Yukon pledges more cash for mining education

Yukon's government has pledged new money to support a new school focused on mining and trades.

Yukon's government has pledged new money to support a new school focused on mining and trades. 

The government announced the new funding for Yukon College, which will be in addition to $11 million worth of previously-announced federal and territorial funds.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced funding for the Centre for Northern Innovation in Mining when he toured Yukon this past summer.

Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski said the school is part of a larger vision to see more Northerners study trades. 

"Having skilled local tradespeople is a driver for economic development," Pasloski said. "We know in Yukon there is a demand for these skilled workers in the mining industry. The news school is here to help Yukoners meet that demand."

It's a boon for the school which has set an ambitious goal of seeing 1,200 students graduate from the new program over the next six years.

Some have questioned why the government is investing money into the mining sector at a time when mining companies are slowing operations and laying off staff.

But Yukon College president Karen Barnes says it all about planning for the future, regardless of any temporary fluctuations in markets. 

"This is the opportunity to keep those workers engaged," Barnes said. "They enter training programs, they can acquire new skills, so when the mines are ready to employ them again, after the winter slowdown, they are still in the Yukon which is really important."

She added that the school will reach out to residents of small communities and especially aboriginal people. 

"This new funding allows us to offer more four-year programs so people can get that journey-level training close to home," she said.

Ron Light, general manager of Yukon's Minto Mine, told assembled students that his career had started in community college and said the mining industry is looking for qualified local workers. White said a school focused on mining skills will have spillover benefits on other industries.

"It's referenced as a mining school but if you learn to be a heavy equipment operator that applies to other jobs. That can lead to construction. You learn to be a millwright that can lead to manufacturing or carpentry," he said. "One of the things I used to stress with people in the mining industry, taking trades, was make sure you take something you can usefully apply to the mining industry but when the mine is gone you can take back to your community.".

Last year, Yukon College graduated 20 people from the program. But the school wants to see that number escalate to 10 times that amount. 

The new funding will also provide for a "trades trailer" which will visit smaller communities such as Dawson City and offer workshops on welding and other skills.

Yukon College will be constructing a new building to house the mining and trades school. The school already includes a high-tech simulator to train drivers of heavy machinery. 

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