The Saskatchewan mining industry is booming, bringing an influx of workers and projects to the province. “These are very busy times,” says Paul Labbé, outgoing chair of CIM’s Saskatoon Branch, which is the 2011 recipient of the CIM Mel W. Bartley Award.
The branch won the award for its dedication to providing networking opportunities and educational support to students, as well as for disseminating vital information to the local mining industry. As the industry grows, the branch is determined to maintain the high quality of its monthly technical meetings, whose discussions about new projects and technological advances consistently draw large crowds.
But at a time of extreme growth, explains Labbé, member companies become busier, and recruiting and retaining CIM volunteers becomes more difficult, as does keeping the Institute interesting and relevant. “Our community is stretched by the recent growth and development, and more projects and growth are still to come,” he says. “To complicate matters, we see a very definite change in the workforce demographics with the baby boomers entering the retirement phase. More quality graduates are required, and training by owners and institutions is paramount to ease the change in workforce participants and the effectiveness of those participants.”
Labbé says that much of the work in getting ahead of this trend can be industry-driven. The branch has long supported students through scholarships and other funding, as well as through mentoring and coaching opportunities to further assist them in education and training.
“We offer our own scholarships and we are expecting that this year we will be able to use some of our proceeds from MEMO to establish a permanent, investment-based, interest-funded program at our branch,” Labbé continues. “We are also now looking to expand our student programming beyond the University of Saskatchewan to include SIAST [the provincial college technical program] and exchanges with the University of Regina down the road.”
The branch’s connection with the U of S goes back many years: a decade ago it created a position on its executive for a faculty member from the University of Saskatchewan College of Engineering to represent the students and their needs.
As well as heading up the branch’s student scholarship selection committee, the staff member organizes students and promotes their attendance at CIM events, and identifies opportunities for CIM to support student events. “Networking and developing positive relationships is key,” explains Labbé.
The branch maintains a program of events aimed specifically at students, and recently forged an even closer link with the university. “Last year, we supported the creation of the first CIM student branch at the University of Saskatchewan,” says Labbé. “The students themselves are very keen on the efforts made so far, and we definitely wish to continue to encourage this student-industry mixing.”