DOING SOME DIGGING Further Reflections on Canadian Mining Schools

Now that our readers have the October CMJ in hand and have perused the article by Brian O'Hara about Canadian minin...


Now that our readers have the October CMJ in hand and have perused the article by Brian O'Hara about Canadian mining schools, they will know that we were stymied when we originally set out to determine the "best" one in the country. Perhaps the colleges and universities are reticent because of what they feel is unfair treatment in other ranking studies. Or perhaps their reluctance stems from the purely Canadian trait of not wanting to say anything bad about another institution. Either way, CMJ wishes to thank all of them for their support in producing the article.

Our correspondent was, however, left with several observations and a few questions following his research.

"One aspect which was surprising was the unpredictable nature of student enrollment. Industry and mining schools were surprised at the sudden increase in the space of a few months, when very little had changed," O'Hara said. "My interpretation of this is students making decisions about long-term commitments such as the choice of a career do not move on short-term changes in industries or disciplines. They do wait for confirmations of industry trends. Students are especially aware of the summer or co-op opportunities for mining students. Apparently there were six students working with BHP Diamonds out of Yellowknife on a two-week-in and two-week-out basis. It's not difficult to imagine how quickly fellow students would find out about the money and experience obtained by these mining students.

"Also what is surprising is that suddenly mining is being actively selected by students. At two universities (UBC and U of T), students are required to select up to five choices for engineering disciplines. Two years ago, both mining departments had one or two students selecting mining as first choice. This year both departments were astounded to find 24 students and 20 students selecting mining as first choice. A remarkable turnaround. Both of these universities did surveys of the incoming class, however there are no conclusive reasons for the big increase. The students are selecting mining for the same reasons as existing students. There is no specific mention of increased job opportunities," he noted. But the experience of two schools is not an accurate survey.

O'Hara also came away from his research with several questions:

Why, when the salary differential is a mere $2,000-$4,000 more with an advanced degree, are there so many post-graduate students? Are they all planning careers in research?

Should mineral processing be included as a "mining" discipline? Some schools do include it, some don't.

Why was the CIM's education committee disbanded? Without it there appears to be no mining industry representation at the national level for issues involving mining education. Where is the voice of industry?

The debate over whether co-op or regular programs produce the best mining engineers continues. Is it better to have work experience as a student or to graduate sooner?

And finally, O'Hara discovered that about a 50% of mining engineers leave the industry after 10 years. In the first three or four years, 30% leave. "Should there not be closer study of the reasons for this turnover, rather than keep training mining engineers to leave the industry?", he asks.

Good question. Do any of our readers have the answers?


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