Mining Engineering Technology, 2014
What interested me about mining is that it’s hands-on; with telecommunications, you couldn’t see it, couldn’t touch it – it’s all ones and zeroes. With mining and mining technology, you can see it and put your hands on it – you can go underground. It’s real. You’re not necessarily stuck in an office for eight hours a day, looking at a screen.
It took him some time, but Paul Ricker has finally met his career match. Returning to school in his early 30s, Ricker graduated in May 2014 as a mature student from the three-year Mining Engineering Technology program at Cambrian College. After those three years, he says with a smile that the highlight of his education was crossing the stage at convocation.
As a Cambrian student, he earned two consecutive Governor General Awards for maintaining outstanding grade point averages of 97 percent (when he graduated from the two-year Mining Engineering Technician program) and 96.93 percent (when he graduated with an advanced diploma as a Mining Engineering Technologist). Along the way, he also received the J.P. Bickell Foundation Mining Scholarship; the Daniel Labelle Memorial Scholarship; the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada Bursary; and the Xylem Scholarship. In total, Ricker received more than $24,000 in academic awards. It made a difference.
“The Cambrian Foundation awards made it possible for me to do as well as I did,” he says. “They helped immensely. I didn’t have the financial pressures that many of my classmates had, which meant I could focus on school.”
Ricker, who hails from Arnprior, which is outside of Ottawa, had earned a bachelor of engineering in telecommunications from Carleton University, as well as a computer security certificate from Algonquin College, but he had trouble finding steady work.
Before enrolling at Cambrian College, he worked for a while as a fly fishing guide and instructor, but admits that while it was enjoyable, “it didn’t pay the bills,” especially since he spent most of his earnings on new fishing equipment.
Ricker wanted a hands-on career, not a desk job. He hired a career coach who looked at his skills and abilities and then developed a list of jobs that would be most suitable for him.
“What interested me about mining is that it’s hands-on; with telecommunications, you couldn’t see it, couldn’t touch it – it’s all ones and zeroes,” he says with a laugh. “With mining and mining technology, you can see it and put your hands on it – you can go underground. It’s real. You’re not necessarily stuck in an office for eight hours a day, looking at a screen.”
He chose Cambrian College for its three-year, accredited program, as well as its opportunities for experiential learning. “You get to use the equipment, rather than just learning about it,” Ricker explains. “Being able to take classes and labs underground was great. I wish we could have gone underground more often.”
Although he had been through a university program, Ricker admits he was surprised by the amount of work involved in his third year, but says small classes meant that students got ample one-on-one time with faculty. “They were quite personable and we were able to ask them lots of questions,” he adds.
After graduation, Ricker found work at Tulloch Engineering in Sudbury, where he spent his days drafting, surveying underground and doing fieldwork. At the time, he said he hoped to develop his career in another direction. “I would like to be on-site at a mine, either as a planner or an estimator, or as a designer,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where – even if it’s a fly-in location – I’m not too particular. Being on a mine site is more interesting and more dynamic than being in an office all day.”
Nine months later, that dream began to materialize. In March 2015, Ricker moved to Thompson, Manitoba, where he began working at Vale as a mine survey technician. In this role, he worked underground almost every day, using survey equipment to install line and grade plugs, before returning to the surface to create prints for the miners.
In January 2016, Ricker was promoted to mine planner, where he will work to identify efficiencies and opportunities for the sandfill system for the operation’s T1 and T3 sites. On top of that, he will soon take on the added responsibility of production planning, where he will use information provided by geologists to plan the best way to extract ore from the site. “That’s a simplified version of what I do,” explained Ricker, who’s obviously enjoying the dynamic pace and new challenges that keep coming his way.