“The Cegep of Abitibi-Témiscamingue has been strongly engaged in the evaluation of training needs of workers and supervisors in the mining field and in the development of competency-based training plans”

Stephane LabrecqueExclusive interview with Stéphane Labrecque, Global Services Director, CEGEP de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Canada. Stéphane will address the upcoming Katanga Mining Week in Lubumbashi on “Matching training and professional expectation: challenges and opportunities to better integrate the work market”.

Exclusive interview with Stéphane Labrecque, Global Services Director, CEGEP de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Canada.  Stéphane will address the upcoming Katanga Mining Week in Lubumbashi on “Matching training and professional expectation: challenges and opportunities to better integrate the work market”.

CEGEP campus
Main campus, Cégep de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Rouyn-Noranda, Canada

Please tell us more about Cegep of Abitibi-Témiscamingue and its experience in DRC/Africa?
We currently have no activities in DRC, but are looking forward to develop partnerships in the coming years. We have been involved in a lot of projects in South America, Africa, and New Caledonia.

The Cegep of Abitibi-Témiscamingue has been strongly engaged in the evaluation of training needs of workers and supervisors in the mining field and in the development of competency-based training plans for the fore-mentioned domain.

The CegepAT has been involved in many important interventions in Canada, Africa (Guinea-Conarky 1999-2001 and Mozambique, 2009-now), in Chile (1998 – now) and Peru (2004 – now) in various projects regarding mining programs.  We have also trained mining sector’s workers in New-Caledonia and Madagascar (2008-2014).  In fact, The CegepAT has four teaching departments that are connected to mining needs:  mining technology, industrial maintenance mechanics, industrial electronics and civil engineering.  As possible services to businesses, The CegepAT has many professional resources in computer science, accounting, financial management, human resources management, psychology, modern languages and communications.

CEGEP Guinea-Conakry
Trainees, CBG, Guinéa-Conakry

The CegepAT has provided consultation services, training qualifications in the Republic of Guinea (Western Africa).  In Guinea, the CegepAT gave support for the development of two technical training programs in the mining industry, one of which in mine exploitation and the other in heavy equipment mechanics.  These were developed in partnership with “La Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée“ and “Le Ministère de l’Éducation“ of Quebec, Canada.  The CegepAT also evaluated the competencies of workers of CBG from Guinea and developed pertinent qualification modules (18 competency programs).  In Peru, The Cegep has leaded a project for the creation of a technical training center (www.cetemin.com) in La Quinua (close to the mining region of Cerro de Pasco) and Lima.

In Chile, The Cegep of Abitibi-Témiscamingue worked hand-in-hand with the ACCC (“Association des collèges communautaires canadiens“), to which it is an active member, for the development of the “Centro Internacional minero Benjamín Teplizky“.  The common goal was to develop two technical training programs: industrial maintenance mechanics and heavy equipment mechanics, both being competency-based (1998-2006). It also developed student-evaluation instruments for both programs, along with two programs in electrical maintenance and instrumentation.

Copper mine, Chuquicamata, Chile
Copper mine, Chuquicamata, Chile

In Chile, The CegepAT worked with INACAP Calama to develop a program called Higher-level Technician in Mining Operations. The CegepAT also worked closely with the Universidad tecnica Federico Santa María, IPROSEC in Osorno, the technological universities of Talca, Temuco, Concepción, La Serena, Valparaiso and Antofagasta.

In 2009 and 2012, the CegepAT was chosen to train all the coordinators of the technical programs offered in Mexico by the Universities of technology, using the competency-based model. This project was driven by the Coordination general of the universities of technology. More than 100 coordinators have been trained.

The CegepAT signed student and teacher exchange protocols with institutions from Mexico, Peru, Chile and Brazil.  Thanks to this expertise in technical/vocational training at the higher learning level, thanks to its closeness to the milieu and its expertise in the development of competency-based programs, the CegepAT offers a highly competent team.  Our proximity to the mining world has helped our Cegep to recently develop two major training projects in Process Control and Instrumentation and Industrial Maintenance for the Xstrata Nickel mining corporation in New–Caledonia (now Glencore), for its staff of the Koniambo project, as well as the Sherritt Corporation for its Ambatovy (Madagascar) project. In both cases, aroud 100 trainees were trained in Rouyn-Noranda for over two years. Two new cohorts in Industrial Maintenance Planning and Industrial Electronics started in 2010 with Koniambo Nickel. Actually, two trainers from the Cégep in mining operations and instrumentation / automation are deployed in New Caledonia, for KNS.

Trainees from Ambatovy project (Madagascar) in CégepAT main campus, Rouyn-Noranda, Canada
Trainees from Ambatovy project (Madagascar) in CégepAT main campus, Rouyn-Noranda, Canada

Recently, The CegepAT finished another major project of 3 years, with the support of ACCC and ACDI (CIDA), which is part of the EFE (Education for employment) program in Mozambique, Africa. The objective was to help two institutions, namely the Instituto Médio de Geologia e Minas de Moatize and INEFP de Tete, in the elaboration of new programs in the study and writing of competencies at the national level in mining and similar programs. Actually, the CegepAT is involve again in Mozambique with a project called STEM – Skill training for employment in Mozambique.

The CegepAT finally finished this year a major training project in Mauritania (KINROSS GOLD), for two years, in the area of the mining industry, industrial maintenance, instrumentation and automation, welding, heavy equipment maintenance.

Trainees, Kinross Gold, Tasiast Mine, Mauritania
Trainees, Kinross Gold, Tasiast Mine, Mauritania

Any interesting projects you are involved in at the moment?  Or have been involved in?
CégepAT is currently working on the development of various projects in education in West Africa: Senegal, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Mali. Cégep mainly has partnerships with local institutions, or sometimes directly with companies. In West Africa, the CégepAT is developing a partnership with a company based in Côte d’Ivoire to deploy training services in Mali and Côte d’Ivoire. A similar project is being developed with two local companies based in Burkina Faso. In all cases, the objective is to meet the needs of mining and industrial companies in the mining, industrial maintenance, industrial electronics. The projects are however still in their infancy. The CégepAT thus wants an partner facilitating the relationship between industry and training structures in place or to be implemented.

What in your view are the main challenges to the mining industry?
The mining industry is primarily the extraction of minerals and the value-adding processes, making a product that can meet growing consumer demand. That is its purpose. These operations must be profitable of course.

Trainees from Xstrata New Caledonia at the Horne smelter, in Rouyn-Noranda, Canada
Trainees from Xstrata New Caledonia at the Horne smelter, in Rouyn-Noranda, Canada

But major challenges lie ahead. Of these it is clear that we believe mining companies should be extremely concerned about respect for the environment and respect the communities in which they must operate. The other challenge of the skilled labor.

The mining industry should indeed count on a skilled workforce and the most local possible. Clearly this is a challenge, but the formation of the local workforce is still probably one of the most strategic investments that a business can consider. This action allows communities to benefit from mining activities, and not be mere spectators. It helps to raise the skill level of the youth of the country and to ensure sustainability in terms of community development. This equation increases the social acceptability of the company, yes, but much more than that: it ensures a pool of qualified, competent people and develop a culture of lifelong learning. Continuing education is a key pillar mining operations, because inevitably, technologies change, operating strategies, tailings, metallurgical separation, this is all subject to change.

It is clear that training facilities are often already in place in Africa but elsewhere, insufficient or unable to support this challenge facing the industry. Lack of resources, lack of equipment, lack of updated curricula, lack of trainers. Companies can and should play a role in supporting these schools, and may also parallel or complementary set up their training devices. But they have before them the most wonderful opportunity to make a difference in skills development at local and national level.

La Quinua, Peru
La Quinua, Peru

What will be your message at the Katanga Mining Week?
My message boils down to this statement: Education for Employment.

We have seen many companies experience social difficulties by their negligence to respect communities. We have also seen the reverse and many companies become models, respected in the country because they were able to invest in training and offer employment to communities. This respect for the medium and long term bears fruit. Because it is rare that a company operates in only one field and then ends its operations in the country and packs its bags. Other operations will follow, and there the respect earned yet will bare more fruit. I repeat: this is not charity, it is an investment for the company, and although difficult to measure and quantify, it is always a winner for both the community and the company.