November 2008

Clever, confident, committed – the future of Canada's mining industry

In these times of human resource shortages, Canada’s mining industry need not lose hope. The next generation of industry professionals is every bit as intelligent and industrious as the early pioneers. Here, for example, are two of the best — young women who represent the future of Canadian mining.

No typical job

Katarina Koufos [pictured above], a 22-year-old McGill University mining engineering student, won this year’s $2,000 Caterpillar and its Canadian Dealers Scholarship. Always aware that she would be an engineer, Koufos couldn’t decide between civil and mechanical engineering. A McGill professor’s presentation at her school turned her towards mining engineering. “He spoke about how it is a field with endless opportunities and a combination of civil, mechanical and geological engineering,” she recalled. “What struck me was how diverse the field is. There is no typical job.” Rave reviews from students at a McGill open house convinced her to sign up.

Three years later, Koufos has no regrets. With freshman-like enthusiasm, she said, “I like being in an industry that offers endless opportunities to learn and challenge yourself and is always at the forefront of technology.” It’s little wonder that she intends to follow her bachelor’s degree with a master’s.

In this challenging field, Koufos reported that she occasionally faces barriers because of her gender and ethnicity. Undeterred, she said, “I try to be strong and have confidence in myself.” Her confidence comes from the knowledge that, as a woman, she can “offer a different perspective” to the traditionally male-dominated industry.

Another difference she intends to make pertains to operational safety. “I hope to study and apply adult-learning and training methods to help ensure and promote safe working environments,” Koufos added.

Winning the Caterpillar Scholarship further strengthened Koufos’ faith in her career choice. “I feel honoured to have been chosen for this scholarship. It reaffirms my decision to work in an industry that support young learners,” she said.

Chemistry’s loss, geology’s gain

Laura Bergen, the winner of this year’s Scotiabank and Scotia Capital Markets Scholarship, is a third-year geology student at the University of Manitoba. Unlike Koufos, who always knew what she wanted to do, Bergen did not settle on a geology career until relatively late. A quirky interest led her to it. “I was always interested in volcanoes and took first-year geology as a fun class. I actually wanted to go into chemistry. But after that geology class, I fell in love with the material and decided that geology was what I wanted,” she recollected.

Never given to sedentariness, what Bergen loves most about studying geology lies outside the lab and classroom. “I really enjoy the ability to travel. You can go do field work or present at conferences, meet new people with new ideas and gain more knowledge about the world around you,” she remarked.

Behind the easy-going Bergen, who enjoys “reading, hanging out with friends and watching movies,” is another person who is serious-minded enough to endure the rigours of academia. “My goal is to eventually get my PhD so I can teach and do research,” she said.

Thanking Soctiabank and the Canadian Mining and Metallurgical Foundation, Bergen said that the $2,000 she won will help defray some of the expenses of student life. Additional support comes from her friends and family. “I couldn’t do it without them,” she said, graciously.

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