The October issue of CMJ with its article about educating mining engineers in this country and recent comments in our Net News continue to draw responses from our readers. Although our sample is small, the demands of remote employment and balancing family life is emerging as the major reason people leave the industry.
From Syd De Vries of cyberspace:
"I can tell you from my own experiences that had it not been for my love of mining and a good job, the travelling aspect would have chased me away a long time ago. As you get older, your priorities change and you have to be sensitive to family needs as well as your own. As a result, the mining lifestyle may need to be abandoned if priorities are not being met."
Likewise from Leo Piciacchia:
"I concur with the comments in the article. I have been a mining engineer for 21 years, of which 16 years were with an operating mine in northern Alberta. I left the mine to live in a major centre for family reasons but also to provide my children with the growth opportunities that are not always available in an isolated community.
"I also find that, unlike my graduating class, new graduates are hitting the streets with little practical summer experience in the mines. I'm not certain of the true cause of this situation. My summer experience in operating mines helped me immensely to understand some of the issues around mining, whether underground or surface. The schools are also producing a generation of engineers that rely too heavily on technology. What happens if your computer breaks down? Do you stop working? Without the basics, students don't truly understand the results that computers spit out. That's my two cents."
Andrea Sedgwick starts by addressing the question of the small salary differential for advanced degrees:
"I am a University of Alberta mining graduate with a Masters degree in Engineering Management. The choice to pursue a masters (and perhaps one day a doctorate) was not due to salaryit was due to diversity. Engineering, in general, requires knowledge in many fields. On-the-job training is the only way many of us receive training, however some people prefer to receive their training from university professors. I know many fellow engineers who have taken post-graduate degrees in fields other than the one they specialized in.
"For the co-op versus summer work term question: I did not take the co-op stream, and I had many excellent opportunities for jobs. Some people comment that four months is not long enough to learn the skills needed; however, I did not have that problem. I was very happy with my program. The only pro for the co-op program that I could see is that the long work terms enabled people to make more money and therefore decrease their loans
"For the best mining schools in Canada, it doesn't do much good to rate them for the following reasons: 1) You hit the nail on the headeveryone thinks their school is the best for one reason or another. 2) Just because you go to a smaller mining school (as opposed to the big ones like Queen's) does not mean it is inferior. Class sizes may be smaller, the number of courses offered may be less, but the quality of the students, particularly during job interviews shouldn't be discounted because the media have rated their program lower. I actually had interviews with companies when I was in school where they openly said they preferred UBC or Queen's students for jobs (they didn't end up hiring any students from the U of A). We don't need that kind of thing happening to our new graduates. 3) There are not that many mining schools in Canada. Everyone in the industry and in academia knows the strengths and weaknesses of the different programs. Would it help to have them publicized? Probably not."