Meeting the training needs of the mining industry now and into the future: Aurora College

In 2017/18, Aurora College underwent an extensive review process to determine how to best position itself in the rapidly evolving landscape of adult and post-secondary education and training. The key recommendation from the review was that Aurora College transform into a polytechnic university that is responsive to the changes in local, regional, and national labour market demands. 

While the new polytechnic university will serve the needs of all territorial industry and stakeholder sectors, there are a number of ways the mining industry will benefit from the transformation. These include new mining-related programs, industry-driven applied research, and the provision of qualified employees with a variety of skills and training. 

Programs will be largely driven by the needs of the NWT labour market. Since mining continues to be an important segment of the NWT’s economy, it makes sense that a new polytechnic would offer programming addressing the industry’s needs – both mine development and mine remediation/reclamation.

In mid-2018, Aurora College opened the Centre for Mine and Industry Training (CMIT) in Fort Smith, which currently offers a variety of programs, including: Introduction to the Mining Industry (six weeks), Surface Miner and Underground Miner (both 14 weeks) and Mineral Process Operator training (12 weeks). Through partnerships with NWT’s diamond mines and the Mine Training Society, paid work experience components are part of full mine training programs. Heavy Equipment Operator (HEO) programs train students on various pieces of heavy equipment pertinent to mining and other industries. Aurora College also delivers the Northern Leadership Development Program in partnership with the mining industry and several NWT employers. 

Once the new strategic plan for 2020-2023 is completed, Aurora College will work with industry experts to determine where, if, and how the polytechnic university can meet their needs. Mining programs at other Canadian institutions such as drilling, blasting, mine development, and reclamation can be adopted or adapted. One idea being explored is to make the NWT a centre of excellence in mine industry training.

A polytechnic university will also afford industry the opportunity to engage in applied research. This applied research – in partnership with a program at the polytechnic university – would be undertaken to address an identified need the mining industry currently faces, either with respect to production, innovation, and/or efficiencies. Research partnerships allow a mining company (or industry organization) the opportunity to apply for federal grants. A polytechnic university in NWT will facilitate industry-driven research innovation and excellence. 

The most significant benefit of a polytechnic university to the mining industry will be the provision of highly-qualified individuals for a variety of roles. Leadership and innovation, business administration, accounting, office administration, human resources, environmental/natural resources monitoring and management, skilled trades and apprenticeships, and technology programs related to the mining industry are just some of the graduates a polytechnic university will provide.

Polytechnic universities across Canada – many of which have had their roots as community colleges – are all about providing training and research to meet the needs of industry and stakeholder groups. This includes local, regional, and to some extent, national industry and stakeholder groups. It is imperative that polytechnic universities work directly and in partnership with industry. For 50 years, Aurora College has forged partnerships with industry and stakeholder groups (including the education and health sectors) to the great benefit of our students and employers. Moving forward, it will continue to be key to working closely with industry through program advisory committees (PACs) composed of representatives from throughout a particular industry or sector. PACs are one example of industry connection that will help Aurora College and the new polytechnic university ensure programs continue to be of high quality and meet the training needs of both industry and students.

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