February 2009

Freedom from the cubicle

Arthur Foley Scholarship winner shares his ideas on a career in mining

By M. Kerawala

Maciek Armatys, a mining engineering student at the Université de Montréal’s École Polytechnique, won the prestigious CIM-administered Arthur W. Foley Scholarship. The $3,000 scholarship is awarded annually to a mining engineering student who has completed three trimesters of study and an internship. With competition for the award being intense, winning it is quite an honour, one that Armatys acknowledged with gratitude and a touch of pride.

Originally from Poland, Armatys first enrolled in a civil engineering program. Realizing that he was among 130 classmates who would one day compete with one another for elusive jobs in a shrinking market, he was quickly disillusioned. He dreaded ending up, like innumerable engineers, in a desk-bound job with nominal or non-existent links to engineering.

Fortunately, this disgruntled would-be civil engineer had a timely conversation with a friend who was studying mining engineering at McGill University. His interest piqued, Armatys discovered that mining engineering offered many things that few other engineering disciplines could — remunerated summer placements and internships, a good mix of indoor and outdoor work, superb starting salaries, near-certain and immediate availability of lucrative employment opportunities, and a sustained skills demand for the foreseeable future. Faced with these facts, he could not but sign up, and the ranks of future mining engineers swelled by one.

Armatys, who intends to eventually return to Poland, is excited by the prospect of having his pick of reputed employers and exotic locales when he graduates. For now, he concentrates on keeping his grades up and finding work in what he calls “a solid company that will help me grow.” In the longer term, he wants to specialize in rock mechanics or geotechnical excavations.

Confident though he is about the future, Armatys is a realist and is aware that there will be challenges. “The big difference between school and real life is that when the professor gives you an assignment, you know what book to look in to get the answer,” he said. “In real life, there will be problems to which solutions aren’t written in any handbook. It will be up to me to find a solution.” He draws inspiration from the competence and erudition of his teachers, who, it seems to him, have answers to even the toughest questions. “I’m hoping to achieve their level of aptness one day,” he added.

Wining the Arthur W. Foley Scholarship was a timely blessing for Armatys who, after three consecutive trimesters and an internship at Seleine Mines, was running low on money. The award helped tide him over to the next term. But its monetary component was not all that touched Armatys. “It’s noble that the mining industry cares for its future engineers enough to offer such scholarships. Receiving this award is a huge honour that encourages me to keep going,” said Armatys graciously, expressing his gratitude to his teachers and friends for their support.

Armatys’ advice to young Canadians on the brink of a career choice is simple and to the point. “If you are looking for guaranteed employment, like playing with giant Tonkas, watching things explode and getting superior pay, mining is definitely the way to go!”

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