Surface Mining Training Program held in Sioux Lookout
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
A Surface Miner Training Program run by First Nation’s Safety & Training, which recently took place in Sioux Lookout, is working towards educating and training individuals to help prepare them to meet the demand for the surface mining industry. Ontario’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD) established this program to provide for safer operators and it is a certified apprenticeship that people receive through the Surface Mining Training Program.
The owner and trainer of the Surface Miner Training Program, Jonathan Chum said, “We have mines popping up in several places around our area. We have all these individuals that want to work, but they are not trained and certified to do that work. So, what is going to happen is we’ll get flooded with all this work and we’re not going to be ready. This program is going to make sure that doesn’t happen.” The program was first commenced in Sioux Lookout in 2017, with its most recent group of trainees coming from Lac Seul First Nation, Eagle Lake First Nation and Weagamow First Nation. The group completed their training program on December 18.
Chum added, “This program is the highest accreditation that anyone can get in Ontario. What we’re doing is we put together this program so people, individuals in Sioux Lookout could reach out to different surface mining trainings through this program.”
Chum shared that they adhered to COVID guidelines throughout their training and classroom sessions. Chum added that social distancing often comes naturally for them, “because we’re on machines and they’re always far apart. We spray down the machines, disinfect them, making sure that everything is safe and people wear masks.” The program has been holding its classroom sessions at the Sunset Inn and Suites.
A trainee of the program, David Adams said, “I love it. I get to drive the heavy machinery all day. Jonathan Chum is a very good instructor for us. He’s telling us about all the things that we need to know.” He added, “I’m from Toronto and I have my own business. I never had tickets for heavy machinery. When this came across, I had to jump on it and ever since then, I’ve had no regrets on it.”
Chum said that the program is open to anyone 16 years and older. Trainees can also get access to Ojibway translators, and they are not required to have a grade 12 diplomas to join. Chum added that once the trainees have completed training and received their Service Miner Common Core Sign-off Booklet, it opens doors to better opportunities. He mentioned that the more modules that one may have signed off through that book and their transcripts, the more likely they are to get hired for a job.
Chum further said, “Other companies are creating barriers for individuals who take the training because they don’t have a grade 12 or they can’t speak English. So what we are doing is we are changing that whole aspect, we are kind of being pioneers right now. No one else is doing this around here. This is the first time, and in order to be successful, we’re going to need support from the whole community. This is something that the North needs.”
A trainee of the program, Ruben Apetawakeesic shared that he thinks he would personally benefit from the program, and is working on building his resume to become more applicable to different jobs that he may be interested in. He said, “It’s pretty good actually. There’s no grade 12 certification required, most people, most other training programs I looked at, they want a driver’s abstract, your driver’s license and your grade 12 and a clean record. But everyone makes their mistakes while driving; it doesn’t mean that they have to be labeled as a bad person for doing something that they made a mistake at. We all make mistakes in life.”
The Surface Miner Training Program is partnered with The Miller Group to use their pits for training, and SunTrac Constructing & Rentals, to lease the equipment. Chum said that the program is tailored to the needs of every individual in the field. A trainee of the program, Isaiah Lawson said, “I came here because you never see these opportunities around here in northwestern Ontario and the program was Surface Miner Program and that is really rare to see in this area. It was late noticed and I hopped on it right away, it’s exciting.” Lawson added, “If this opportunity does come around in the New Year, I really suggest younger people like me, 16 and up, to join the program. It is a life changing opportunity because it is hard to earn these tickets elsewhere.”
Chum also shared that The Miller Group has shown an interest in offering to hire their trainees. He said, “Miller group is a big contractor company. They have pits all throughout Northern Ontario.” He said that the Surface Miner Program strives to heightens safety, and heighten the training modules of the MAESD.
According to the website of Ontario Mining Association, mining in Ontario is a multimillion-dollar industry, known around the world for its safety and environmental leadership, efficiency, productivity and innovation.
Another trainee of the program, James Maxwell said, “I’ve learned about operating already. But there are things that I’m learning. There are a lot of things going on so there’s always new things to learn.” He added, “We get our operating ticket, so that helps in the workforce. That’s the whole reason I took the course is so I could get signed off on tickets. It will open a lot of doors for me for sure.” Maxwell said, “Just go do it. Look for openings in the courses, because we live in Sioux Lookout and there are not many courses like this. So, just keep your eyes open, and it’s a good thing to have, so definitely do it.”
Chum shared that the next training period is expected to start in January. Anyone interested in joining the program, or for further details, can contact Chum at (807) 738-6074, or via email at [email protected].