$10M Training Facility Takes Shape

Work is well underway on Aurora College’s new Centre For Mine and Industry Training, which is expected to formally open for use in Fort Smith on or before the next school year.

According to Jayne Murray, manager of communications for Aurora College, site preparation activities began in June 2017 with Stantec doing the architectural designs and Clark Builders handling construction of the new $10-million multi-use structure.

“The anticipated construction completion date is late February/early March 2018, with some seasonal deficiencies, such as parking lot paving,” she said. “We are planning to begin running programs out of the facility for the 2018-19 academic year or earlier … We did not have a formal groundbreaking ceremony, but will have a formal opening.”

The funding for the facility is coming from Ottawa, almost $4.1 million, and the GNWT, slightly more than $6.3 million.

“The funding will help us continue to improve and modernize our Heavy Equipment Operator (HEO) and other industry training programs, and prepare more Northerners for in-demand positions,” Aurora College President Jane Arychuk said during last May’s announcement of the project.

Once the new facility is completed, it will house all mining and HEO programs, with improved and upgraded areas for both classroom and hands-on learning.

The Centre for Mine and Industry Training will provide increased and improved facilities for storage and maintenance of heavy equipment used in programs. Aurora College, through the Mine Training Society, has received a number of generous donations of equipment in recent years from the NWT’s diamond mines. The new facility will allow this equipment to be properly stored and maintained. 

“The new building will also provide a permanent, suitable home for the mining simulator, which allows students to practice driving equipment and trucks used in mines prior to training in the actual machines.” said Murray. Some of the equipment in the mining program includes the simulator, a haul truck, a scoop tram, loaders, and a multi-utility vehicle.

“As well, there will be dedicated classroom space and room for offices and storage for the instructors and classes, which will improve the learning environment and safety,” said Murray. “Having all HEO and mining programs located at Thebacha Campus will provide access to student housing, and all student services (e.g. tutoring, counselling, recreation facilities, on-campus activities) that were not available in all locations.”

For faculty, she added, it will allow for improved planning of instructional time, more collaboration between instructors, and better facilities in which to deliver programs.

Heavy equipment operators train on such equipment as a crawler, motor grading front end loader, truck excavator swing rig, Class 3 tandem axle dump truck, and Class 1 tractor tri-axle side dump.

“Depending on the HEO program a student is taking, they will train on one or two pieces of equipment,” she explained.

A number of programs will make use of the facility as all campus-based HEO programs, and all campus-based mine training programs will be delivered there. 

These include:

  1. Introduction to the Mining Industry;
  2. Introduction to Underground Mining;
  3. Underground Miner Training;
  4. Surface Miner Training;
  5. Mineral Process Operator; and,
  6. Heavy Equipment Operator (full, intro, and abridged).

“Some introductory programs will still be run in communities as required,” added Murray. “Additional programs may be offered at the facility in the future.”

Currently, enrolment for each of the HEO and mining programs is full – usually 10 to 12 students per course depending on space and equipment needs – and there is currently a waiting list to get in.

“We anticipate an increase in numbers as we are able to increase the number of program deliveries, as we will be able to be more efficient in scheduling instructor, classroom, and equipment use by having [everything] in one location,” confirmed Murray.

Aurora College and the Thebacha campus’ roots are well-planted in HEO training as the first course ever offered in the area took place in 1968 and was an HEO course at Fox Holes, just west of Fort Smith. In 1969, the training being done at Fox Holes was moved to the community and the Adult Vocational Training Centre (AVTC) was established. In 1981, AVTC was formally declared a college and in 1995, as part of preparations for the creation of Nunavut, the Aurora College name was first applied to the still-evolving facility.

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