May 2012

Bridging the generation gap

New CIM chapter at UBC introduces students to mining

By Crystal Chan

 

Student chapter members. Top row, from left: Patrick Tsai, Cameron Edwards, Andrew Crook and Mark Tang. Bottom row, from left: Nicole Kosloski, Megan Epp and Mandy Chen | Courtesy of Mark Tang


University students are no strangers to mined resources. “Your laptop, cell phone, tablet – their materials probably come from a mining operation,” says Mark Tang, a third-year Bachelor’s student at the University of British Columbia’s Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering. Yet most of them know little about the industry, engineering students included. “When I tell them I’m studying mining, they think I hold a pickaxe and go into a cave,” he explains with a laugh. “I want to change that stereotype.”

So, Tang joined forces with fellow student Malcolm Brodie, who founded  UBC’s CIM student chapter in November 2010, to foster interest and knowledge about mining studies and the mining industry. Tang took over as president in 2011-12 and led the chapter in organizing its first event: a panel discussion on March 13 with CIM Vancouver chairman Tom Broddy, Davide Elmo, rock mech­anics specialist at Golder Associates, and Malcolm Scoble, UBC’s Robert E. Hallbauer chair in mining engineering. Over 50 people attended the event, including many non-mining students.

“The chapter is helping change the appearance of the mining industry from the viewpoint of other students,” says Cameron Edwards, a third-year student who will become co-president of the chapter in September. “We hope to expand our representatives and student members by involving all the engineering disciplines, as well as commerce, geology, economics and law, and any student wishing to be involved in the industry.” To do this, they will invite speakers and organize workshops targeted towards students completing different degrees. “The mining industry doesn’t just consist of mining engineers,” says Tang. “We want to let students know how a banker could relate to this industry.” Right now, the branch’s eight executives include students from four different engineering streams.

Although the Vancouver CIM branch offers student prizes and runs an annual student night, Tang feels this student chapter may have more success in reaching out to non-mining students if they place more emphasis on education rather than on networking.

CIM student chapter executives hope their young membership will also facilitate co­m­­­­­­­­­­munication between the industry and other university students, including those enrolled at Simon Fraser University and the British Columbia Institute of Technology. They even hope to connect with elementary and high school students.

Andrew Crook, a second-year student who will co-head the student chapter in 2013, is already organizing outreach education programs for high school students. “While working with the student chapter in its infancy does present its own set of challenges, I see starting the chapter as an amazing opportunity,” he says.

Tang underlines the problem is not that there are no CIM events in Vancouver but that many students do not believe they would be interesting or applicable. He knows from experience that it sometimes takes an outside push to fall in love with mining studies. Originally planning to become a veterinarian, he accidently enrolled in the faculty of applied science instead of the faculty of science. When he realized the error, it was too late to switch. “It is the greatest mistake I’ve made,” Tang says.

And this is the perfect time to groom a new generation of mining sector employees to replace retiring baby boomers. According to the Mining Industry Hiring Resources Council’s 2011 report, 112,020 recruits will need to join the industry by 2021 in order to maintain the baseline. “There are a lot of new opportunities for the younger generation that’s coming out of school right now,” Tang agrees. “We should look at focusing on improving communication between these two generations.”
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