Some challenges call for long-term solutions. Most of Sheila Stenzel and Laura Clinton’s work is founded on that very premise. They are among those at the forefront of efforts that will yield very important results for the Canadian minerals and metals industry – but no one will see those results for many, many years. Sheila is the director of the Mineral Resources Education Program of BC (MREPBC), and Laura is the project coordinator for the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada Mining Matters. Their work is the embodiment of industry’s investment in its own future. Sheila and Laura provide the resources that teachers need to inform and educate young people about the important role that our industry plays in modern society.
Children begin to formulate opinions about careers at a very early age – probably even before they begin school. Those preconceptions are then reinforced, supplemented, or debunked once they begin along their academic journey. That’s where the MREPBC comes in.
Founded in 1991, the MREPBC was conceived of and designed by Maureen Lipkewich, initially working with the Mining Association of British Columbia, and a group of classroom teachers who wanted to provide current and useable classroom materials that supported curricula related to minerals and mining.
Over 15 years later, the program has grown to include five comprehensive resource kits for students in kindergarten to grade 12, four educational videos, an educational website, and field trips for teachers. The work has also resulted in the involvement of students and teachers at many industry conferences. The program has assisted more than 6,800 teachers who have taught minerals, mining, and geosciences units in their classrooms to over 580,000 students.
The Mineral Resources Education Program of BC was so successful that in 1994, the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada decided to create a similar program for the Ontario curriculum, called Mining Matters. This program initially targeted grade seven students, in both English and French. Initially, 600 kits were distributed to teachers and school boards in Toronto and Ottawa. In order to receive the kits, the teachers had to agree to attend an in-service workshop to learn how to use the materials, and commit to use the unit for one year.
Since Mining Matters began, an estimated 400,000 teachers and students have learned about the importance of rocks, metals, minerals, mining, and Canada’s geology. The program now includes materials for grade four and seven students, and the recently launched “Discovering Diamonds,” for grade 12 students, outreach to First Nations communities, and field trip subsidies for schools.
Both the Mining Matters and MREPBC programs are funded through contributions made by corporate and individual donors, and at fundraisers such as golf tournaments and auctions.
In March 2007, the Mining Industry Human Resources Council received $2.5 million of federal government funding for the Mining Industry Attraction, Recruitment and Retention Strategy, or MARS. One important objective of the multi-pronged MARS project is to raise awareness and understanding among Canadian youth about the mining industry and the wide variety of careers it provides.
Working in conjunction with successful education programs such as MREPBC and Mining Matters, MARS will help deliver earth sciences and mining-related curricula to students in other provinces across the country.
MiHR’s existing mining career website, www.acareerinmining.ca, will also be enhanced to provide a web-based portal on mining careers, educational resources, and training tools. The MiHR “Explore for More” career information package will continue to be distributed at career fairs and educational institutions across the country.
If we want young people to choose a career in mining, those young people first need to be aware that our industry exists, and they need to understand the important role that mining plays in our society. Before making any decision, people want to be informed. MREPBC, Mining Matters, and now MARS, are providing young people with the information they need to choose a rewarding and long-lasting career in Canada’s modern mining industry.
For more information about the MREPBC program, please contact Sheila Stenzel, at Stenzel@bcminerals.ca. For information about Mining Matters, please contact Laura Clinton, at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on the MARS project, contact Paul Hébert at email@example.com.
Paul Hébert is the executive director of the Mining Industry Human Resources Council.