WILs Work at Western
Written by Alex Parsons, MiHR
Your Future In Mined
“I never really had an interest in mining until this summer when I saw how my experience in Integrated Science and Biology can really translate to different topics across the board.”
Shayna Kay had just completed her first year in the Integrated Science program at Western University (UWO) when she accepted a summer internship at the school, partially funded by the Mining Industry Human Resource Council’s (MiHR) Gearing Up wage subsidy program. Kay is just one of a dozen students whose lives were changed this summer by this unique experiential learning opportunity.
The above video, developed by students and staff at UWO, helps to capture the experiences of the students, professors and research assistants involved in work-integrated learning (WIL) through MiHR’s Gearing Up program. Twelve students enrolled in Western’s Integrated Science program were divided into teams to tackle challenges facing the Canadian mining industry through advanced research projects lasting approximately 12 weeks. Projects adopted by the students ranged from creating greenhouses to monitor plant growth in metal concentrations, to working with lithium pegmatites as a potential source for clean energy storage, to gold processing optimization, and a number of other innovative concepts.
Leaping Outside the Box
Spearheading this new WIL initiative, in collaboration with MiHR, is Dr. Neil Banerjee; an associate professor of earth science at UWO and the NSERC/Yamana Gold Inc. Industrial Research Chair in Advanced Mineral Exploration. Though he was hesitant to take on such an ambitious project, it has turned out to be a great decision.
“When you’re outside of your comfort zone, great things can happen,” Dr. Banerjee said. “I think this is a great opportunity for students to get work experience very early on in their academic career that will teach them skills that will be transferable regardless of what path their career may take.”
While Western mainly accepted students from its Integrated Science program for the first cohort of Gearing Up applications, Dr. Banerjee said he hopes it “might actually expand from there into engineering and possibly business,” as numerous scientific disciplines and post-secondary programs are relevant to mining and can lead to successful careers in the industry.
Like Kay, other participating students praised the opportunity to contribute through their WIL internships.
“You’re learning so many different things, you’re learning how to approach various challenges,” said Jenna Veugen, a second year Integrated Science student focused on Physics. Her team’s project examined the formation of ore deposits created during meteorite impact events, such as the Sudbury impact structure.
“There are so many people that could benefit from doing a work-integrated learning activity like this,” Veugen said. “You should really get involved because it’s an incredible way to apply what you’ve learned in school and get real work experience.”
Go Your Own Way
Students were thrilled to primarily work together to find their own solutions to project challenges, rather than rely on professors or supervisors. Trevor Flynn, a Research Assistant explained how letting students take the reins of their experiments led to some amazing creations.
“I don’t want to say there was no guidance, but there was very little guidance as to what they had to do for their projects,” Flynn said. “Most of the results in the projects came from novel ideas that students had themselves.”
“You have to really get into taking initiative and thinking of how to move forward when you have less instruction from your supervisors,” said Miranda Postma, a third year Integrated Science student focusing on environmental science.
Ali Coyle, a second year Integrated Science student focused on Genetics also praised the freedom, saying, “they didn’t have that much micro-managing in our projects, and we were allowed to choose their direction.”
Subsidize WIL opportunities with Gearing Up
The positive experiences students reported from this experiential learning opportunity speaks to the effectiveness of work-integrated learning as both an educational tool and a method of introducing new talent to the Canadian mining industry. This example of WIL, through Gearing Up, not only changed the way students were able to pursue and acquire certain skills necessary to seek employment in this industry after graduation, but ultimately influenced how students at UWO perceive careers in the minerals and metals sector.
Fortunately, it has never been easier to create WIL positions for post-secondary students interested in mining, with the help of MiHR’s Gearing Up program. Thanks to funding provided through the Government of Canada’s Student Work Placement (SWP) program, 850 new work-integrated learning placements are being created for post-secondary students enrolled in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) or business programs.
Jennifer Wright, MiHR’s Senior Director of Employment & Diversity initiatives explains the true value of the wage subsidy:
“Gearing Up subsidizes up to $7,000 or 70 per cent of a student’s wages, while also allowing employers to address potential future hires in a working environment,” Wright said. “WIL placements can be any length, from just a few days to multiple months, and can take the form of co-ops, internships, field classes, and more. Through Gearing Up, students gain the skills of tomorrow though the WILs of today.”
To learn more about Gearing Up and apply today, visit MiHR’s website.
WILs Benefit Everyone
Dr. Banerjee further expressed his enthusiasm for WIL placements, encouraging others to get on board with this exciting opportunity.
“I would encourage all my colleagues in the Faculty of Science and across campus to get involved with these work-integrated learning opportunities,” he said. “I think you’ll be really surprised at what the students can do and how working with teams of students really brings an innovative and creative angle to your research.”
He also said WILs are mutually beneficial for Universities, students and mining companies alike.
“I think that the opportunity for companies to engage with universities and get access to cutting-edge research is something that is often overlooked,” Dr. Banerjee said. “The connection with the students brings creativity to the mix and often the results are really surprising.”
Mining’s Future is Bright
It is incredibly rewarding to see students get so much value out of their WIL placements, and MiHR is keen on subsidizing more positions in the future. The organization knows that finding a job after graduation can also be a struggle, but with the Green Jobs Program hopes to make the transition from post-secondary to employment a little simpler. This program provides wage subsidies up to $12,000 to companies who create job opportunities in the Canadian mining industry, for recent post-secondary graduates that focus on positive environmental outcomes, clean technology and innovation. Learn more about Green Jobs and apply on MiHR’s website.
Based on the success the 12 Western students’ WIL placements, it appears that the future of the Canadian mining industry is in good hands. Congratulations to Ridwan Bari, Cindy Corrales, Ali Coyle, Reese Gartly, Mauricio Haag, Adrienne Iannicca, Shayna Kay, Alexandra Ly, Jasmine Nieva, Miranda Postma, Carmen Venier and Jenna Veugen for their great work this summer. To hear what the rest of these students had to say about their experiences, don’t forget to check out the WIL at Western video.