The automation program had 20 students last year. This year’s enrolment is 32. The civil engineering program has gone from 26 students last year to 42 this year.
Several other programs for millwrights, heavy duty mechanics, welder fitters and industrial electricians are at capacity, said Geoff Dalton, Cambrian’s dean of computer engineering and technology.
“There’s general enthusiasm about what’s going on in the (mining) sector,” he said. “I think when students hear on the news that the bonus is $20 an hour, they become interested.”
Getting a job is virtually guaranteed. All of the students who graduated from the mining program in the spring already had a job by the time they received their degree, said Dalton. Starting salaries for graduates of some programs are $70,000.
“We have grads out there making more than any dean,” he said.
Dalton said while the sudden interest in mining, engineering and technology programs is great, the college is getting to the point where it can’t take many more students.
“We’re getting to the point of saturation. We couldn’t take this many new students next year without some investments from the government, both with faculty and infrastructure.”
It’s also hard to get instructors for these programs because experienced tradespeople are making so much money in private industry, said Dalton.
“One thing that happens is they’ll think about coming for an interview, their employer finds out, and they get offered more money before they even go out the door,” he said.
“You know, maybe (the company) does really need this person, but they need to think about long-term viability.
They (employers) need to think about seconding employees to a college for three years so they can train people for the future.”