Confederation College prepares future mining workforce – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – September 12, 2013)

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Ottawa is supporting Aboriginal training in preparation for coming development in the Far North. The federal government’s Skills and Partnership Fund is allocating more than $5.9 million for employment training in the mining sector for people in the nine communities of the Matawa First Nations.

It’s part of a new Ring of Fire Aboriginal Alliance announced by Ottawa, Matawa, the Kiikenomaga Kikenjigewen Employment and Training Services (KKETS), Confederation College and Noront Resources, a junior miner working in the James Bay lowlands.

This fall, nine specialized training and six pre-trade courses will be made available for Matawa members with many delivered in their home communities and Thunder Bay.

The training programs include: mining essentials, environmental monitoring, basic line cutting, security guard, remote camp cook, remote camp support, underground common core, underground diamond drill helper and heavy equipment operator. The pre-trades programs are in carpentry, electrical, plumbing, welding, heavy duty equipment mechanic and construction craft worker.

Depending on the program, the length of training will vary from five to 20 weeks. KKETS will be registering students as early as October while Confederation will be assessing applicant qualifications and delivering the training.

Don Bernosky, Confederation’s executive director of skills development, said the programs listed represented occupations that are in immediate demand or will be shortly. Many of these jobs will be available through Noront Resources and its Eagle’s Nest nickel-copper-development in the Ring of Fire.

Bernosky said the door is open for the Ontario government and other mining companies to participate.

“As Cliffs (Natural Resources) continues down the road as part of their environmental assessment, there’s a spot at the table for them.”

Organizers expect 260 to be trained and 196 trainees to enter the workforce through the training alliance.

Bernosky said those numbers were based on Noront’s upcoming schedule of work. “We know there’s going to be some natural attrition in both KKETS and Confederation College employment services. Not everybody’s going to want to work in that particular field so we’ll provide other pathways for them.”

The funds will cover tuition, training costs and services for students such as travel, income and child support. Confederation is also teaming up with Northern College to share delivery of programming from the Haileybury School of Mines.

Graduates from Confederation’s one-year mining techniques certificate program will be able to enter the third semester of Northern’s mining engineering technician diploma program now being delivered in Thunder Bay.

College president Jim Madder said a number of Confederation students had been looking for further training and were traveling to Northern or to Cambrian College in Sudbury.

“But a number just said they couldn’t travel so they ended up not being able to continue their studies.” The program begins this September in Thunder Bay as a pilot with the intent to spin it out to the eight satellite campuses.

Thunder Bay’s recent mining readiness report indicates Confederation has a huge role to play with workforce development.

“The Ring of Fire gets the publicity but the number of mines that are developing from Kenora to Wawa, from Fort Frances to the James Bay, is pretty substantial,” said Madder. “We’ve got hundreds of jobs open so we’re getting that message out that there are jobs in mining and you don’t have to wait three to five years for the Ring of Fire to move ahead. They’re there right now.”