The 5 Year Plan

I always like to think of things in 5’s: How will this impact me in 5 minutes, 5 days, 5 weeks, 5 months and 5 years?

I also have another personal motto: ‘I’ll try anything once.’

Saying ‘yes’ to opportunities, even when I am petrified once I’ve said yes, has made me who I am today. I would not be taking courses at Vancouver Community College and have 3 years of college instruction under my belt if I hadn’t said yes 4 years ago to a seemingly scary opportunity. Actually, it didn’t just seem scary, it was scary.

Saying yes to instructing in a remote Northern BC community of approximately 300 people meant:

  1. I would be living there, except for Christmas break.
  2. There would be no cell phone service. Luckily, the college was the only place in town with wi-fi, and that is where I lived.
  3. I wouldn’t see my husband for long stretches of time, the longest being 45 days. (This was 3 months after we got married.)
  4. Realizing I had never done any formal instruction.
  5. Realizing I didn’t have formal instructor’s education.

I had been hired because of my mining experience, not because of my instructional capabilities. I can string together a sentence pretty well, and I am culturally aware, so I guess they decided I was acceptable.

Fast-track 4 years, and I am amazed at how far I’ve come. VCC PIDP classes have helped me so much with my instruction and delivery, not to mention the amazing educators I have met that have been a resource for me along the way.

Throughout my mining career, I have realized more and more how safety in the workplace is greatly affected by the human factor. We operate big machines that move big chunks of Earth; obviously there is room for mechanical failure. But the situations that stick with you, the ones you really want to fix, are the human error situations. And often, the root cause of that system failure is human behavior.

As someone who purchases used psychology text books from Value Village for fun, I know that whatever I choose to be ‘when I grow up’ will have to fulfill my curiosity and fascination with human behavior.

To save money on Value Village books, and to save apartment space, I should probably enroll in a psychology course after I complete my PIDP. I also just recently started email correspondence with the various Toastmasters groups in my city and have intentions to join one. I feel I am fairly eloquent, and don’t get nervous public speaking, but I’m not going to deliver a TED Talk any time soon.

I have noticed over the last 8 years that industry has been allowing more room for the ‘human factor’ in the workplace. For an industry with intense hazards and a history to match, this is encouraging for me. I am a 3rd generation miner, and if I was to be able to educate and train workers on industrial safety while at the same time incorporate the psychological factors that contribute to industrial safety, I’d be in my element.

Discussing workplace programs with sponsoring mines of the program I have instructed has been inspirational for me. I see opportunities in the near future that would not be open to me if I didn’t take the risk of going to Northern BC 4 years ago. The Ministry of Mines in BC acknowledges that programs like the one I was a part of fill a huge gap in industry. The training and education for workers, especially new-to-industry or young ones, is minimal. They are ushered to their respective departments once they arrive to the big scary mine site for work and basically never leave. My husband works with explosives and drills for the operations team at a gold mine but has never stepped foot in the processing plant that extracts the gold from the waste rock. He understands the mining cycle, and has worked in processing plants elsewhere, so he is lucky. He can see how all the spokes make the wheel turn.

There is a need for workers to be well-versed in the processes, cycle, terminology and basic safety aspects of working at a mine site BEFORE they arrive at the mine site. The opportunity for students to enter a program like the one I instructed also makes them more valuable because the skills they gain through the certification process of the course allows for diversity. The student is quite capable of filling an entry level position in any department at the mine site- not just the mill because he has an industrial fall protection ticket. Or only the pit because he took a heavy equipment operators course.

Volunteering my time to the Ministry and the sponsoring mines for further self-development is an option to further my skills. In fact, it happens by default since I am a resource for the mining program, and have a lot of material and feedback for college based, industrial programs.

In 5 years, I could certainly see myself developing education and training programs for industrial based businesses. I would love to be a pioneer for leading edge industry programs that are about more than just the machine; I want to focus on the human operating that machine. I want to mitigate and soften the psychological affects on someone who spends 12 hours a day (or night) in the field, at a remote place on a mountaintop, away from home and family for 2-3 weeks at a time.

As much as I want to branch out and explore other options, I always end up returning to industry. My grandpa was a miner. At the place I am currently on contract, my father is the superintendent of operations, my brother is a blaster, my husband is a blaster/driller, my brother in law is a shovel operator, my cousin is a haul truck driver and my step-kid’s step-dad is an operator. It’s literally in our blood. I am a miner. I try every few years to push out of industry, and I seem to always find my way back. Or, maybe it finds me.



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