Growing mining engineers, Montreal-style
“We consider it part of our job to recruit potential students, and to promote mining as a profession,” says Prof. Hani Mitri, who heads up McGill University’s Mining Engineering program. That willingness of professors and students to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty–mainly with cheesy pizza at numerous socials at Quebec’s CEGEPs (colleges)–is very important to the success at Montreal’s English language university, which has by far the largest mining engineering program in eastern Canada.
What is attracting students to mining at McGill, when they seem to be so rare across the rest of the country? As lively as the department’s pizza parties may be, the key comes down to economics.
The joint mining engineering program offered by McGill and its francophone sister university in Montreal, cole polytechnique, offers the lowest tuition of any university in the country at $3,200 per year for Quebec students ($4,500 for out-of-province students). Every student can qualify to receive an entrance award of $3,000 as long as they earned high enough marks from CEGEP or high school. About 20% of the program’s students receive this entrance award each year.
An even bigger incentive is that the program is totally co-op-based, meaning that every undergrad student has a work term in each of the four years of study. The school is committed to finding relevant jobs every year for each student; the work terms may be throughout Canada or further afield, and are generally well-paid. For a first year class of 25, that’s 100 jobs to be found in their four years at McGill. This is a large monetary incentive for students, as well as lots of job-related experience before graduation.
What the Montreal mining engineering program is offering is clearly attracting students. In 2006 there were 95 applicants for those 25 first-year positions, and the number of applicants rose to 129 this year. Interesting that McGill’s very innovative mining engineering program is also the oldest in Canada, dating from 1871.
Of course, the co-op program means that McGill is constantly scrambling to find work term placements. The liaison officer for the Mining Co-op program, Michel Vachon, leans on industry partners to offer students jobs. But there are benefits to being a benefactor: work terms give both students and host companies a chance to gage each other for future employment possibilities.
Says Mitri: “If you are looking to hire a mining engineer straight from university, it’s not good enough to come in the final year and offer a high salary. Planting a seed in a junior student by offering a work term is precious in the student’s memory.”
Partners subsidize McGill’s extensive recruiting activities–even pizza costs money–to attract the best quality students. An advisory board includes association representatives, government, mining companies and consulting firms, both from within Canada and outside. As well, industry partners help support the department’s R&D activities.
The other unique aspect of the program is that it’s a bilingual, interuniversity program, run jointly by McGill and Polytechnique since 1988. Certain courses are taught only at McGill (in English) or at Polytechnique (in French). As every student must learn in both languages, they are proficient in both English and French by the time they graduate. And for those students who want to spend a year studying outside of Montreal, McGill Mining has established exchange programs with universities in Australia.
For more information visit www.mcgill.ca/ minmet/mining.