June/July 2012

Custom fit

Specialized MBA program sets stage for future industry leaders

By Ernest Hoffman

There are many opportunities for advancement in top-tier management within the mining industry, but fully qualified candidates are hard to find. Keen to solve this problem, CIM and York University’s Schulich School of Business joined forces to create Global Mining Management, an MBA program tailored to the mining industry.

“We were looking to build up the next generation of leaders,” says CIM executive director Jean Vavrek. “There was a real need for professional development on the management side of our sector, so we decided to create the first program in the world geared towards developing managers who will understand and be able to address the challenges our sector faces.”

Schulich quickly emerged as the ideal home for the program because of the school’s high-ranking, flexible curriculum structure and ties to CIM. “We had already collaborated with Schulich’s Dr. Wes Cragg on his research on ethics and corporate social responsibility in the mining sector, and Dean Dezsö Horváth was very supportive of the program we wanted to build,” Vavrek explains.

The industry also stepped up to support the program. “All the course materials have been contributed by the industry, and many of the instructors come from mining as well,” says Richard Ross, who is executive-in-residence at Schulich and ser­ves as the program’s director. “I think there’s a recognition that industry has to take a role in education if they want the outcome to be of relevance and va­lue to them.” 


 Schulich School of Business facilities at York University campus

© Schulich School of Business, York University

Ross drew on his 30 years’ worth of industry contacts to develop a relevant and engaging curriculum. “By taking an industry specialization, students are really getting a more integrated type of learning experience,” Ross points out. “I think industry-focused students may be better suited for management positions where they need a more holistic, well-rounded approach to their education,” he adds.

As with the school’s other MBAs, students will complete a year of core classes before choosing a specialization at the start of their second year. “For the students, it’s going to help them target their business and management training to a specific industry,” says Dr. Mary Waller, professor of organization studies at Schulich. “That second year, they’re really going to get some targeted, focused business knowledge that pertains specifically to the mining sector. That’s going to give them the opportunity to hit the ground running when compared to other MBA students.”

Interest in the program has been strong, and Ross expects a significant number of MBA students will choose the mining specialization. “I think there will be two categories of students,” Ross says. “One will be looking at it as a way to transition into the industry, to take their specific skill set, whether it’s a background in engineering, accounting, finance or international development, and translate it into the mining sector. Or it could be people within the mining sector who are currently looking to advance their skill set and get more managerial responsibilities by taking their MBA.”

The program is designed to expose students to perspectives from outside the mining sector, with suggested courses and electives focusing on Aboriginal and international rights, and environmental issues. “We don’t want our students to just go through our program with blinders on,” Waller explains. “For the students who want to be in the sector, I think it’s going to give them a leg up, and for the companies that hire them, I think they’re going to spend fewer resources getting this person up and running.”

The Global Mining Management specialization will be available in fall 2012, and results of last year’s pilot indicate it will be a success. “I think the value of this program,” says Carolyn Burns, “is getting the opportunity to apply my knowledge and business experience to a specific industry with input from people who’ve done it.” Burns, who took Ross’ class last fall, has since been hired as an analyst at Bar­­­­­rick Gold.

According to Vavrek, the new specialization will help address some of the key challenges facing the industry in the coming years. “I believe this program is going to graduate people who have a much better handle on global social issues, which are important for us because our industry is becoming increasingly global,” he explains. “We’re also facing a major recruiting challenge, and this program will attract some of the world’s top talent to our sector.”

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