June 1, 2013
While young kids are cute, older students learn not only about mining, but also job opportunities.
By Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief, email@example.com
School tours have long been a staple among community relations programs at many aggregate operations. Both operational staff and young children look forward to the day when a yellow bus full of elementary school age children arrives to tour the grounds and pick up some pretty rocks. It’s a great way to engage children—and their parents—as they form their impressions and opinions about the industry.
But Spencer, Mass.-based Bond Construction Corp. took the standard school tour to a new level this year as it welcomed high school students to its operation earlier this year.
“We’ve done random events in the past,” says Karen Hubacz-Kiley, chief operating officer of Bond Construction, noting that the Boy Scouts and other groups have toured the facility. This school partnership, however, evolved from customer interaction.
Worcester Technical High School teacher Ron Anderson was at the site picking up product late last year when he asked if the company was amenable to hosting a student tour. “I jumped right up and said we’d be happy to do tours,” Hubacz-Kiley recalls. She gave him a business card and invited him to follow up with a class trip.
A few months later, Anderson contacted her to set up the tour, which resulted in two groups of freshmen, sophomores, and juniors visiting the site on March 21 and 28.
Students arrived at the site and were greeted with treat bags from the company that contained Bond Construction merchandise such as a calendar, key chain, and pens. Hubacz-Kiley also arranged for hot chocolate and snacks for the students, noting that while March is a little early for traditional tours, all involved were lucky to encounter very little snow and equipment, such as a portable plant, that was up and running.
Anderson and the student groups went through site-specific training, and the tour began. As an older age group and one that is studying environmental technology, these students were able to ask targeted questions about the process. For example, Hubacz-Kiley explains that, when one student asked about how the company classified different sands, she showed the group a washed stockpile and explained about various gradations, as well as specification requirements for state agencies. She also described performance characteristics and discussed how they are applied for various uses.
She was also able to educate students about the permitting process and the numerous public safeguards and extensive review process as students asked about opening a new site.
Another topic among these budding geologists, engineers, and environmental regulators was sustainability. “We talked about leaving the land in better shape than we got it,” Hubacz-Kiley says. For his part, the instructor jumped in to the question and answer session and reiterated and emphasized points Hubacz-Kiley was discussing with the students.
Hubacz-Kiley’s daughter, Sadie, joined her for the tours. The younger Kiley, a soon-to-be high school graduate, told the students that the opportunities in mining are wide open for young women. She also described plans to attend the University of Missouri-Rolla and become a mining engineer.
Many of the students in this high school program are likely to pursue secondary education, Hubacz-Kiley notes. “I really hope I got them excited about the field itself,” she says. Whether it’s pursuing an engineering degree or operating equipment, developing the next generation of the workforce is a growing challenge. “Finding somebody who’s been trained properly is very, very difficult,” she adds.
After the tour, students sent her a thank-you card that was signed by everyone on the two tours. They also sent a packet of information about their course of studies. And, future tours seem likely. “Many of my students have never had the opportunity to see a gravel processing facility like yours,” Anderson wrote. “As we explore environmental fields, Mining and Mineral Extraction is an important environmental topic. It is important for them to see first hand what this type of career would entail. I hope to visit again with future classes and will encourage my students to consider a career in Geology and Mining.”
From her perspective, the open-door policy will continue. “I welcome anybody to come in,” Hubacz-Kiley says. “I’m very proud of what we’ve done and our reputation. Our doors are always open to the public.