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Celebration of Learning trumpets new WEST graduates

SMITHERS With the the Babine Mountains and dense forest surrounding camp providing a striking backdrop, Northwest Community College School of Exploration & Mining celebrated a fresh group of graduates primed to join the minerals industry in a ceremony at Ganokwa camp on June 19. Fitting for a program that takes place in a camp setting, the proud graduates walked across the outdoor stage in the Celebration of Learning that has come to signify the completion of the 7-week Workforce Exploration Skills Training (WEST) program at Northwest Community College School of Exploration & Mining (NWCC SEM). The morning began with a traditional welcome to friends and family of graduates from Chief Timberwolf (Mabel Forsyth) of the Wet'suwet'en Nation, followed by inspiring speeches from Chief Nam'ox (John Ridsdale), Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach, Smithers Exploration Group Director Christine Ogryzlo, and NWCC SEM Industry Liaison Tony Harris. "You've opened the door here," said Ogryzlo in her address, "Now you must step through it, and never stop opening doors." After seven weeks of hard work in camp concluding with a week of intense fieldwork experience on a mineral claim near Chapman Lake, students were proud and a few tears were shed from the podium. Coming from communities all across British Columbia, WEST graduates are armed with skills and training honed to meet the needs of the minerals and natural resources industries and these students will be quickly pulled into the workforce. Since 2004, NWCC SEM has graduated more than 900 students, and more than 70 percent of these have found employment or pursued further education. WEST provides positive outcomes for students, communities and industry. Students are empowered with skills and positive self regard necessary to strive in the industry. Upon graduation, they have already proven themselves able to handle the conditions they will face in a work environment. For the communities they return to, these students build capacity to engage with projects taking place in their territories and participate in responsible resource development. Graduates act as role models to their families and community. For industry, graduates are primed for successful employment. They have been through a rigorous interview process before being accepted into this demanding program. With feedback from industry, the program accurately reflects the training needs of industry for entry level position, and all graduates are able to meet these demands. "This is the most intense seven-week interview process anyone might be expected to go through," says Harris of the program. Strong relationships with industry partners is key to the success of NWCC SEM programs. The Smithers Exploration Group is NWCC SEM's primary industry partner and provides the camp where training occurs. The advice and advocacy from the SEM Program Advisory Committee, which has strong industry representation, also ensures that NWCC SEM continues to deliver cutting edge innovative training as needs of industry change. Special thanks are due to Riverside Resources for donating the space for students to practice their skills during the 7-day fieldwork practicum. Every year, the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) awards a $500 bursary to a graduate from each WEST cohort who demonstrates exceptional leadership and academic excellence. NWCC was delighted to present Anderson Leung with this award to honour his leadership, humour, and constant dedication to excellence. Leung achieved the highest overall academic standing of any NWCC SEM graduate on record, and plans to continue his training to become a geologist after spending the summer working. During the 7-week program the students were honoured to receive a motivational seminar from the Patrick McCandless, VP of Exploration for Imperial Metals. McCandless, a strong supporter of the innovative training model employed by NWCC SEM, spoke highly of Leung, "I will be supporting and tracking his career growth and development knowing he is going to be a rocket in our industry." NWCC is a valuable community asset impacting the lives of students and our communities. Through its nine campuses, 500-plus employees and an annual injection of more than $30 million in the local economy, NWCC is an economic engine supporting the many communities that look to us to provide innovative programs and services.

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