A Golden Opportunity

Posted on October 26, 2017

Innovative BTech program finds a golden opportunity to collaborate with industry and help engineering technologists take their mining careers to the next level

Meghan Cartwright (Sc’09) is a senior mine engineer at Goldcorp Inc.’s Red Lake Gold Mines and the author and instructor of an online course in Queen’s new Bachelor of Mining Engineering Technology (BTech) degree program. BTech is an innovative diploma-to-degree program developed by the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science (FEAS) which focuses on real-world skills, the application of modern technologies, critical problem-solving, and building managerial capacities. The program is delivered mainly online, and courses can be taken at a part-time or full-time pace, which allows students to keep working while earning their bachelor’s degree.

Meghan Cartwright

Meghan Cartwright

Cartwright truly understands the motivation of students working in the mining industry who enroll in BTech’s flexible online degree program to upgrade their work skills, knowledge, and educational qualifications. They’re also looking to advance their careers without having to quit their job, or move away from their home or family. “I feel like I know these students because I’ve been that student. While working at Goldcorp, I took distance learning courses from the University of Queensland in Australia to earn a graduate certificate in Community Relations for the Resource Sector. It was a great learning opportunity, and very convenient to do the program from my home in Red Lake,” says Cartwright, who was the subject matter expert and worked with an engineering teaching and learning team to produce the BTech “Introduction to Mining” course.

As an engineer who has upgraded her education on the job and moved into more senior supervisory roles, Cartwright sees a big industry need for mining professionals with strong technical, problem-solving, and project management skills. “At Goldcorp and across the mining industry, there’s a need for people who are qualified not just technically but have the problem-solving mindset and skills,” she says. “I’ve worked with technicians and technologists from college programs who want to do well and move up in their careers. An engineering technology degree will give them a leg up, not only with the credentials, but because it shows they can learn, problem-solve, and apply those skills to the challenges we have in the workplace.”

The BTech program and its stimulating, highly interactive curriculum was designed to meet the needs of both the mining industry and college graduates looking to accelerate their careers and education. The program gives eligible college graduates block transfer credits for the first two years, allowing them to move directly into third and fourth years after completing a customized bridging curriculum. “There aren’t a lot of streamlined pathways like this for college students to get a university degree,” says David Yokom, BTech’s project manager. “A majority of students in BTech are working professionally and doing the program part-time. They’re signing up to better themselves. They want to accelerate their careers, and as such we find that our students are extremely passionate and engaged, which really pushes us to create a premium quality program.”

David Yokom

David Yokom

With a focus on active learning and student-to-professor interactions, BTech offers a blend of purpose-built videos, tutorials, webinars, team assignments, group projects, and collaborative study. “We’re giving college-educated technologists additional practical, hands-on knowledge with state-of-the-art-tools and technologies and broad-based engineering knowledge so they can use technology to solve problems efficiently for their employers,” says Yokom. “Due to the fact many students enrolled in the BTech program are admitted from non-mining diploma programs, when combined with the BTech degree their multidisciplinary skillset should be attractive to the mining industry, which is facing a retirement crisis and potential skills shortage.”

FEAS Teaching and Learning team on-site with Goldcorp

The FEAS Engineering Teaching & Learning team filming on-site with Goldcorp

The idea for BTech started when Northern College’s Haileybury School of Mines approached Queen’s about creating an online degree program to expand opportunities for its Mining Engineering Technician (MET) graduates. The BTech collaboration combines the prestige of two renowned mining education institutions and draws on the experience of Northern College in its extensive work with industry to develop their online MET program.

The Faculty’s close collaboration with the mining industry in designing, developing, reviewing, and getting feedback on program, curriculum, and courses is a major strength and distinctive feature of the program. “Industry is our end customer and has problems for us to solve, research for us to conduct, and ultimately hires our graduates,” says Yokom. “They tell us what types of graduates they’re looking for and provide the experiential component that is so critical to successful learning. One way or another, we’ve tried to partner with industry in almost every course.”

Goldcorp, for example, has been a major industry partner. The company has provided extensive access to its Red Lake Gold Mines site for employee interviews and allowed the shooting of video footage of mining processes and methods. Two employees from Goldcorp sites in Ontario are also students in the BTech program. “Goldcorp allowed us the opportunity to spend an entire week shooting video footage on the site and film interviews with more than 20 employees, including the mine manager,” says Eric Tremblay, Manager of Online Learning and Development with the FEAS. “Taken together, the videos we made give students a wide-ranging appreciation of a modern mining facility, and it brings the real-life feel of the mine into the home of the student.”

Eric Tremblay

Eric Tremblay

The online courses mix traditional presentations, such as lectures and readings, with a rich variety of enhanced learning objects. These range from purpose-built, 360-degree videos that allow students to virtually move around an area like the machine shop from their computers, to reality-check videos that show how to apply the theory students are learning to practical, real-life uses. Students can watch a long-hole drill in an active stope or a jumbo install ground support in a development face at Red Lake. “We really leveraged video in these courses because that’s what students want and it’s a much better approach than learning from textbook alone,” says Tremblay. “When students can visualize a task, they retain what they learn better.”

Cartwright believes Goldcorp and other companies that get involved in BTech can greatly benefit from the exposure and relationships they develop with full-time and part-time students. “All the videos we made are visibly hosted by Goldcorp, which gives our company good exposure to the students who will be looking for jobs or the best career opportunities,” she says. “When BTech students think about where to apply, they’ll think first of companies they see in the program.”

The BTech program represents a new kind of education, one that’s built through collaborations with industry to produce graduates that can make an immediate impact when entering the workforce. By working together with BTech, industry can support a student’s development through their academic career and will be rewarded with highly trained employees who can solve the modern problems faced by today’s mining industry.

For additional information about BTech, you can find the curriculum here.