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Confederation College and Marathon seek funding to train skilled workers

With rising demand for an educated workforce, the Township of Marathon and Confederation College partner to make a proposal to the provincial government for funding.
Generation Mining Marathon landscape

MARATHON — The municipality is partnering with Confederation College to seek provincial dollars to help train skilled workers.

In anticipation of greater demand, the Marathon is working with Confederation College to submit an application to the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, and Skills Development for their Skills and Development Fund.

The goal, according to a letter from Confederation College, is to “upskill, re-skill or train” new and existing employees to become “apprentices, operators or higher skill” to create a broader labour pool.

“Northwestern Ontario currently hosts 11 of the 35 (2022) operating mines in the province and is poised for growth with 12 active major exploration sites in the region,” the letter reads. "In addition, there are over a hundred early-stage exploration properties… actively being explored, some of which have already matured to major exploration or operating mine status.”

That mining sector growth across the region has increased the demand for skilled workers.

Marathon Mayor Rick Dumas said that the “onset of future development of Generation [Mining’s] palladium-copper mine” is what initially spurred the idea to create new opportunities for training and education in the community.

“We reached out to the execs of [Generation] and asked if there was some interest,” said Dumas. “They [agreed that] we need an educated workforce and trained workforce in regards to heavy equipment. So, we reached back out to the college… and said, could we work together and help create a program for the future development of the mine, train our individuals in the community – whether they’re youth or somebody who’s transitioning to the workplace — and they said by all means.”

The college has been at the forefront of coordinating programs with local agencies and mining companies to ensure the program reaches it’s full potential.

Dumas said the college has coordinated with various players within the region.

“The mining sector [and] construction industry people, and looked at what the needs were — both in apprenticeship programs as well as heavy equipment training. With the support of the community and the industry, [we’re going to] submit the application to the ministry to see if there’s a funding model that [means] this could be up-and-running in the near future.”   

The college is no stranger to accessing provincial grants to provide educational opportunities to the residents of Marathon, having successfully applied for the government’s “stay and learn” grant prior to this new bid for funding.

As Dumas observed, the need is certainly there.

“Right now, with the mining sector as it is with Barrick and [then] Generation coming online… with all their permits being issued by the Ontario government, we see a huge demand for the workforce, so it’s a great opportunity for our youth in the community who have graduated and are moving onto post-secondary education to get a career in the mining sector [and be] trained right here… in the community. With that, they can go right into the workforce.”

Dumas further noted that the benefits extend beyond opportunities for local training and employment, expressing his excitement at the potential for growth in Marathon and the region.

“The cost of living in a small, northern community is much more affordable,” said Dumas.

“Not only for residents of our community and the region but, of course, people all throughout the province.  I emphasize that lots when I travel: all of the opportunities we have up here in Northern Ontario. […] We’re trying to attract those southern [residents], new immigrants coming to Canada… come to the north, it’s a beautiful part of the world… we have a low cost of living and friendly communities… so this [program] is another step in the right direction.”

Austin Campbell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Austin Campbell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Austin Campbell is a local journal initiative reporter covering stories in the Superior North region.
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