The new Centre for Northern Innovation in Mining building opened to much fanfare at Yukon College on Thursday.
The building will house this year’s pre-apprentice carpentry and electrical students, as well as the geological technology program.
“We have jobs without people in the Yukon, and people without jobs,” said Yukon Liberal MP Larry Bagnell before a large crowd at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday. “Now they’re going to be trained locally to take those jobs that are created by our own resources right here.”
Measuring 18,000 square feet, the building includes an enormous multi-use shop about the size of an airplane hangar, and an academic wing with three classrooms, six offices and a common area.
The classrooms are fitted out with state-of-the-art technology, including smart whiteboards that allow students to save their instructor’s handwritten notes using an app. The building’s lights and ventilation system will also respond automatically when people move into and out of rooms.
Centre for Northern Innovation in Mining (CNIM) executive director Shelagh Rowles said the whole building was designed as a teaching tool. That means heating, ventilation, wiring and plumbing systems have been left exposed as a demonstration to students.
The first year of electrical and carpentry students will also spend much of their time building a 1,000-square foot storage building beside the shop.
“They will have an amazing, hands-on project that they will be getting underway right away,” Rowles said.
CNIM was announced by former prime minister Stephen Harper and Premier Darrell Pasloski in 2013, and was intended to expand trades training in the Yukon.
Together, the federal and territorial governments have invested $11.2 million in CNIM, of which $8.3 million went to the design and construction of the new building. The rest of the money has been used for other projects, including upgrades to other shops at the college and the purchase of a mobile trades training trailer that provides training in the communities.
The Yukon government has also committed $5.8 million for programming from 2013 to 2017.
Aside from the carpentry, electrical and geological technology programs, the centre offers courses in heavy equipment technician training, underground and surface mining, environmental monitoring, pipe trades and welding, and other programs.
Rowles said the new building will allow the centre to launch millwright machinist training and a comprehensive air rotary drilling program.
“Part of the pressure that we’ve had and the reason why we were requesting a new facility is that we were maxed out,” she said. “And we couldn’t bring in any more students over in the old trades area. There was no space.”
Despite the downturn in the mining sector, Rowles said CNIM graduates are still finding jobs very quickly, though a college spokesperson said the centre isn’t systematically monitoring what becomes of its alumni right now.
“If there’s not employment in one place, there are opportunities in others,” Rowles said.
So far, 172 students have enrolled in CNIM programs since 2013, and 57 of them have received training from the mobile trailer in Dawson City, Pelly Crossing, Ross River, Carmacks and Mayo.
“As mineral prices improve and mining companies increase production, employment opportunities will increase in the mining industry and the sectors that serve the mining industry,” Pasloski said during the opening ceremony. “The training and skill development that happens here will help ensure that the next wave of skilled miners are Yukoners.”
Jesse Dunford, a second-year geological technology student, said he’s looking forward to moving into the new building. He said his class didn’t have a set space in the college last year.
“So we were kind of just bouncing around everywhere, and then now we’ll just be in one place,” he said. “So that’ll be nice.”
Joel Cubley, the program’s coordinator, said the new building will be “a huge upgrade in the quality of the teaching space that we’re working in.” He said the smart technology in the classrooms will allow for “heightened interaction” with students.
The programs offered in the new building will likely change from year to year, Rowles explained.
“CNIM programming is flexible, and we really try to respond to changes stemming from the ever-changing mining life cycle,” she said.
The new building was designed by Kobayashi + Zedda Architects, and was built by Wildstone Construction and Engineering, Ketza Construction and TSL Contracting. Many of the carpenters and electricians who worked on the project are Yukon College graduates.
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