By Jack Caldwell

Here are some of the coursesyou can take in exploration and mining at the Northwest Community College, School of Exploration & Mining:

  • Surface Diamond Driller’s Helper Program
  • Mining Exploration Field Assistant Pre-Employment Training
  • Drill Core Technician Basic Training
  • Environmental Monitor Assistant Program
  • Camp Management Training
  • Prospector Basic Training
  • Metal Leaching Acid Rock Drainage

At Roundup 09, the College has a booth that is well looked after by teachers and students, past and present, of the College. I chatted this morning to some of them, including Vanessa Prince, Charmagne Moise, and Kirby Muldoe.

Vanessa told me that she had worked for the forestry industry, but like so many was laid off. So she attended the College this summer to do the Environmental Monitor Program. This year, depending on the courses on offer, she may attend more courses. She is now snow-bound and awaiting the spring to get out and about. Here is how the program she did is described on the College’s website:

Environmental Monitor Assistant Program tent (EMAP) Tailored to the needs of Northern BC, this eight-week training program prepares students for entry-level fieldwork with a focus on environmental monitoring. Based in a remote camp similar to those used in industry, the program features hands-on training delivered by industry-experienced instructors.

Charmagne was a team leader this past summer in the field parts of training programs. She told me she would like to continue to work with students and to become a teacher at the College. She is currently independently studying through the Vancouver Community College.

Kirby told me that he has a major in marketing from the University of Northern BC. He too was a team leader in the summer and now holds down two jobs with the College. He is the First Nations Access Coordinator helping students find funds, accommodation, and whatever it takes to study. His second job is Aboriginal Service Planner and this involves community outreach to establish that the College better serves the community. In this regard he told me the community wants and cannot get enough Environmental Monitors.

I asked them “Why the College” and What can the College do for the community?” The discussion was long and roundabout, but these points emerged:

  • The First Nations students need to be better educated to participate in the consultation processes that exploration and mining companies must undertake.
  • Students need practical skills to enter and stay in the local workforce, be it helicopter pilot, camp manager, or teacher.
  • One day they will be the elders and they need to know as much and more.

I also chatted with Andria Kosalko who heads up the exploration and mining programs. She emphasized the need to provide students with “Cross Industry Training” so they can move from industry to industry as the economy changes and as the needs arise. She seeks to equip the students with transferable skills, and robust abilities.

She told me that about one hundred students will pass through the exploration and mining programs in 2009. She noted with thanks Smithers Exploration Groupthat does a fine job of finding the funding that enables so many students to benefit.

I liked her summary of why she and the other teachers do what they do. She said, and I believe her, that they are in it for the students and the opportunity to make a difference.

These statistics show that she and the rest are doing a fine job:

  • 72 percent of the school’s students are First Nation
  • 85 percent of their graduates are currently employed.

In the current times, I suspect that investment in education and training is more vital than every before. The news this morning said things could get worse than they were in 1982/3. That downturn lead many of us to change our life-styles and careers. We moved and worked far from our basic training. Today, this month, this year, and this economic downturn time, I suspect we will see people forced to once again go far from home to work, change careers and do things they were not initially trained for. But we all survived because we were trained in the basics, and had been motivated by teachers with patience and insight.

Thus too I opine the teachers and staff of this College are seeking to train students so that they can do the things we are currently not even thinking about, planning, or doing. It is hard to train and to learn what it is so easy to call “the basics.” It has to be done through real things, real situations, real activities, and in real time. But it has to emphasize the basics, the universal, and the fundamental. It is only thus that the student will be equipped to deal with the future that takes them to the status and responsibilities of consultation and being an elder.

I bet the students from this College whom I have talked to these past days will go where we cannot even now envisage or imagine. And they will have the College to thank and to return to and to return the favour to by helping a new generation of students. Good luck to them.