important role to play in transferring the skills and knowledge of their existing workforce to their future workforce. The SHSM is giving the mining industry a unique opportunity to nurture its next generation of workers.

Sudbury’s mining community has been actively involved in defining the SHSM. The Steering Committee includes representatives from over 40 local mining related companies, postsecondary institutions and community organizations. These companies are providing invaluable support to teachers with resources, training and tours of local mining related operations.

Steering Committee members are also sharing their expertise in the development of the curriculum, ensuing that resource materials are authentic and that the program is preparing students for their postsecondary destinations.

As the mining industry continues to experience unprecedented growth, the need for skilled workers will become that much more critical. Through the Specialist High Skills Major, companies are inspiring young people to choose mining as a viable career option. Schools, in turn, are exposing students to relevant learning experiences in an exciting field of work.

Sofia Gallagher works for the Rainbow District School Board as the Coordinator for Technological Studies (7-12) and Lead on Specialist High Skills Major Mining.