College ‘thrilled’ with mine program funding

Monday's announcement of $5.6 million in federal cash over four years for Yukon College's mining program is exactly what the college was looking for.

Monday’s announcement of $5.6 million in federal cash over four years for Yukon College’s mining program is exactly what the college was looking for.

“We’re delighted,” said Shelagh Rowles, executive director of the Centre for Northern Innovation in Mining.

“We were thrilled in that this really allows the centre to move ahead officially. It allows us to plan for a facility that will be able to accommodate the variety of trades that are related to the mining industry,” she said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the announcement on Monday, promising the money towards the construction of a new building to help expand the mining program. Its courses aim to deliver workforce-ready graduates who can help fill the demand for local labour at Yukon’s mines.

Having the money secured means the college can move ahead with plans to design the new building, which will be located at the main campus in Whitehorse, said Rowles.

“We have a pretty good sense of what we want. We’re hoping that we’ll be in a position to tender some architectural contracts sometime this fall, hopefully as early as October,” she said.

The college is currently working with the territory to find the best location for the new building, which will complement the school’s current facilities.

As with most government funding announcements, the money has been promised, but the details of exactly when and how it will be delivered are still being worked out.

“When we get our schedule back from the feds and we know exactly how much we’ll be getting this year and over the coming years, then we can say OK, if this is the end date, it allows us to go backwards and figure out the steps we need to take in order to get this done,” said Rowles.

“In an ideal world, we’re looking at having it completed by the end of 2016,” she said.

The federal funding also helps cover the cost of a new mobile trades trailer, toward which the territorial government also contributed $1.1 million.

Essentially a mobile classroom and workshop, the trailer provides a space that can be hauled around the territory to teach trades skills to students who otherwise wouldn’t have access to the college’s programs. The entire mining innovation program will cost around $30 million, including operations and maintenance, teaching staff salaries, equipment and supplies. Rowles said the college is still negotiating with both the federal and territorial government to help find funding to fill some of those costs.

In its first five years, the mining program is expected to produce 520 trades, mining and apprenticeship graduates, plus 710 students completing shorter non-credit courses, such as safety training.

The program has already turned out its first class of graduates.

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