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UAS to offer new mine training program

Officials expect to fill 15 spots for the October courses

Posted: Friday, August 24, 2007

A first of its kind Alaskan mine training program will begin this fall at the University of Alaska Southeast as a direct response to the industry's request for well-trained entry-level employees, officials say.

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A five-week, entry-level mine training course will be offered beginning Oct. 15 through a collaboration of the University of Alaska Mining and Petroleum Training Services, the Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development and private industry.

"It was a combination of the need by industry for employees and especially skilled employees," said Mary Rodman-Lopez, community development specialist with the Labor Department. "The mining industry is suffering from the same thing that other industries are - the aging out of their employees."

The program will combine three courses together that have previously been taught separately, she said. Included in the program will be the entry-level mine labor training, mine safety and health administration, and entry-level underground miner classes.

UAS mine program

What: UAS Mine Training Center ribbon-cutting ceremony.

When: 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28.

Where: UAS Technical Education Center, across Egan Drive from Juneau-Douglas High School.

For more information and enrollment: Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development,465-5953. UAS MAPTS Mine Training Center, 796-6160.

"This is the first of its kind in Alaska combining three different programs into one," Rodman-Lopez said.

Students that successfully complete the program will receive numerous certificates, she said.

Karen Schmitt, UAS School of Career Education dean, said the collaboration builds on previous mine training programs that have been successful. The new program will help the graduates quickly transition into the work force and learn a combination of new skills, she said.

"We decided this is a very efficient and effective way to get people ready to go into the work force," Schmitt said.

Mining is expanding in the region and Alaska so the university is doing its part to help fill the need of the industry, she said.

"There's an increasing demand right now because of higher metals prices and increased exploration in the state right now," which is likely to continue growing in the future, Schmitt said.

"There has been quite a bit of interest for jobs in the mining industry because of the high pay," Rodman-Lopez said. "Individuals have come to the job centers inquiring about job opportunities so we have already begun to sign people up for this."

According to the recent Juneau Economic Development Council economic overview, the average monthly wage for natural resource and mining professionals is $7,902. That is nearly double the average monthly wage of $3,653 for state workers, Rodman-Lopez pointed out.

She said the training could help graduates obtain local jobs in the industry, potentially at Greens Creek or Kensington gold mines.

Coeur Alaska Human Resources Manager Meg Day said the company already has employed graduates from the courses previously offered at UAS. The new program will add to the pool of potential candidates, she said.

"A new generation of Alaska miners will be trained locally, and the Kensington Mine looks forward to including graduates of the Mine Training Center in its work force," Day said. "These are the types of employees any employer would love to have - local, trained and ready to work."

There is not a firm date for when production could begin at the Kensington Mine because of legal matters involving the company's mine tailings plan.

Officials expect to fill 15 spots for the program in October, Rodman-Lopez said. The course also will be offered this winter and again this spring, she said.

• Eric Morrison can bereached at 523-2269 and eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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