Ekati Diamond Mine’s Workplace Learning Programme, Canada | Print |
Diversified miner BHP Billiton runs a Workplace Learning Program at its 80 percent owned Ekati diamond mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories which enables employees to gain the essential skills they need to do their jobs safely and effectively. The Ekati mine is part of the company’s Diamonds and Speciality Products Customer Sector Group. The initiative helps employees to work towards completing their high school equivalency through the Canadian General Educational Development (GED) testing program.

Over the eight-month GED course, participants attend classes and sit for tests that evaluate their skills in reading, writing, mathematics, social studies and science. Those who pass receive a High School equivalency certificate of Grade 12. Some of the successful students have overcome significant barriers to achieve a long-time goal of gaining the certificate, and subsequently have undertaken higher education and become coaches and mentors to other employees, particularly Northern Aboriginal employees.

BHP Billiton encourages employees to achieve their high school certificate since it gives them more independence and they are often motivated to further their formal education and pursue a specific career path. Meanwhile, outside work, they can be more confident about participating in local community initiatives and can serve as role models in encouraging children to stay at school. For BHP Billiton, the benefits include an increase in skills at the work site, with a consequent boost in mentoring opportunities that can assist with maintaining a safe and healthy work place.

The GED high school equivalency course is open to Ekati employees and contractors, with participants attending 24 hours of classes over eight months on their own time. They are allowed 10 hours of company time to sit final exams. Since the initiative began in 2003, around 50 employees have completed the GED course. Of these, 40 percent (19 candidates) are Northern Aboriginal employees. This is a significant achievement for all these individuals as not only have they performed a full-time job but also, through their dedication, undertaken studies and gained their High School Equivalency Certificate.