Yukon College will offer two geology diplomas by September of 2011.
The programs are expected to create a cohort of locally trained geological technicians able to work for mining or oil and gas companies.
One program is in geosciences technology. The other is in geo-hydrological technology.
In both cases, students will have the choice of taking either a one-year certificate or a two-year diploma.
Applicants will need to have a solid background in math and science.
The program will be “pivotal” to plans to establish a new school of mining, said Shelagh Rowles, the college’s acting vice-president of education and training.
The college currently offers trades programs geared to getting Yukoners hired by mines or exploration outfits. But these are the first mining diplomas to be offered by the college.
“This is a great chance to have an industry-driven program,” said Rowles.
In Yukon’s mining exploration industry, 78 per cent of those employed have a college education, said Claire Derome, president of the Yukon Chamber of Mines.
It’s hoped that the new programs will allow some workers currently employed in the unskilled end of the industry, grabbing soil samples or cutting rock cores, to upgrade and advance their careers.
Mining jobs allow Yukoners to land well-paying jobs while remaining in local communities, said Mike Burke, the chief geologist for Golden Predator.
“Industry much prefers having a local workforce, rather than importing them from somewhere else,” he said. “And it gives Yukoners more opportunities to stay here.”
The work of collecting soil and core samples is just the front end of the exploration business. Once the samples are submitted to a barrage of tests, the results need to be plotted with global positioning system co-ordinates into huge databases.
That’s how Shawn Ryan built his case that there’s plenty of gold in the White Gold district. He turned out to be right, and now he’s rich because of it.
“It’s because he embraced technology,” said Burke. “He wasn’t just a prospector who found something.”
It remains unclear, for now, how many seats will be available for the courses. Also unclear is whether the college will partner with an Outside institution to help deliver the programs.
The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology may help, said Rowles. “But it would be our own diploma, our own program,” she said.
The courses are expected to cost slightly more than $2 million to offer. Of that, $916,000 is being offered over three years by Ottawa, through the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.
The agency also announced on Tuesday that it would spend $1.3 million to buy six simulators to train heavy-equipment operators to operate surface graders and loaders, dump trucks and tractor trailers.
Two similar simulators were bought in 2009-10, to train mine workers to operate machinery both above and below ground.
Yukon MP Ryan Leef said that Yukon’s thriving mining industry means that the opportunities available to residents have “nowhere to go, but up.”
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