High-tech training gives geology students boost in job market

| Judy Berthiaume

Thanks to strong partnerships with the private sector, more than 30 Blugolds received specialized training this fall on state-of-the-art technology that is used extensively in the mining industry worldwide.

MapTek Inc., a partner with UW-Eau Claire’s innovative Responsible Mining Initiative, offered two- and three-day training courses this fall for junior and senior geology students who are enrolled in earth history and economic geology courses.

The 3D modeling program, known as Vulcan, allows users to analyze thousands of data points simultaneously and develop three-dimensional models of ore bodies and mine plans, says Dr. Brian Mahoney, professor of geology. Users of the program can synthesize large amounts of complex data into a realistic image of the shape, dimensions, quality and value of ore deposits at depth, which provides an enormous cost savings to companies designing mine plans, he says.

“Experience with Vulcan provide a significant boost for our students as they seek employment in the economic minerals industry,” Mahoney said. “Pre-employment training in Vulcan is very rare in the industry, and being able to discuss the program intelligently significantly aids subsequent site-specific training.”

Maptek — an industry partner for the Responsible Mining Initiative — currently employs three Blugolds, and there has been a total of six alumni who have worked for Maptek over the past several years, Mahoney says.

“The company has been impressed by the level of training and work ethic exhibited by our students,” Mahoney says. “They also will be hiring an intern from UW-Eau Claire this summer.”

In addition to hiring grads and offering internships, MapTek has been a generous supporter of the Responsible Mining Initiative, Mahoney says. The company provides a Vulcan site license that costs more than $50,000 per seat for the 20-seat license, he says.

“The level of educational support they offer is tremendous — the cost of training is $850 per day per person, which equates to a $28,900 donation for the two-day course, and a $35,700 donation for the three-day course that they offered on campus this fall,” Mahoney says.

The on-campus training is conducted by Anne Gauer, a UW-Eau Claire geology graduate.

“Anne brings a wonderfully personal touch to the training, as she is well aware of the demands of our geology curriculum and connects very well with the student participants,” Mahoney says.

Mahoney says the specialized training is a perfect fit for the Responsible Mining Initiative, an innovative program designed to attract qualified students and provide them with comprehensive background in economic mineral resources, responsible mining practices and environmental protection.

“We are helping students develop the skills to work in geology, hydrogeology, environmental sciences and other fields in the natural resource industry, regulatory agencies, environmental consulting firms and other venues,” Mahoney says. “The skills provided by MapTek are invaluable to our students, as they allow them to understand how major data sets are dealt with in a real-world setting.”

Student interest in UW-Eau Claire’s Responsible Mining Initiative continues to increase, Mahoney says. There are 19 new freshmen in the program this fall, the highest number to date in the program, he says.

Photo caption: Anne Gauer, a UW-Eau Claire geology grad and Maptek geologist, talks about the Vulcan software with senior geology major Sam Helmuth. Vulcan software is a geology and mine planning software.