When Vale puts out a job ad for a skilled tradesperson, it gets plenty of applicants. However, not all of those applicants necessarily have the certification the mining company requires.
Keeping this in mind, Vale is training its own skilled tradespeople by offering recent college graduates apprenticeships, according to Garwin Pitman, superintendent of learning and development – maintenance at Vale.
This month, Vale offered apprenticeships to almost two dozen graduates of Cambrian College's millwright and heavy-duty equipment mechanic programs.
Pitman said this is the most apprentices the company has ever taken on in Sudbury at one time, although he said Vale did hire a lot of apprentices in the pre-2008 mining boom.
“Because we do have a shortage of tradespeople, we decided rather than have a break in employment, let's offer them the jobs now,” he said.
“They've completed their schooling and co-ops and want to find work ...We thought we'd bite the bullet and do a campaign on growing our own tradespeople.”
Vale has already recruited more than 200 employees this year. Pitman said the company plans to hire three dozen more tradespeople — mainly electricians, millwrights and heavy duty equipment technicians — this fall.
The company plans to recruit at similar levels in the future just to keep up with the pace of natural attrition rates and capital growth projects, company spokesperson Danica Pagnutti added.
That doesn't even include Vale's $2 billion Clean AER project, where 1,300 workers will be needed at the peak of construction in 2013.
Once the apprentices complete their training three years from now, they will be able to attain their inter-provincial Red Seal certification.
The certification provides assurance that people working in designated trades meet rigorous standards of knowledge and competency set by government and industry.
Vale is also looking at bringing on electrician and instrumentation apprentices sometime this fall, as soon as they ensure they have the people to train them, Pitman said.
Louise Turcotte, Cambrian's associate dean, school of community and corporate learning, said in a press release that she's happy to hear Vale is hiring so many of the college's recent graduates.
“Our grads are in demand since they have already demonstrated commitment to their trade through their success in our programs, and employers see that,” she said.
“They finish school armed with on-the-job experience and knowledge of the latest technologies and health and safety practices.
“The Red Seal inter-provincial certification is the last test for them, and we're very pleased that Vale is offering full-time employment to our graduates as they work towards clearing that final hurdle.”
Vale has had an apprenticeship partnership with Cambrian for about 10 years, Pitman said.
“We're seeing now that the apprentices that we hired over 10 years ago are becoming our leaders,” he said. “They're becoming our supervisors and our superintendents, so we're starting to reap the benefit of the program, even in management.”
Pitman said the company is looking at setting up an apprenticeship agreement with Collège Boréal as well.
He encourages young people to consider careers in the skilled trades.
“There's nothing wrong with a trade,” Pitman said.
“If someone likes working with their hands, they should pursue a trade. A tradesman lives a pretty good life. They get paid fairly well for the work that's asked of them. Usually tradespeople are very proud of the work they do and proud of the ticket they obtain.”