At Teck, our vision for Our People is to attract, engage and develop employees whose passion, skills and motivation lead our journey to a successful and sustainable future.
Skilled tradespeople – such as heavy duty mechanics and industrial electricians – play a key role at mining operations. One of the ways we recruit for skilled tradespeople in our coal business unit is through our participation in the College of the Rockies (COTR) Mining Apprenticeship Program (MAP). We also have an internal apprenticeship program whereby we identify current employees who are looking to move into a tradesperson role and we help facilitate that transition.
Our apprenticeship program is important because Canada’s labour market already suffers from an acute shortage of skilled workers. A recent report by CIBC suggests that as much as one-fifth of the labour market does not have enough qualified workers. In the mining industry, it is expected that we will need to find 81,000 new workers over the next decade.
Our apprenticeship program links to several of our short-term sustainability goals for Our People, including retaining existing employees and skills, and increasing employee training and development opportunities.
In the COTR MAP, prospective apprentices enter the program to learn a trade. Depending on the trade, the prospective apprentices enter a three- to four-year program, and take six to 10 weeks of classes at the COTR, with the remainder of the year spent at our steelmaking coal mines in the Elk Valley for on-the-job training. Successful candidates from the program are employed by the COTR. The intent is that, at the end of the three- to four-year apprenticeship, we have helped create a qualified candidate to fill a tradesperson role in the mining industry.
Darren Sorenson and Gene von Matt, who are Senior Training Coordinators at our Fording River and Elkview operations, respectively, are responsible for coordinating the MAP at their sites.
“The COTR starts the process by selecting candidates, and then representatives from the COTR invite us to participate in interviews to select the best fit for the particular trade we need at our site,” said Sorenson. “We look for men and women who are safety-conscious, who have positive attitudes and a good work ethic, and who are eager to learn and make their home long term in the Elk Valley,” he added.
Sorenson and von Matt work closely with the staff at the COTR and oversee all the work placements at Teck, making sure the apprentices are able to move around from area to area to gain a wide variety of skills. For example, one rotation might be a six-month stint in the maintenance shop and six months in the field working on our shovels and drills, learning from an experienced heavy duty mechanic. The apprentices get to work on their own when they are trained to a certain level, but a certified tradesperson is always nearby to assist or answer questions if necessary.
“Our goal is to provide a well-rounded training experience, where the apprentices can work with and learn from our experienced tradespeople on our current mining equipment,” said von Matt.
The COTR has 11 apprentices due to complete the MAP in 2015, and following graduation and the successful passing of provincial and interprovincial Red Seal exams, we will offer jobs to a high percentage of the graduating class.
Our apprenticeship program in the coal business unit is an internal program where we identify current employees – haul truck drivers, for example – who have the commitment and ability to develop their skills further and to move into a tradesperson position.
At Elkview Operations, we currently have 44 apprentices on-site, the majority of which were already Teck employees. To recruit internal candidates, we post opportunities internally, and then work with the COTR to test the successful candidates’ math, grammar and spatial abilities, as needed for the applicable trade. When the employees pass the exam, they complete a detailed information package, outlining their education and prior practical experience, which will be reviewed and scored by the apprenticeship selection committee. This selection committee is made up of Elkview staff and union representatives familiar with the applied-for trade.
Our apprenticeship program benefits both our employees and prospective employees by providing them with an opportunity to take their careers to the next level.
And we benefit from a skilled workforce that will help us achieve our business goals throughout the coming decades. When we train certified trades through our apprenticeship program, we know they have the necessary skills, as well as a good understanding of our sites, equipment, procedures and people.
We have had tremendous success with the COTR MAP and our apprenticeship program to date, and look forward to continuing to nurture the transformation from apprentice to tradesperson – the next generation of Teck employees.