According to figures released by the college in early January, enrolment growth was highest in the mining engineering technician course. Welding and business also experienced high growth at 70 per cent and 50 per cent, respectively, and enrolment in apprenticeships is also up 70 per cent.
Cambrian said its numbers were part of the overall increase at colleges across Ontario; provincial numbers show that first-year enrolment numbers have reached 123,000 students—the highest level in history.
“This is excellent news for Cambrian and for Northern Ontario,” Cambrian president Sylvia Barnard said in a news release. “We’re seeing tremendous demand for many of our programs across the disciplines, from engineering, health sciences and community services to the skills trades, business and the arts. We’re also seeing more students enrol in our part-time programs and take advantage of our online delivery options.”
Kate Bruce, the mining program co-ordinator at Cambrian, said enrolment numbers for the program tripled this fall. Last year, more than 20 people enrolled in the mining program, but this year there were 60, in part, due to increased demand.
But the increase can also be attributed to a more focused recruiting plan initialized by Cambrian to encourage prospective students, in both Northern Ontario and southern Ontario, to come to Cambrian for their education.
“Mining is on an upswing, and why not take advantage of that and get more guys into the program?” she said.
With supply currently unable to meet the demand for mining workers, it proved an ideal time for the college to ramp up its recruitment campaign, she said.
Part of that campaign involves changing the perspective some students have about mining. With recent strikes still fresh in the minds of potential students, it can be a struggle to convince them it’s a viable career choice, she said. But with the variety of roles needed, mining is proving that people can get work and stay working in the industry.
A diverse mix of students is making up this year’s roster. They include those who have worked in the industry for a number of years but never got their degree and are returning to complete it, as well as those who are taking second career training and those who are right out of high school.
Geographically, students are coming from across the province and international territories such as China, Indian and Africa, Bruce said. Students are also choosing Cambrian as it’s the only in-class program available in Ontario; even the well-regarded program at the Haileybury School of Mining Engineering Technology is now only available online.
Bruce said one highlight of the Cambrian program has been an increase in the number of women enrolling. There are currently 14 women in the first year of the program.
“There are pockets still where women are not considered equal,” Bruce said. “But in the last 30 years that has changed. There has been some resistance, but it’s improved dramatically.”
Cambrian has also hired two part-time instructors for the program, specifically for the dual credit course introduced in high school, in which students can earn credits by participating in apprenticeship training and post-secondary courses that count towards both their secondary school diploma and their post-secondary diploma.
Bruce said it’s a good way to engage high school students and start closing the gap between junior and senior workers. Instructors speak with students about the cyclical nature of mining so they understand the ups and downs of the industry, the rotational nature of the work, and the lifestyle changes that come with the job.
“It’s best to prepare them for that,” Bruce said.